2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on

Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – September 2010

The Big Parade: Hiking Los Angeles

My hike, like a million other trips each day in Los Angeles, starts with a ride on a rumbling bus.In the heart of Los Angeles, a band of hikers starts a local-trails revolution--one step at a time.

by: Dan Koeppel

It's long past sunset when we tackle the final unpaved switchbacks. The route suddenly feels treacherous. We share three flashlights and stay close to each other. Kalee, who'd been floating through the crowd for the entire walk, joins me.

The Hollywood sign is brightly lit, visible to most of Los Angeles. On the actual climb, though, it disappears just as you're closing in. Reaching the ridgeline, you're suddenly north of the structure, staring down at the San Fernando Valley. You walk another quarter-mile, then hairpin back to face south, above the landmark. First-time visitors are usually surprised to find that the huge letters are wafer thin.

The vista from the sign is far better than the view of it. To the northeast, you can see 5,700-foot Mt. Wilson, the antenna-topped peak that crowns the vast and rugged San Gabriel Mountains. The city itself spreads out below. Boulevards filled with cars stretch along razor-straight lines. Downtown's skyscrapers glow alongside the Hollywood Freeway, which cuts a curved and surprisingly graceful path before disappearing into the San Fernando Valley.

What's most lovely, though, is how all the urban motion comes to an end. The city seems to fold into darkness. Maybe, at first, you'll think this is merely the horizon. But there's a sprinkling of lights beyond, and as your eyes adjust, a true edge faintly appears. This empty stillness is the Pacific Ocean.

As breathtaking as the vista is, however, this walk isn't about the views. It's about people. It's about a community making this city, our home, better. And that's exactly what's happening right under our feet. The final few miles were the toughest I've ever hiked, but now fatigue and joy blend and revive me. For the first time in two days, I feel no need to explain. I sit down and take a deep breath. I suddenly realize that I haven't even announced our arrival. I pull my phone out and see that Alissa--recovering at home--has been sending messages as we walk, encouraging us. Her final note had come only seconds earlier: "Trying to watch you on the Hollywood sign webcam. Do something BIG!"

A group of us gathers to wave. But the truth, of course, is that we can't do anything bigger than we already have.

Dan Koeppel's most recent book is Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World. Big Parade II, held last June, attracted more than 300 participants (

Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Address 1:
Address 2:
Email (req):

Reader Rating: -


Jan 05, 2012

I love the outdoors. I've never been interested in visiting big cities. But this? This is absolutely fascinating.


Your rating:
Your Name:


My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

What brand boots?
Posted On: Aug 29, 2014
Submitted By: HuntersHikes
Hiking on rocks
Posted On: Aug 29, 2014
Submitted By: Silock
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions