The greater Los Angeles area is home to some of the most amazing ecosystems and wildlife habitats. Just a short drive from the city can provide a fantastic opportunity to appreciate the nature we live and coexist with, but going off the beaten path or finding the experience right for you is sometimes not as easy as a simple google search. During quarantine, some beautiful single file hiking trails have become overcrowded where others have fallen subject to a lack of maintenance and may be impossible to follow. Furthermore, cell service, parking or access to bathrooms and water stations have changed, and some trails even require permits to enter.
Whether you are looking for an easy hike or a challenging trek, one to do along with a large group or one suitable for solo trips or simply a place to enjoy nature and picnic among the flourishing spring plant and animal life our community has to offer, your destination is just a short drive away.
Here are some nature sights perfect for simple appreciation of the change in seasons:
The Westridge Trailhead leading into the beautiful Santa Monica Mountain Range is one of the most versatile trails located within a short distance from the ocean provides an amazing view of Los Angeles and the coast on a clear day. No permit is needed, you can generally get one to four bars of cell service, and although the official parking lot is small and almost always full, street parking is plentiful. Do not expect a bathroom at the trailhead and plan accordingly. This trail is sort of a “make-you-own” journey in the sense that it is not only used by mountain bikers, walkers and hikers but also constantly presents new opportunities for brave individuals to challenge themselves with steep inclines.
An easy almost-flat, very wide pathway meanders along the end of mountains with purple and yellow flowers in full bloom, but take a right and you can ascend incredibly steep hills that drop back off at the path or continue to increase in escalation. Atop the first hill is a bench in which one can sit and enjoy the view whereas the top of the rest of the hills that stretch deeper and deeper into the mountain range, a hiker who chooses the hard path can find a little bit of flat ground to catch their breath, take in the incredible view or sit down for a picnic. In addition, the trail is very well carved out and maintained. The ocean crossbreeze and direct sunlight means that hiking here can sometimes be in ideal conditions, but come in the morning before the clouds burn off, and you may find yourself feeling like you are walking through one! This trail is not a loop, and while in general that can cause the way back to be less exciting, the constant options the Westridge hike presents you with allows you to choose to take a different path even as you are heading back in the same direction you came.
A beautiful Malibu trail provides hikers (who may have to hike from their parking spot to the trailhead) a unique hike with partial shade at times, access to a small creek to cool off and a view of interesting structures and temple ruins. Do not expect cell service or bathrooms once you leave the parking lot, but the trail does have a higher volume of people which can provide safety in numbers. Although this trail is more well-known it deserves its praise. For an easy route, take the Solstice Canyon Trail which is a wider, flatter path preferable for larger groups. For more advanced hikers, take the Rising Sun Trail by ascending a set of wooden stairs and hiking on a slightly narrower, but steeper dirt path. A few miles and you will find a partially shaded rest area in which you can dunk in the creek to cool off or appreciate beautiful temple ruins and a small waterfall.
Placerita Canyon State Park
Placerita Canyon State Park, located in the San Gabriel Valley near Santa Clarita, is home to a visitors center (closed during the pandemic), a variety of California wildlife and a variety of outdoor activities, but the most notable is the moonlight hike. No permits are needed, and the visitor center’s closure offers a less crowded environment for enjoying the nature that this site has to offer.
At night, with flashlights and a friend or group of people, the moon lights the trail decently well allowing hikers to enjoy a more rare scenery. That being said, make sure to look at the moon a few nights in advance and google when the full moon is. It’s strongly advised that hikers only venture on the moonlight hike during a full moon. Just a short drive from the city, it’s easy to feel like you are in another world on this trail. When you give in to the temptation to look up at the night sky, be careful about your footing and surroundings. As you walk the trail, use your flashlight to shine light downwards and slightly in front of you and proceed slowly. In addition to the night sky, you may likely see (and definitely hear) nocturnal wildlife. Evidently, this hike is not for everyone, but it definitely stands out from the rest!
Alta Laguna Park “Top of the World”
Top of the World is a gorgeous hike located at the north eastern edge of Laguna in which you can camp with an incredible ocean view or just take advantage of the setting to enjoy an unparalleled cotton candy sunset. A short distance from the town of Laguna, camping (and hiking) at this site is a great option for Los Angeles residents seeking a quick weekend away without major expenses. This easy trail is a roughly two and a half mile hike and there are sometimes sightings of rattlesnakes, but otherwise the encounter with nature is more or less limited to the desert and coastal plant life of the Laguna hills.