The Best Outdoor Activities in and Around Los Angeles

Biking along Santa Monica Beach is a favorite outdoor activity of Angelenos
Biking along Santa Monica Beach is a favorite outdoor activity of Angelenos | © graham jepson / Alamy Stock Photo
Linda Konde

Commissioning Editor

From hiking in the picturesque hills to cycling along the oceanfront, Los Angeles and its environs have plenty of options for savoring the outdoors in the Californian sun. Culture Trip picks the best things to do when outside in the LA region.

With its year-round gorgeous weather and rich variety of terrains – from rugged mountains to beautiful beaches – it’s fair to say that Los Angeles is nothing short of an outdoors paradise.

But where to go? Are you more into a brisk morning run up the hills to see the Hollywood sign? Or would you prefer to go horseback riding across a vast geological landscape replete with wildlife? Perhaps just taking it easy with a nice bike ride along the sandy beaches is your thing? Or maybe an even more relaxed option, soaking up the atmosphere at a Sunday open-air market?

However you define “outdoors,” LA has it covered. Here’s our best pick of the lot.

Go biking along the Marvin Braude Bike Trail

Thanks to Los Angeles’ great year-round weather, you can explore the city’s sprawling landscape at any time. And one of the best ways to see the city is by cycling through it. The 22-mile (35km) Marvin Braude Bike Trail runs from Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades, a residential area that is home to many celebrities, and ends in Torrance Beach, nearly 25 miles (40km) from Downtown. The scenic trail runs mostly along the shoreline with stunning views of the ocean and passes through multiple beaches and oceanfronts, including Santa Monica State Beach, Venice Beach, Marina del Rey and Redondo Beach. Most of the routes are on a dedicated concrete path, making it a smooth ride.

Runyon Canyon Park

If you’ve ever seen images or video clips of groups of people hiking up a mountain in Los Angeles, chances are they were walking up Runyon Canyon. Situated at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains in the Hollywood Hills, the 160-acre (65ha) public park opened in 1984. It’s a popular hiking destination offering unparalleled views of the area, including great spots to see the iconic Hollywood sign. Access the park from one of its five entrances and choose your desired route: Runyon Canyon Road for an easy hike, the Star Trail for an intermediate workout, and the Hero Trail, which is known as the difficult trail. The 45- to 60-minute hike along the Hero Trail takes you up on a challenging 18-degree slope. Officially a dog park, expect to see a number of dogs running freely, as owners can unleash their pets in some areas.

Hike across the Devil’s Punchbowl, LA’s wondrous geological landscape

An hour and a half away from Los Angeles is the Devil’s Punchbowl, a vast area of sandstone and sedimentary rocks in the San Gabriel Mountains. This 1,310-acre (530ha) canyon is perfect for walking, hiking and horseback riding, thanks to its wide, flat and serene sandy trail. A Los Angeles County park, the Devil’s Punchbowl boasts three hiking trails: at one mile (1.6km) in length, the Devil’s Punchbowl Loop trail is the shortest and easiest, followed by the Devil’s Hike, a seven-mile (11km) roundtrip sandy trail that offers panoramic views of the formation. The Burkhart Trail is perhaps the most popular one, as the 13.7-mile (22km) path often attracts large crowds.

Visit this Sunday open-air market: Melrose Trading Post

In West Hollywood, you’ll find the Melrose Trading Post, a lively flea market that has become a popular spot throughout the years. You’ll hear music played from speakers and local musicians performing on the music stage as vendors try their best to get your attraction. Run by a non-profit organization, the market – open since 1997 – attracts thousands of people every week. Taking place every Sunday, the open-air venue offers a range of goods from vintage items to clothing made by local designers to unique jewelry and art. If you get hungry, visit one of the nearby restaurants, like the Hart and the Hunter that serves homestyle Southern cuisine.

Explore Griffith Park and its observatory

It’s easy to forget that you’re in the middle of the city when visiting Griffith Park due to its calm surroundings. Situated in Los Feliz – a 10-minute drive from Hollywood – the park is the largest historic landmark in the city of Los Angeles and one of the largest municipal parks in North America covering 4,511 acres (1,826ha). Hike along the 53-mile (85km) network of trails, fire roads and bridle paths that feature rugged hills, but beware of the rattlesnakes and foxes as it’s a wilderness area. Alternatively, you can drive up to the iconic Griffith Observatory, one of the park’s 11 attractions. This Los Angeles landmark is known for its three copper-clad domes that sit on top of the white Greek Revival and Art Deco building. Since being inaugurated in 1935, the observatory, which sits 1,134 feet (345m) above sea level, has become one of LA’s most famous attractions, enshrined in numerous movies and offering views of downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and the Hollywood sign.

Skate or rollerblade along the Venice Boardwalk

Los Angeles is home to a number of roller rinks, but nothing beats cruising outdoors as the wind blows in your face. Venice Beach is one of the most popular places to skate or rollerblade thanks to its two-mile-long boardwalk that stretches all the way to Santa Monica Beach. It’s best to visit early in the day when there’s less traffic, as the area tends to get busy once the street performers start to attract large groups. Bring your own roller blades or rent them from one of the stores on the ocean walk: Jay’s Rental provides rollerblades, skateboards, bicycles and beach necessities at an affordable rate.

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