City officials announced earlier today that Runyon Canyon will be closed to hikers nearly all spring because of a dumb, old leaky pipe. The good news: We live in a wonderland surrounded by mountains and there's a shitload of other places to go for a hike. Using recent Best of L.A. entries, we've compiled a list of worthwhile places to take in a view while you bring up your heart rate.
Officially, it's called the Betty B. Dearing Trail, which begins in Wilacre Park. But everyone calls it Fryman Canyon. The simple 3-mile loop on a fire road offers sweeping views of the San Fernando Valley and the occasional rattlesnake. It's not difficult, but it offers access to other trails that can make it more challenging. (The downhill portion of the hike goes through a residential neighborhood; if you look closely you'll see the trailhead for the Rainforest Trail, a more secluded hike also worth checking out.) There's not much shade, but about halfway along there's a shaded picnic table with views of the mountains to the east. But perhaps Fryman's virtues are best understood in contrast to Runyon Canyon. Unlike Runyon, it's not crowded with celebrity spotters, and hikers generally clean up after their dogs. There is also parking, which used to cost $3 but is now free. 8401 Mulholland Drive, Studio City. lamountains.com/parks. —Gene Maddaus
Devil's Gate Dam
Haunted legends surround this peaceful-looking park and hiking trail in Pasadena's Arroyo Seco. Beneath a craggy boulder, shaped by Mother Nature into the undeniable profile of a horned devil, lies a bubbling brook and a flood-control dam. Devil's Gate Dam's historic reputation as a portal to evil goes back to the first settlers here, the native Tongva tribe. Strange occult rituals were documented at the site as early as the 1940s, and the disappearance of at least four children in the 1950s fuels the sinister vibe. The entrance is through a foreboding, dark cement tunnel on Oak Grove Drive, which leads to a dirt trail descending into the canyon. The hike itself is beautiful, if you can get past the gnawing feeling that something is watching you. But we all know that's part of the fun. End of La Cañada Verdugo Road, Pasadena. —Nicole Kreuzer
Beacon Hill Trail
Park just south of Griffith Park at the three-way intersection of Cadman Drive, Shannon Road and Griffith Park Boulevard. Walk north on Cadman, past some mansions built on the leafy hillside, and enter the woods. Keep walking and discover a path up a grassy hill overlooking the L.A. River and Interstate 5. Make your way up to a summit with water for humans and horses and picnic tables perfect for a breather or a bottle of wine. You may run into a hiker or two, but you will mostly have it all to yourself. Beacon Hill's 2- and 4-mile loops, with about 500 feet of elevation change, are every bit as challenging and scenic as Runyon's but without the crowds. This hike, the easternmost in the Santa Monica Mountain Range, really is the secret garden of Griffith Park hiking. Shannon Road and Cadman Drive, Los Feliz. —Isaac Simpson
Skip the crowded vistas at Griffith Park and opt for something a bit more secluded in Altadena. The hike up to Echo Mountain is a moderate, 5.8-mile round-trip climb with a 1,503-foot elevation gain. It's a brilliant trek at night because once you get on the actual trail, it's nearly impossible to get lost. The trail is composed of a series of switchbacks, illuminated by the city lights below. At the top you can sit on the steps of the ruined old Echo Mountain Resort and quietly watch the valley twinkle (with a faint silhouette of downtown Los Angeles off in the distance). Some folks have been known to bring up a bottle of wine. Just be careful on the dark hike back down. East Loma Alta Drive at North Lake Avenue, Altadena. —Clarissa Wei
Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park
