Hit the Trails: The 50 Most Scenic Hikes near Los Angeles
Hit the Trails: The 50 Most Scenic Hikes near Los Angeles - Take In the Views from Topanga State Park
With over 36 miles of trails winding through 11,000 acres of rugged mountains and grassy meadows, Topanga State Park is one of the best places to hit the trails near Los Angeles. This sprawling park provides spectacular panoramic views and a refreshing escape into nature, perfect for both novice hikers and seasoned outdoor enthusiasts.
One of the most popular hikes in Topanga State Park is the Eagle Rock Trail, a moderate 2.2 mile loop that takes you to the park's iconic landmark. As you make your way up to Eagle Rock, you'll pass through fragrant stands of coastal sage scrub dotted with bright wildflowers. Once at the top, you'll be rewarded with sweeping 360 degree views over the San Fernando Valley and Santa Monica Mountains. On a clear day you can even catch a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean shimmering in the distance. The prominent sandstone boulder jutting out over the valley makes a great photo op.
For those looking for more of a workout, the Parker Mesa Overlook Trail is a must-do. This strenuous 6.7 mile out-and-back takes you along ridges lined with oak and bay laurel trees up to a panoramic overlook. From the top you can take in views stretching from the Verdugo Mountains to Palos Verdes Peninsula and Catalina Island. The steep climb to the overlook and back is a thigh-burner, but definitely worth it for the incredible vistas.
Easy scenic strolls abound as well in Topanga State Park. The 1.8 mile Dead Horse Trail loop meanders through grassy fields bursting with spring wildflowers before joining with the Musch Trail. This peaceful trail offers panoramic views over the coastline as it winds through coastal sage scrub. For a short 0.8 mile hike to far-reaching ocean views, the Los Liones Trail is another lovely option perfect for sunsets.
What else is in this post?
- Hit the Trails: The 50 Most Scenic Hikes near Los Angeles - Take In the Views from Topanga State Park
- Hit the Trails: The 50 Most Scenic Hikes near Los Angeles - Trek through Solstice Canyon to a Hidden Waterfall
- Hit the Trails: The 50 Most Scenic Hikes near Los Angeles - Wind Through the Santa Monica Mountains on the Backbone Trail
- Hit the Trails: The 50 Most Scenic Hikes near Los Angeles - Escape to Nature at Malibu Creek State Park
- Hit the Trails: The 50 Most Scenic Hikes near Los Angeles - Admire Wildflowers on the Zuma Canyon Trail
- Hit the Trails: The 50 Most Scenic Hikes near Los Angeles - Hike to the Hollywood Sign for Iconic Views
- Hit the Trails: The 50 Most Scenic Hikes near Los Angeles - Discover Waterfalls and Swimming Holes in Eaton Canyon
- Hit the Trails: The 50 Most Scenic Hikes near Los Angeles - Get a Dose of Desert Beauty at Joshua Tree National Park
Hit the Trails: The 50 Most Scenic Hikes near Los Angeles - Trek through Solstice Canyon to a Hidden Waterfall
Tucked away in the Santa Monica Mountains lies one of Malibu's hidden gems: the magical Solstice Canyon. This oasis features a nearly level 2.6 mile roundtrip hike along a shaded creek to a stunning 60-foot waterfall - the perfect easy-moderate trail for families and nature lovers looking to escape the city.
As soon as you step onto the trail, the sounds of the gurgling creek escort you deeper into the forest canyon. Coast live oaks provide welcome shade from the Southern California sun, their branches dripping with trailing Spanish moss. The scenic trail crosses over bubbling streams and wooden footbridges along the way.
After about a mile, you'll arrive at Roberts Ranch - the picturesque remains of a late 1800s homestead. Poke around the stone ruins and imagine what life was like for the family living in this idyllic canyon so long ago. Your kids will love exploring the old structures.
Continuing on, you'll cross a grassy meadow blanketed in wildflowers come springtime. The loud buzzing of bees collects pollen while butterflies flutter nearby. Just past the meadow lies the pièce de résistance - the lush Solstice Canyon waterfall pouring over moss-covered rocks into a clear pool below.
