Remember how it was well over 90 degrees in Los Angeles about a week and a half ago? Remember how the “fall” came in September only to see Southern California experience record setting heat weeks into October? Yeah… thanks, sunshine and climate change, that was awesome.
Anyway, the mercury has finally dropped (though basically no thermometers use mercury anymore), and it’s time to reclaim the outdoors around greater Los Angeles. Beach season has ended, meadow season isn’t even a real thing, so it’s time to head for the hills. Thanks to the unique geography and topography of Los Angeles, you don’t have far to go to find great hiking opportunities.
Whether you want a serious mountaineering expedition, a half-day outing that will get the blood pumping, or an easy, convenient jaunt you can plaster all over social media to create the verisimilitude of being a genuine outdoorsy type before you dump overpriced nut-free smoothies down your gullet and binge on last year’s third-highest rated show instead of reading a book (oops… I guess we started editorializing there), Los Angeles hikes have it all, and all of those outings can be completed within a relatively short drive from downtown. (For the record, we’re not going to deal with anything like that last example, but if that sounds just like you, here’s a hint: it rhymes with “Funyun Banyan.”)
San Gorgonio – 11,503 Feet of Excellence
Mount San Gorgonio, also known as San Gorgonio Mountain or as Old Greyback (seeing it from the mountains of Big Bear will let you know why) is the tallest mountain in Southern California, boasting a total height of more than 11,500 feet and a prominence of nearly 8,300. This is a real, bonafide mountain by any estimation, and ascending it is no mere walk in the park, though it is a hike requiring no technical expertise. You can reach a San Gorgonio trailhead in less than two hours when driving from near Downtown LA; reaching the summit is only another ten or so miles on foot, depending on your route, but it will take you all day to get there and back to your car. An autumn ascent of San Gorgonio is pure pleasure, thanks to the cool temperatures at all elevations and the sun’s gentle warmth during its long areas of exposure, but make sure you pack plenty of layers. Also, consider making your trek an overnight outing, camping after a partial hike down from the summit. Pack all the standard gear you find here and you’ll be golden. (Yes, I know this peak is in the San Bernardino Mountains, not the Angeles — the article’s title is a hook based on alliteration.
Sue me. Don’t sue me.)
Mount Lukens – High Point of LA
The highest you can get in Los Angeles has nothing to do with a dispensary and everything to do with Mount Lukens, a peak standing proud at 5,066 feet of elevation. It’s one of the tallest mountains entirely within a city’s limits anywhere in America. It’s also a terrible mountain to hike in the heat of summer, as long portions of the trail are entirely exposed to the sun. The same exposure that makes this a hot, sweaty affair in summer makes a hike to the summit of Mt. Lukens perfectly pleasant in the fall, though! An ascent will take you about five hours assuming you and your team are in decent shape, being a round trip of a little over nine miles. Now, to be fair, the summit of this urban mountain is nothing all that spectacular: it’s rather flat and mostly covered with radio, TV, and communication towers. But the view is a fine one, and exercise outdoors is always a good thing.
Griffith Park – Miles to Explore
Griffith Park, named for a rather eccentric man named Griffith J. Griffith, is one of the world’s largest parks housed entirely within a city’s limits. It covers a sprawling 4,300 acres of land and includes everything from a zoo to a golf course to the famed eponymous observatory. There are also miles and miles of hiking trails criss-crossing the park, including loops that can actually prove steep and challenging enough for decent training hikes when you don’t have time to drive farther afield. Griffith’s trails are suitable for all level of outing, from the family stroll to the trail run to horseback rides. Parking is plentiful, the trails are well maintained, and views abound, ranging from Valley vistas, Hollywood Sign sightings, and, on clear days, a panorama of the Pacific Ocean. If you only have a few hours of free time and you want to get in some decent hiking, this is a the place to do it. (Note that the picture I’ve used is nearly two years old, and my son would now be charging up the hill beside me.)