LA offers multiple hiking routes for novices and experts alike. If you’re looking to make quick decisions about which one to choose, read our guide to five of the best.
Hidden deep in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains, this scenic trail is blissful. The rough, narrow and windy road to the trailhead is lined with hippie chic cottages from the 60: blanketed with trees, they fuse effortlessly with the natural surroundings. Further on, sandstone peaks, the crunch of gravel and the fresh smell of mint leaves welcome you into the ‘Enchanted Forest.’ This canyon was once submerged beneath water, and large rocks along the wide dirt trail have imprints of creatures captured in stone and fossilised. Keep an eye out for a cluster of rock caves to the left of the dirt trail; if you’re feeling adventurous, make your way up through a nature-crafted stone ridge to reach an even higher vantage point.
As its name suggests, this trail is a hidden gem. Beginning on Mulholland Highway, the trailhead lies alongside a dirt pullout, perfect for parking. The narrow trail spirals around the mountain, weaving its way up, down and back up to a beautiful panoramic view of the valley at its peak. After about 1.45 miles, you will pass by two large boulders at the top. If you’re feeling up for some rock climbing, make your way along the grassy terrain. After you explore the small caves below the boulder, be sure to follow the rock formation up. The moderate climb is well worth the grapple, leading hikers to the remote and rustic location known as the ‘land before time’ – surprisingly just 20 minutes outside the bustling metropolis.
Popular amongst LA valley natives and recognized for its artful urban vibe, this trail has been in the news quite a few times this spring. Behind a white metal fence lie two distinct trails that you can take. The first is the Fossil Ridge Trail, a more scenic trail that runs alongside the ocean and offers a narrow path; vegetation and greenery blanket the mountainside and the sea breeze follows you the entire course. If you prefer a shorter path to a promising scenic view of the Santa Monica mountains, continue past the trailhead until you hit a fork in the road. Keep left, however you should notice the strange tower up the pathway on the right. A man stands at the top, guarding the old graffiti covered AT&T Microwave Tower that was used during the Cold War and still stands. He will tell you ‘big brother is watching,’ and no photography of the historic site is permitted. Continue walking alongside the silhouette of the mountains until you reach a steep little hill. On the other side, you will find a graffiti concrete slab that was once the foundation of an old firehouse tower before it was burned down. Hanging off the side of the mountain, this spot is perfect for dangling your feet, enjoying a snack and taking in the breathtaking 360-degree view of the entire valley.
Adventure to this Malibu oasis for a break from your everyday. This relatively short trail gives off a ‘secret garden’ vibe, taking you through lush mountains and beautiful scenery which lead up to three waterfalls and an ocean view. From the small parking area, it is about a mile walk past beautiful Malibu mansions to get to the trail proper, signified by a small river crossings and serene foliage. When you get to the fork, be sure to keep left and follow the arrow, which is in the direction of the first falls. The primary part of the hike is easy and leads up to a swing, the ideal place to stop if you’re hiking with young children. Following the first tier, you must climb a multitude of rocks and the trail becomes fairly intense. The second waterfall is more challenging and requires some climbing and scaling the slippery mountain. Keep an eye out for a rope you can use for balance to prop yourself up and get behind the waterfall into the cave. You can climb the last tier for a better view at the top of the waterfall; however, take considerable caution and be aware that the gravel is very loose as you ascend.
Though fairly short and easy to follow, the Malibu Grotto has a definite feeling of mystery about it. Follow the trail until you encounter a path that runs alongside a small creek traveling downstream. The path comes to an end about one and a half miles in, requiring some boulder climbing to reach the grotto; here, lizards sunbathing, wildflowers, tadpoles and the smell of sage work to create a delicious atmosphere. Continue over the rocks and head downstream, where you will hit a waterfall and a small tranquil pond, the perfect spot to cool off, enjoy the foliage and dip your toes into natural mineral waters.