This little slice of paradise is the perfect place for a picnic. Dip your feet into the cool water and listen to the soothing sounds of flowing water. Looking up, you'll see water trickling down the canyon walls, fed by natural springs. Tall palms sway overhead as the canyon comes alive.
With its easy terrain, shady oak trees, and rewarding waterfall swimming hole, Solstice Canyon is a can't-miss summer hike near Los Angeles. The peaceful vibes will melt your stress away. If you're lucky, you may even spot animals like deer, foxes, bobcats, and reptiles along the trail.
Hit the Trails: The 50 Most Scenic Hikes near Los Angeles - Wind Through the Santa Monica Mountains on the Backbone Trail
Stretching 67 miles across the Santa Monica Mountains, the Backbone Trail truly lives up to its name as the backbone of L.A. hiking. This epic thru-hike connects Will Rogers State Park to Point Mugu State Park, winding through canyons, over ridges, and alongside sandstone cliffs. Day hikers can pick and choose sections for the perfect leg stretcher.
One of the most scenic segments is the 10 mile point-to-point from Mishe Mokwa Trailhead to Sandstone Peak. As you make your way from the oak shrouded canyon up to the tallest mountain in the range, you’ll be rewarded with nonstop panoramic views.
The peaceful oak and bay laurel forests of Carlisle Canyon soon give way to chaparral-cloaked slopes dotted with boulders. As you switchback up out of the shade, the vistas open up in every direction. To the north rises the craggy Boney Mountain, to the east spreads the San Fernando Valley, and to the south sprawls the endless blue Pacific.
The higher you climb, the more immense the views become. Finally, you’ll reach the rocky summit of Sandstone Peak, rising 3,111 feet. On clear days, you can see all the way to the Channel Islands floating off the coast. Admire the peaks of the rugged mountain range rippling out before you.
While the Mishe Mokwa to Sandstone Peak segment offers jaw-dropping coastal views, the Saddle Peak stretch impresses with rugged oceanfront cliffs. Scrambling up and over the sandstone outcroppings, you’ll be rewarded with nonstop Pacific vistas.
The 12 mile point-to-point between Stunt Road and Saddle Peak threads through a landscape of natural artistry. Sculptural sandstone formations rise on all sides, glowing golden in the afternoon light. The wind whistles through the rock windows and natural arches.
As you approach the ocean’s edge, you’re greeted by sheer coastal cliffs plunging down to secluded beaches hundreds of feet below. Cormorants and pelicans soar overhead as waves crash against the rocky shore. The panoramic ocean views will take your breath away.
Hit the Trails: The 50 Most Scenic Hikes near Los Angeles - Escape to Nature at Malibu Creek State Park
Tucked away in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains, Malibu Creek State Park is a natural oasis just minutes from the 101 freeway yet worlds away from the traffic and smog of L.A. Immerse yourself in oak woodlands, grassy meadows, and rocky canyons on over 15 miles of hiking trails. From family-friendly nature walks to an iconic Hollywood movie location, Malibu Creek State Park lets you easily escape into nature without leaving town.
One highlight is the easy 2.5 mile roundtrip walk to Century Lake. Stroll under the shade of stately oak trees and keep your eyes peeled for mule deer grazing in the meadows. Pass the remains of the Reagan Ranch, where the former president spent vacations riding horses. Arriving at Century Lake, take in the tranquil views of the small reservoir fringed by cattails. Let the kids enjoy spotting ducks, turtles, and frogs in and along the shoreline.
Just across the park lies Crags Road, a moderate 2.3 mile loop passing unique volcanic rock formations. Wander through oak woodlands and climb over boulders towering 20 feet high that make great scrambling. Peer down narrow crevices between the rugged crags glowing golden in the afternoon light.
For stunning 360 degree panoramas over the surrounding mountains and valleys, make the short but steep 0.8 mile hike up Grotto Trail to Sandstone Peak. As you huff and puff up switchbacks, the views expand with each step. From the craggy summit, take in epic vistas stretching from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.
