I’m not a Los Angeles native. I’m a midwestern gal, born where the land is flat, the water is vast but calm, and leaving the house from November to April means a serious pep talk as you open the door. When I first moved to Los Angeles, a few years after I graduated from college, I was most impressed by its big city allure. Celebrity crushes from my teenage years seemed to just casually hang out in my favorite Hollywood bars. Vintage shops on Melrose sold clothes that seemed destined for galas and parties in the Hollywood Hills. The restaurants buzzed with energy and the downtown felt caught in time. I quickly fell under the city’s spell.
But as I acclimated to LA’s perfect weather, suddenly prone to complaining if it dipped below 60 degrees, I also fell in love with the wilder side of the sprawling metropolis. Believe it or not, Los Angeles has nature everywhere and you can access it easily, year round. I didn’t need to road trip to a National Park for a day, I could walk out my front door and, in minutes, be hiking up a mountain. Desert, mountains, cliffs, beaches, forests — they were all at my fingertips.
I soon grew obsessed with hiking. Living at the base of Runyon Canyon, I began to hike into the hills every day. I became the sort of person who suggested a hike and a boba tea to friends rather than another happy hour. On weekends, I hit up spots a little further afield — though usually never more than an hour away. That’s when I discovered the magic of Los Angeles. While many cities offer micro adventures perfect for 24 hours or a weekend, L.A. has scores of micro micro adventures. All it takes is a few hours to connect to the natural world and feel like you’ve re-centered yourself.
I’ve taken dozens of hikes in the region over the past several years. They’re all great in their own ways (is there such a thing as a bad hike?) but these are a few of my favorites.
Los Liones Trail To Parker Mesa Overlook
This is my favorite trail in Los Angeles, hands down. I hate to break into my Stefon from SNL voice, but this trail truly has everything: stunning ocean views, a foresty feel, desert landscapes, different levels of difficulty and models jogging on the weekends.
The first half of the hike is uphill but can be done at a leisurely pace. Depending on the season, you’ll pass various plants and wildflowers. There are plenty of trees to provide cover and you end with a beautiful view, overlooking the ocean. This is the easy portion — you can bring pretty much anyone at any skill level, and they’ll feel both satisfied by the workout and awed by the beauty of the trail. If you continue on, you’ll be gifted another kind of satisfaction. The going gets steeper and the sun beats down on you, snakes might cross your path, you begin to ration your water, and then, just when you think you can’t go any further, you’re rewarded with truly insane views all around you — the kind that legit make you a little teary-eyed.
By the end, you’re out of breath and you feel this sense of genuine accomplishment. How did I get lucky enough to live here? You’ll ask yourself, as any stress from city life melts away.
Want to go there?
Trailhead: Sunset Blvd and Los Liones (The trailhead is at the end of Los Liones).
Roundtrip distance: About 3 miles to the first lookout, 6.5 miles if you continue to Parker Mesa Overlook.
After the hike: Head to Malibu Seafood on PCH and eat fresh fish right on the beach.