The largest urban park in the world, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, is home to some of the best hiking spots in LA. Visitors to the park can camp, rock-climb, mountain-bike, horseback-ride and more while taking in ocean views on LA’s Westside.
Venture out on coastal hikes in LA among historic ranches and native California wildlife in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area’s sprawling 154,000 acres (62,000 hectares). Its many trailheads are easily accessible from the city, and most have free parking with no admission fee, making these hikes an invaluable outdoor resource for both travelers and Westside locals.
Temescal Canyon Loop
The Temescal Canyon in Pacific Palisades offers good views
Distance: 3 miles (5 kilometers) Elevation: 850 feet (259 meters) Time: 2 hours. Located near the Pacific Palisades at Temescal Canyon Road and Sunset Boulevard, this moderate hiking trail features a waterfall during wet seasons and high panoramic ocean views contrasted by deep wooded canyons, and is accessible year-round. Parking is available for $10 in the parking lot. There is also free parking on the streets surrounding the park. Dogs are not allowed on this trail.
Distance: 5 miles (8 kilometers) Elevation: 900 feet (274 meters) Time: 3 hours. This tucked-away spot is a 1,255-acre park nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains in Malibu, which parallels two miles of the Pacific Ocean with 360-degree viewpoints. It is a 1.6-mile round trip to the Hearst Tank Motorway, an east-facing point, and a 3.8-mile round trip to Big Rock Lateral, a west-facing point. This is a combined five-plus-mile hike with 900 feet of elevation change – a moderate hike, but well worth the trek. The trailhead for Tuna Canyon Park is unmarked but can be found in the mountains between Malibu and Topanga on the outside of a bend in Tuna Canyon Road. There is no permit required to visit and no parking fees. Dogs and mountain bikes are welcome.
Hikers wend their way along a trail in Solstice Canyon
Distance: 6 miles (10 kilometers) Elevation: 800 feet (244 meters) Time: 2 hours. This trail features hikes ranging from easy to moderate along the Solstice Canyon Trail to more challenging up the Rising Sun Trail. A waterfall is the popular hiking destination, though along the way you may run into wildlife such as alligator lizards, acorn woodpeckers, fence lizards and even red-tailed hawks soaring high overhead. On the way to the waterfall, you will find the Keller House, ruins of a stone hunting cabin built in the early 20th century. Metro Bus 534 stops a short distance south of the park entrance, making it easily accessible from the city. The trail was closed due to fires in early 2019, so check accessibility before heading to the canyon.
Distance: 1.4 miles (2.3 kilometers) Elevation: 300 feet (91 meters) Time: 1 hour. Located at the northwest end of Santa Monica Bay, Point Dume is a large rock formation jutting into the ocean. The enticing aspect of the casual stroll found here is the incredible views it offers, encompassing Santa Monica Bay, the Malibu coast, the Santa Monica Mountains and even Catalina Island on a clear day. During spring, poppies grow along with giant caryopsis adding orange and yellow highlights to the park. There is no entrance fee or permit required for parking, but remember that dogs and hiking off trail are not allowed.
Distance: 3.1 miles (5 kilometers) Elevation: 750 feet (229 meters) Time: 2 hours. This moderate hike offers sweeping views of both the Pacific Ocean and Zuma Canyon. The trail is a loop, so you are free to start at either the Ocean View trail or Canyon View trail. Both have horse traffic which causes some loose dirt, and since the Ocean View trail is steeper, it may be best left for the descent. A car is required for this hike though it is easy to navigate there. The trailhead is a quick right off the Pacific Coast Highway at Bonsall Drive. Head to the dirt parking lot at the end of the road and the trail leaves from the northwest corner of the lot. Parking is free, and dogs are welcome. The trail was closed in early 2019 due to fires, so check accessibility before setting out to hike.