Of course, no trip to Malibu Creek State Park is complete without seeing the iconic caveman dwelling from the original Planet of the Apes movie. The film location is easily accessed via the 0.6 mile Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Trail loop. Check out the cave set against sandstone cliffs and imagine Charlton Heston time traveling here. Displays along the route showcase Chumash Indian life.
Hit the Trails: The 50 Most Scenic Hikes near Los Angeles - Admire Wildflowers on the Zuma Canyon Trail
When springtime hits, there's no better place near Los Angeles to admire fields of fiery orange California poppies and purple lupine than Zuma Canyon. This moderate 5 mile loop ascends into a rugged canyon bursting with color to a vista overlooking the Pacific.
As soon as you begin the Zuma Canyon Trail, you'll be surrounded by vibrant wildflowers blanketing the hillsides. Fiery orange poppies wave in the breeze, interspersed with bright purple lupine flowers clustered on long stalks. The canyon comes alive with color.
In early spring, glowing orange poppies take center stage, lighting up the landscape as far as the eye can see. Later in spring, purple lupine and cream colored yarrow join the floral fiesta. Bees buzz from flower to flower, spreading pollen. The sweet, earthy smell of spring permeates the canyon.
As you climb switchbacks up the west wall of Zuma Canyon, pause to soak in the panoramic views out to the Pacific Ocean. The farther you hike, the more wildflowers appear, coating the hillsides in an impressionist painting of color. The landscape changes week to week in spring.
Near the top, catch your breath while admiring the blooming buckwheat, poppies, and lupine at your feet. Sweeping coastal views unfold to the west. Enjoy a bird's eye perspective looking down on the flower-filled canyon below.
The real magic happens on the descent back down to the trailhead, when you'll be fully immersed in the flower fields. Push through chest-high grasses and wildflowers that swallow the trail nearly out of sight. Let your stresses melt away while literally stopping to 'smell the roses' – well, poppies in this case!
The vibrant wildflower displays on the Zuma Canyon Trail provide one of the best escapes into spring. As one hiker raved, “I felt like I was transported to a hillside in Switzerland, with the canyon lit up in orange and purple blooms.”
Hit the Trails: The 50 Most Scenic Hikes near Los Angeles - Hike to the Hollywood Sign for Iconic Views
While it may seem cliché, no list of the top hikes near Los Angeles would be complete without including the classic trek to the Hollywood sign. Sure, catching a glimpse of those huge white letters from down in Hollywood feels special, but to get the full experience you need to hike right up to the back of the sign. Trust me, standing at the base of the 45-foot-tall icon, with the entire L.A. skyline and basin spreading out below you, is an incredible experience.
Of the various routes up, the Brush Canyon Trail offers the most direct access and best views. Beginning from the Griffith Park Observatory parking area, this moderate 6.2-mile roundtrip climbs 630 feet through shady canyons before emerging right behind the sign's gleaming white scaffolding. Early on, the route passes the Griffith Observatory itself - pause for photos with the iconic 1930s landmark that starred in La La Land. Then, you'll enter the lush tree cover of Brush Canyon, strewn with massive boulders and home to spotted lizards and soaring red-tailed hawks.
As you continue ascending, sneak peeks of the Observatory, the L.A. skyline, and the San Gabriel Mountains begin to unfold through the trees. Finally, you'll pop out right behind the Hollywood sign's metal framework for the big reveal. Gaze in awe at the monumental letters rising 45-feet tall on the scrubby hillside. With an unobstructed view facing south, take in the sprawling metropolis of L.A. spread out before you, from DTLA's skyscrapers to Santa Monica's beaches.
Admire the San Gabriel Mountains rising across the basin, then swivel west to spot the Pacific Ocean shimmering in the distance. Watch planes taking off from Burbank Airport floating below. As the golden light of sunset paints the sign in shades of orange and pink, there’s no more iconic L.A. vista. While some tourists opt for quick photo ops down in Hollywood, true Angelenos make the trek on the Brush Canyon Trail to earn those views.
