Our Favorite Local Los Angeles Hikes and Rides

By Josh Caffrey

Our Favorite Local Los Angeles Hikes and Rides

Remember those 'choose your own adventure' books?

That's what life in Los Angeles is like when it comes to outdoor activities. The possibilities are virtually endless and with nearly 300 sunny days a year, there's ample opportunity to get out and explore.

What follows is a list of some of our collective personal favorites when it comes to hikes and rides around Los Angeles. Whether you're local or planning an LA getaway, we thought you might enjoy seeing what we like to enjoy when it's time to go play.

The Staircases of Los Angeles

Highlights from the Painted Stairways Tour

Staircases are hiding in plain (and not so plain) sight all over Los Angeles, many of which were built as neighborhood shortcuts around the turn of the 20th century back when the automobile hadn’t yet taken hold as the primary means of transportation for Angelenos. In recent years, many of these forgotten relics of the past have been enjoying a second life as a new means to exploring the city and enabling adventures to start from right out your front door. SoCal Stair Climbers is a great resource for finding staircases and planning routes and you can even do one of their pre-mapped routes such as The Painted Stairways Tour that turns a nearly 7 mile urban hike into an art walk.

Matt’s Chevy Chase Loop 

Look close and you can see the towers at the top of Mt. Wilson. 

Here’s a 32 mile route that starts and ends at the front door of our Velo Love storefront. This is one of Matt’s favorite local loops that he’s created over his years of exploring the nearby hills and with over 4,000 feet of climbing packed into a relatively short distance, the ride wastes no time in getting the party started. Once you crest Chevy Chase Drive, the route becomes a veritable rollercoaster of fast descents down winding roads and punchy climbs through mostly quiet tree lined residential streets with a wealth of inspiring views. This route is ideal for road bikes but any properly geared bike will get the job done and bigger tires definitely come in handy on the optional dirt sections. 

Elysian Park Trail Hike 

That bump you see along the horizon is the Palos Verdes Peninsula, nearly 30 miles away. 

We love, love, love Griffith Park but with it being one of the largest city parks in one of the largest cities in the United States, it can get more than a little crowded, especially at peak times to be on the peaks. But lucky for us locals, Elysian Park is just down the street. Measuring out at 575 acres, it’s a mere fraction of Griffith’s size but the hiking trails will get you back to nature and get your blood pumping while offering views of DTLA and beyond that you can’t see from Griffith. And there’s even a “secret” swing to find.

Ride up the Angeles Crest Highway

It's us. Checking out the eclipse from the top of Mt. Wilson back in 2017. 

No matter if you call it “The Crest” or its given name of Highway 2, making the 19 mile climb from La Cañada Flintridge to the summit of Mt. Wilson is a notable achievement for any cyclist. The hardest part is right at the beginning as you enter the Angeles National Forest but once you make it past the fire station, the grade becomes somewhat more manageable as the highway snakes its way up towards the clouds. Your first opportunity to take a breather and refill your water bottles is at Clear Creek (can’t miss it on your right). Then after that, it’s a quick segment to the ranger station at Red Box where you can top off your water supply before making the final push to the Mt. Wilson Observatory where you can soak up the view from 5,700 feet (a nice reward for your effort) and grab a snack at the seasonal Cosmic Cafe (be sure to check their site for the latest info) to fuel your ride back to town. If you’ve read this far, it should be obvious that this is a very strenuous ride. It also goes through an environment that can change at any moment and cell phones often don’t work so be prepared. And if you really feel like going for it, here’s the route to a century ride that boasts over 10,000 feet of climbing.

JPL Waterfall Hike or Bike 

Once you reach this point, it's time to turn around. 

This 8 to 9 mile out and back route along the Gabrielino Trail starts and ends with a stunning view of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory campus. You’ll know you reached the turnaround point when you run out of trail at the base of a US Forest Service Dam that creates a nearly year round waterfall. The proximity to the city and a combination of a wide trail with a very moderate grade makes this route a popular spot for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages so it’s best to leave any dreams of capturing KoMs at home and simply enjoy the journey.

Franklin Canyon 

It's hard to believe this view can be found right in the middle of LA. 

Accessible only from either Mulholland Drive from the top or an easy-to-miss neighborhood street at the bottom, this 605 acre park has a trio of trails and is a true hidden gem of Los Angeles. No matter which end you enter from, you’ll be treated to a narrow, winding road with punchy climbs that will give you visions of riding in the Giro d’Italia. For as much fun as it is to test your legs, the beauty of the park will have you slowing down to enjoy the view and taking the long way around the lake (which you may have seen in the opening credits of the Andy Griffith Show as it doubled as Andy and Opie’s fishin’ hole.) Or, pull up a set on a bench at the pond across the road and enjoy the antics of the wood ducks and mandarinsFranklin Canyon’s marquee trail is the 2.3 mile-up-and-back Hastain Trail. Do it on foot or your gravel/cx bike during off-hours (it does get crowded) and you’ll be treated to sweeping views that can extend all the way to the Pacific Ocean. 

One of Franklin Canyon's many wood ducks

“I find that a duck’s opinion of me is very much influenced over whether or not I have bread.”
- Mitch Hedberg