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Workout Wednesday: Hollywoodland Staircases Walk

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Undoubtedly, some of the best things about living in Los Angeles are our varied terrain, eclectic architecture, landmarks, and fascinating history. That's why when you've hit treadmill and Stairmaster burnout and can't take another day of watching Montel on closed captioning in your gym, taking things outside and into the city's beautiful hills can be a welcome respite from workout drudgery. One great workout walk combines the best of the city with some kick-ass cardio--and some stunning views to boot; it's a walk through Upper Beachwood Canyon and it includes all 6 of the neighborhood's 85-year-old staircases.

We found the directions for this particular walk via a wonderful book (that seems to be mostly available by order only, either at your favorite bookstore or online via Amazon) called Walking L.A. by Erin Mahoney. This is walk #21 or 36, and covers approximately 2 miles, although you can tailor it to be more (by adding a walk or run along a dirt trail then concrete jogging path around the Lake Hollywood Reservoir) or less (skipping the branch of the run that has you doubling-back and forsaking the awesome glimpse of the Reservoir).

Walking L.A. is a great book to have on your shelf (or in your glove compartment, etc) because you can so easily make your way on foot through our city's diverse areas and it won't cost you a thing (okay, except for the cover price of the book). MetroRiderLA's Fred Camino told us last year that it's his favorite book about L.A., too! Beachwood Canyon also has an official online listing of all the staircases with a similar suggested walk.

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For this workout you will need: Good walking/athletic shoes, comfortable clothes, sunscreen, water, the directions. and a band-aid* (*optional; comes in handy when you fall on the rubbled concrete and smash your wrist into a jagged rock). It will take you approximately 60-90 minutes, depending on how often you need to take a break or opt to run instead of walk.

Your workout begins at the intersection of Beachwood and Belden (to the West) and Woodshire (to the East); you will be at the original stone gates to the Hollywoodland real estate development, erected in 1923. You can park on the streets for free. If you haven't spent much time roaming the area, keep your eyes open for all sorts of intriguing architecture (lots of castles, cottages, modern, and Spanish-style homes), stunning views (downtown skyline, Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood Sign, and the Lake Hollywood Reservoir), and friendly folks from the neighborhood. Also, please be cautious when using the stairs; although they are sturdy, they are also somewhat eroded at the edges, often covered in dead leaves and pine needles, narrow, and very (very, very!) steep. The roads are narrow and windy, so watch for cars (especially if you're wearing an iPod!).

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The walk (as adapted from Walking L.A.)

1. Turn left on Belden Drive, then right on Woodshire Drive (uphill)
2. Your first stairway is on the left before 2795 Woodshire; ascend (124 steps).
3. You're on Belden Drive now. Go left.
4. At the fork in the road go to the right (uphill on Flagmoor Place); when Flagmoor intersects with Durand Drive, continue uphill on Durand. (If you don't want to see the reservoir/double back to this point, you can skip the Flagmoor portion and stay on Durand and head towards the next staircase, step #6.)
5. Take Durand up past a big stone house at 2869. Once you pass the main entrance you'll see a break in the road on the right, immediately next to the driveway of 2869). Take this dirt road (be VERY careful where the road begins; it's extremely rocky where the concrete ends and it's easy to fall and, say, smash your wrist into a rock. Ahem.) Now look to your left: Lake Hollywood sparkles blue in the distance. If you are looking for an extensive workout, take this dirt path and add a run/walk to this walk. If not, turn around and double back down Durand, past the fork with Flagmoor.
6. Stairway 2 is past 2954 Durand; descend (117 steps).
7. Stay straight on Belden when you complete the stairs (cross Rodgerton; you basically head forward but a little left, the signs are a bit confusing depending on what angle you're looking at them here).
8. Take Belden to 2950, where you'll find stairway #3. This one is divided and the "planters" in the middle used to be a water feature; descend (138 steps).
9. Cross Beachwood and turn right. Between 2800 and 2810 is the next stairway (#4). (this one is 144 steps, but not the longest!); Ascend.
10. Turn left at the top onto Westshire and go downhill. The road merges with Beachwood; continue in the same direction, crossing Belden.
11. Stairway #5 is between 3020 and 3030 Beachwood. This is the longest one, at 176 steps; Ascend.
12. At the top turn right onto Hollyridge Drive. Enjoy--there's no staircases for a while! This is mostly downhill.
13. Continue on Hollyridge past the intersection with Pelham Place. On your right, immediately past 2831 Hollyridge, is the last stairway, #6; Descend (149 steps).
14. Turn left at the bottom. You're on Westshire Drive and headed back to your starting point where it (and Belden) intersect with Beachwood. If you need a snack or some water there's the Beachwood Market, or if you want to sit down and refuel, the Village Coffee Shop is also right there.

Regardless of your fitness level, this is definitely a good cardio workout, and has inherent ways to modify it to suit your needs (harder or easier). You will definitely work your lower half, which gets a balanced workout thanks to taking hills and stairs both up and down during the walk. Thanks to our climate, it's generally a sweat-inducing activity because it is quite hot, although you will surely appreciate the moments of calm breezes as you travel the streets, and can often catch some shade. Your abs will be engaged mostly on the stairways as you use them to help steady your balance. Wrist weights could be employed to work in upper body moves while you're on the road, but hand-held weights will be a burden on the staircases (and probably dangerous). Take some time, as with any workout, to do some gentle warm-up stretches at the start and finish of the walk. Your leg and butt muscles will thank you!

This is a great walk to take with a friend or two, of the human or canine variety. Shutterbugs may want to pack a camera to take advantage of the amazing sights; it's worth noting that Beachwood Canyon is one of the four recommended places to see the Hollywood Sign. It's a great walk to do with out-of-town guests, too, who are interested in a workout that comes with local history and lots to look at.

Incidentally, your total number of stair-steps: 444 up, 404 down (848 total)

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Overall Workout: Moderate to Strenuous, varies with terrain, pace & fitness level
Hobby-Developing Potential: High, especially if you live nearby, higher if you've got a dog or two to roam with
Next-Day Pain: Mild to none, depending on your fitness level
Cost: Free, baby!

Photos by Lindsay William-Ross/LAist
Thanks to Laurel Quinn for being my fitness model

For more photos from the walk: Photo Essay: Hollywoodland Staircases Walk

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