The hike’s peaceful forested sections, panoramic vistas, and up-close access to the sign make for an unforgettable urban hike. As hiker Ken described it, “This hike takes you through a little bit of nature before culminating with iconic man-made views. Standing right under the towering Hollywood sign, I was blown away by its sheer size and larger-than-life presence. Definitely a bucket list hike for any L.A. local or visitor.”
Hit the Trails: The 50 Most Scenic Hikes near Los Angeles - Discover Waterfalls and Swimming Holes in Eaton Canyon
Just a short drive from Pasadena lies a hidden natural wonderland - Eaton Canyon. This oasis in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains delivers something for everyone: gentle waterfall hikes for families, swimming holes for beating the summer heat, and even rock climbing for adventurous souls.
The main attraction is the absolutely gorgeous 40-foot Eaton Canyon Falls. One of the tallest waterfalls in Los Angeles County, it's quite a sight to behold after heavy winter and spring rains. The easy 1.5 mile hike follows Eaton Wash through a forested canyon to reach the falls' misty base - the perfect introduciton to hiking for kids. Raucous teenagers tempting fate by cliff jumping into plunge pools below aside, it's also an extremely family-friendly trail.
Once you've admired the thundering cascade, continue exploring up the canyon on the moderate 5-mile roundtrip hike to the Second Falls. This extension of the Eaton Canyon trail climbs above the main falls through serene nature, passing smaller cascades and swimming holes tucked under the shade of oaks and sycamores along the wash. The sounds of rushing water provide a soothing soundtrack for the hike.
Kids will enjoy scrambling over and under boulders, searching for pollywogs in the swimming holes, and staring in wonder at the second hidden waterfall. The most popular spot is the Beach Boys Swimming Hole, named for the legendary band who grew up swimming here. Slip into the crisp, refreshing pools for the ultimate escape from summer heat. Just beware of fast-moving currents after big rains.
For daredevils, there's rock climbing and bouldering galore in Eaton Canyon, centered around the Altadena Crest. Explore over 100 routes up to 30 feet high on the striking porous brown and gold rock formations. Top-roping and bouldering provide challenges for all skill levels. Just remember to pack your crash pad!
Hit the Trails: The 50 Most Scenic Hikes near Los Angeles - Get a Dose of Desert Beauty at Joshua Tree National Park
With over 1,200 square miles of otherworldly desert landscape, Joshua Tree National Park delivers a healthy dose of natural beauty just a few hours from Los Angeles. This iconic park protects where the Mojave and Colorado deserts collide in Southeastern California. Joshua trees give the park its name, their spikey branches creating unique silhouettes against the rocky backdrop. Beyond the alien vegetation, Joshua Tree impresses with massive boulder piles perfect for scrambling, desert palm oases, and sunsets that paint the sky in unforgettable hues of orange and pink. There's endless adventure to be had here.
Joshua Tree is a rock climber's paradise, with over 8,000 established routes. Test your skills clambering up the sheer faces and towering piles of weathered granite scattered about the park. Top-roping at the Hidden Valley campground lets novice climbers safely hone techniques on beginner and intermediate routes. Those with experience can challenge themselves on 5.9-5.13 graded climbs at destinations like Real Hidden Valley and The Blob.pack your crash pad and harness to ascend vertical cracks on the stark rock walls seemingly custom made for climbing.
Beyond rock climbing, day hikers or casual explorers can enjoy scenic desert hiking trails like the 1 mile loop through Hidden Valley. Wander among house-sized boulders and glimpse the desert's natural artistry. For panoramic views, make the short but steep scramble to Keys View overlook. At 5,185 feet, it offers breathtaking vistas over the entire Coachella Valley, the Salton Sea, and even Mexico's Signal Mountain on clear days. Watch the sun sink below the horizon, setting the desert aglow in stunning hues.
Nature lovers will find beauty in the desert fan palm oases tucked amidst the arid landscape. Forty-nine Palms Oasis Trail transports you a mile into this shady desert paradise. Hike under the canopy of the spiky-leafed palms, accompanied by the sounds of birdsong and trickling water. Escape the desert heat in the refreshing shade. Nearby Lost Palms Oasis sees far fewer crowds on the 7 mile trek. Feel like you have a precious secret palm grove all to yourself.