by Erica Garza
Ditch the tourists at Runyon Canyon and discover the best eight hikes in Los Angeles for locals, from Debs Park on the east side to Portuguese Bend on the coast. Whether you like easy treks or challenging uphill climbs, this list offers varied experiences for novices and experts alike.
1. Ernest E. Debs Regional Park
Address: 700 Griffin Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90031
Located northeast of downtown LA, the 300-acre Ernest E. Debs Regional Park is a big hit with birdwatchers and families. Start your 5-mile loop at the Audubon Center and head north on Hummingbird Trail. The easy hike offers expansive views of Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Pasadena, the San Gabriel Mountains, as well as the Downtown LA skyline. When you reach the top, don’t miss the secret lake.
2. Portuguese Bend Reserve
Address: Crenshaw Boulevard & Burrell Lane, Rancho Palos Verdes CA 90275
This 399-acre nature preserve features over 5 miles of trails across rolling hills and canyons with views of the Pacific. You might even see Catalina Island on a clear day. Start at Burma Road Trail before moving onto Peacock Flats Trail and the steeper Rim Trail. All trails converge, making it nearly impossible to get lost.
3. Dixie Canyon Park
Address: 3600 Dixie Canyon Place, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
One of the best-kept secrets of Sherman Oaks, this deeply shaded 20-acre park boasts sprawling views of the San Fernando Valley and a perennial creek. Though the 0.8-mile hike is easy enough for children, watch for a few steep banks. Short and sweet, this trek is ideal for those who don’t have much time for a long hike, but still want to break a sweat. Fun fact: Actor Warren Beatty used to own this land in the 1980s, but eventually donated it to the state for conservation.
4. Franklin Canyon
Level: Easy to moderate
Address: 2600 Franklin Canyon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA
It’s no secret that Runyon Canyon offers some of the best hiking trails in LA, but it can also be one of the most crowded destinations for tourists and locals alike. An appealing alternative is nearby Franklin Canyon, home to 5 miles of trails, a 3-acre lake, picnic grounds, and an outdoor amphitheater.
5. Eagle Rock Canyon Trail
Level: Easy to moderate
Address: 5499 Eagle Rock View Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90041
The Eagle Rock Canyon Trail is just under a mile and gives a great city view. On a clear day, you can see even glimpse the Pacific Ocean. Though there are several steep sections, the trail is short enough to make it an ideal option for even the hotter LA days. And while it’s generally easy enough for inexperienced hikers, all should exercise caution with loose terrain.
6. Escondido Falls
Address: 27807 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265
Don’t be discouraged by the first leg of this 4-mile hike, which is steep and uphill along Winding Way. The trail quickly levels out and eventually heads downhill to the heavily wooded Escondido Canyon Park, where you’ll find the Albert Escondido Canyon Trail and Waterfall. Pass fields of fennel, wildflowers, and mustard, head upstream and you’ll soon find the tallest waterfall in the Santa Monica Mountains, towering 150 feet.
7. Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park
Address: 10700 Escondido Canyon Rd, Agua Dulce, CA 91350
You might recognize this park from its appearance in films like Blazing Saddles and The Flintstones. This dramatic desert paradise features rock formations that look skyward at a 45-degree angle across 932 scenic acres. The park offers a variety of hikes that vary in difficulty. For something short, embark on the half-mile exploration of Famous Rocks, the most popular rock formation in the park. Or take the Pacific Crest Trail to the Foot Trail for a 3.4-mile loop with 325 feet of elevation change. Take in high desert vegetation like juniper, chamise, and yucca, as well as unique morteros and pictographs.
8. Fish Canyon Narrows
Address: 37773 Templin Highway, Castaic, CA 91384
Perched above the Grapevine’s first grade, Fish Canyon Narrows in the Angeles Forest is an 8-mile hike featuring massive red gorges, soaring mountaintops and large streams perfect for swim breaks. In the fall, the leaves of sycamores and cottonwood trees flaunt their colors, making this hidden LA hike one of the best for cooler months.
Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles. She holds a master’s degree in writing from Columbia University. Her work has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, The Telegraph, and VICE.