The Southern California region is loaded with endless hiking opportunities. The rugged desert landscape combined with some of the most magnificent coastal views in the country leads to some pretty amazing hiking scenery. Hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains is a must for any outdoor enthusiast visiting the L.A. area. Luckily, there are more than 500 miles of trails available in this massive recreational area, so you will never run out of new exciting options no matter how many times you visit. The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreational area is spread out over 154,000 acres, making it the largest urban park in the world! Numerous trails of varying difficulty are sure to please both novice and advanced hikers. Trails are diverse in terms of scenery, featuring everything from views of the Pacific Ocean, to skyline views, to open California grassland. A few even feature a waterfall!
Many of these trails are just a short drive from the city, making the hike truly feel like a little oasis in the middle of a concrete jungle. It’s sad that so many locals and tourists do not know that so many peaceful, nature escapes are sitting there just minutes away from the busy beaches, sprawling cities, and most importantly, the massive traffic.
One of my favorite hikes is Los Liones Canyon. This short hike is a great choice for everyone. If anything, it gets you away from the clutter and congestion and out into the beautiful natural landscapes of Southern California for an hour or 2. You will get a great workout in as there is a bit of an incline going up, however, it is nowhere near as challenging as many of the hillier/longer trails. The ending coastal views are outstanding in comparison to the little effort put into getting there.
It’s one of the best bang for your buck hikes in the L.A. area. Another advantage is being located within such close proximity to everything. This trail is really easy to get to and located just 10 minutes or so from the Santa Monica area.
The trail is located within Topanga State Park, a massive urban park featuring over 70 miles of hiking trails. The Los Liones trail to the Topagana Fire Road, the first overlook, is about 1.5 miles. Here you will be treated to stunning views of the ocean and L.A. skyline. You can continue on another 2 miles to the fantastic Parker Mesa Overlook, however, the views are pretty fantastic here, so unless you are looking for a major workout, I would enjoy the views and call it a day.
This trail should be pretty easy enough for any regular hikers. There is a slight uphill one way, however, nothing too challenging. The major problem would come for those not using to hiking in the harsh climate of the desert. I recommend a camelbak so that you have plenty of water available (even if it feels cool, you will get hot and be craving extra water). A hiking stick for extra traction going downhill, along with a quality pair of hiking shoes is always a must. Keep in mind that there is not much shade and it can get really hot anytime of the year (not just on hot summer days) with the intensity of the sun beating down on you.
In short, if you are looking for a great L.A. area hike which is easy to get to, will not take up your whole day, offers magnificent scenery, and one that will give your body a decent workout without too much effort, then a hike along Los Liones Canyon is one of your best bets.
While you could waste your time and money on pricey tourist attractions like Disneyland and Universal Studios, getting out into nature is a free, and incredibly underrated experience, which should be tops on the list for anyone wanting to explore some magnificent natural Southern California scenery. Plenty of parking is available and the experience as a whole is so much more relaxing than fighting for parking spots and putting up with endless tourists at the beach!
There is plenty of free parking at the trailhead, with both lots and street parking available. Bathrooms are also available.
There is no water at the trailhead, so bring several bottles or wear a camelbak. I recommend sunscreen and a hat. If possible, start your trek as early in the morning as possible to beat the heat. Be sure to eat before the hike and bring with a few easy to eat snacks like a granola or power bar. The trail is not pet friendly (we saw a police officer telling people to turn around who had pets – one of the only downsides of the trail).
The Los Liones trailhead is located at: 566 Los Liones Dr Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
Plan on about an hour and a half-2 hours to get to the first overlook.