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California Trails

Hike Like a Local in Los Angeles

The City of Angels: land of brunch, tanning, and of course, celebrity sightings at the local coffee shop. For hikers who want to explore trails in places that don’t start with “Runyon,” the options are as sprawling as the city.

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Cooper Canyon, Angeles National Forest

Miles 3 (out and back) Drive from town 1 hour 15 minutes

Ever wanted to (briefly) hike the Pacific Crest Trail, but never knew where to go? Cooper Canyon has you covered. Start at the back of Buckhorn Campground (which is great for some accessible car-camping), and then descend 745 feet over 1.5 miles. For anyone needing a Sierra fix, this is the best you’ll do so close to L.A. Right before arriving at the turnaround point, hikers will cross the PCT. Otherwise, the reward is a wonderfully secluded Cooper Canyon Falls that’s more tranquil than grandiose. Bonus: Dogs allowed. Trailhead Buckhorn Campground Info

Parker Mesa, Topanga State Park

Miles 5.4 (out and back) Drive from town 30 minutes (or transit via 534 bus)

This is the hike for those of us who want to feel like we accomplished something—got some views, got some exercise, and got some nature—and still get down in time for brunch on Abbot Kinney. The trail starts in the Pacific Palisades and quickly rises above the trees via a wide dirt path known as the Los Liones Trail. This joins the fire road system of Topanga State Park, and then ascends to the mesa. The views—on a clear day, it’s easy to see Palos Verdes Peninsula, Catalina Island, and even San Clemente Island—are pretty ridiculous for the short amount of work (less than two hours of hiking) required to achieve them. Trailhead Los Liones Canyon Info

Best Local Hikes Los Angeles San Gorgonio
Photo by Alyx Schwarz

Mt. San Gorgonio, San Gorgonio Wilderness

Miles 17.1 (out and back) Drive time from town 2 hours 30 minutes

Simply put, this hike is a beast. The peak is the highest in Southern California, and number 18 on the “ultras”—a list of the most prominent peaks in the United States—with a summit that rises to 11,503 feet. Some people do the hike as an overnight (grab a permit at the Mill Creek Ranger Station), but most opt to do it in a single go. Start at the Vivian Creek trailhead, and after a brief jaunt through the canyon, start the 5,300-foot climb. On the way up, you’ll pass a variety of Southern California landscapes: Woods give way to subalpine trees, scree, and brush before finally topping out on a moonscape. Mt. Whitney hopefuls, train here. Trailhead Vivian Creek Info

Where to Buy Gear in Los Angeles: Adventure 16

Where to Eat Near Los Angeles

Congregation Ale House in downtown Pasadena has beer, food, and easy seating—all must-haves after a long day in the Angeles National Forest.

Don’t Forget: L.A.’s climate is mild, but most summits pick up a solid breeze. A windbreaker cuts the chill and doesn’t take up much space. 

Best Local Hikes Los Angeles scout Brad Stapleton

Our Scout: Brad Stapleton