On the fringes of Los Angeles County lies the Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park. Located where the Simi Hills merge with the Santa Susana Mountains, the 680-acre park is a quiet and truly wild-feeling expanse of rolling meadows, deep canyons and rocky outcroppings that look as spaghetti Western as they do SoCal. The park is home to coyotes, hawks, foxes, tarantulas, snakes and more, making it prime for wildlife spotting, and it's dog-friendly, too (as long as Fido's on a leash). The primary path is the old Santa Susana stagecoach road, the main route from L.A. to Santa Barbara and points north in the late 19th century. This trail extends over the pass and into Ventura County, offering panoramic views of both the Simi and San Fernando valleys along the way. A favorite of local outdoor enthusiasts, Santa Susana's hiking is just as good as Griffith Park's or Topanga Canyon's, and the drive to Chatsworth is quicker than you'd think. 10200 block of Larwin Avenue, Chatsworth. (818) 784-4849, parks.ca.gov. —Katie Bain
The hike to Escondido Falls starts in a dusty little parking lot just off Pacific Coast Highway on a road called Winding Way, and climbs up past sprawling homes with stables, batting cages and vineyards, through coastal scrub and chaparral, before descending into shady Santa Monica Mountain oak groves, which are home to cottontailed bunnies and fawns. The halfway point for the 4.2-mile trek is a spongy hollow bisected by a moss-covered, multitiered, 150-foot-tall waterfall. For best results, go after a good rain; in the dry season, the falls is reduced to a steady diamond drip. Trailhead starts about one block before the dead end of Winding Way, Malibu. —Tessa Stuart
Solstice Canyon Trail
One look at the seemingly never-ending waterfall at Santa Monica Mountains’ Solstice Canyon Trail and it’s easy to see why the Native American Chumash tribe was known to use the area for food, water and shelter. It’s the same reason Matthew Keller built a stone cottage circa 1865 and why grocery store proprietors Fred and Florence Roberts amassed property in the region and in 1952 hired renowned African-American architect Paul R. Williams to construct their dream home. The cascade — and its serene ponds — offers a tranquil slice of nirvana to hikers who traverse the 2.1-mile trail, but more adventurous types know the bumps and bruises collected from a moderately safe ascent up some rocks are rewarded not only by better views, more immaculate waterfalls and even larger ponds but also the ideal locale to drop their drawers and do the nasty. The odds of being caught by any live being that isn’t a lizard or bug is minimal yet possible, but hey, ain’t that half the fun? Intersection of Corral Canyon Road and Solstice Canyon Road in Malibu. From Pacific Coast Highway turn inland on Corral Canyon Road. Drive 0.25 mile to park entrance on left. —Ryan Ritchie
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Los Liones Canyon to Parker Mesa Overlook
The hike through Los Liones Canyon to Parker Mesa Overlook is no secret to outdoors enthusiasts in Los Angeles. On weekends, the trailhead parking lots at the top of Los Liones Drive in Pacific Palisades fill quickly. But don't let the crowds deter you — they're there for a reason. The views along the trail are some of the best in Los Angeles. As you undertake the moderately steep, 3.5-mile hike to the overlook at Parker Mesa, you'll pass through lush patches of wildflowers and ivy. There are rest stops along the way, and you're rewarded at the top with a stunning, panoramic view of the entire Santa Monica coastline. In one sweep, hikers can see Catalina Island, Palos Verdes and the downtown skyline. Casual hikers should allow about 3½ to four hours to complete the 7-mile round trip. Bring plenty of water and a camera. 580 Los Liones Drive, Pacific Palisades. —Chris Walker
In the early 1930s, Los Angeles was home to a secret Nazi compound, Murphy Ranch, which plotted world domination from the peaceful brushlands of what is now Rustic Canyon. One story goes that a wealthy Pasadena thumbtack heiress and her equally gullible husband were manipulated into believing that the United States soon would fall into anarchy and destruction at the hands of the Germans. Rather than be a part of the losing team, the couple took the advice of a suspicious man known as Herr Schmidt and invested large amounts of money building a hidden enclave to assist the dastardly Nazis. The structure, now in ruins and covered in graffiti, hunkers deep down in the canyon — at the bottom of 512, leg-challenging steps. Get your cardio in while doing the 3.85-mile hike to this bizarre piece of history. And be thankful that the FBI raided this mysterious lair in 1941. Rustic Canyon, Sullivan Ridge Fire Road, Pacific Palisades. —Nikki Kreuzer