The hills north of Sunset Boulevard host an inter-connecting network of hiking trails. Some are ridge hikes with scenic views; some are deep canyon pathways with tropical-like canopies, dense and green. All are easily accessible from West Los Angeles, free, and just waiting for you to explore.
The first few trails described below are the easiest in terms of access, gain and general terrain. The last three are on the wild and crazy side and should only be attempted by experienced hikers looking for adventure.
Temescal Waterfall Loop: Perhaps one of the most popular local hikes, this mostly benign trail boasts a big parking lot at Sunset and Temescal, plus the reassurance of lots of other hikers. I recommend going the “easy way” up to the waterfall toward the right and loop around, or you can do it the reverse for some steep conditioning. Either way, you’ll pass the charming little bridge with a trickle of a falls, and pick up spectacular canyon and ocean views.
Will Rogers To The Bridge: Drive up Will Rogers Drive, and then walk up toward the first cluster of buildings in the park. Follow the signs and enjoy a meandering pathway that gradually ascends up into the “back country.” In about forty minutes you’ll arrive at “The Bridge,” a double bridge actually, spanning a narrow passageway with stunning panoramic views. There are a slew of alternative routes, many of which are equally stellar, but at least do this basic hike to get a feel for how beautifully the park is maintained.
Westridge: The recently installed gates and parking lot have transformed this trail from a dusty ridgeline hike into an extraordinary community destination. If you are up for a straight-ahead canyon hilltop trek, Westridge is Hiking 101. Drive Sunset to Mandeville Canyon, turn left on Westridge – and just keep going until you are on top of the world. You can veer up or down various side trails or just follow the main road to views of everything.
Capri: Drive Sunset Boulevard in the Palisades to Capri, just east of Will Rogers Park. Head north all the way to the top and park. The trail isn’t obvious at first; you have to walk on the paved access way to the left, or west. This little extension continues for miles and serves as the gateway to a wide variety of other cross-trails, including several pathways down into the Rustic Canyon portion of Will Rogers. For first-timers, you can simply stay on the main road and enjoy a great hike with little fear of getting lost or taking on an unexpected challenge.
Los Liones to the Overlook: This is a longer hike but worth every step. Near PCH, drive Sunset Boulevard to Los Liones and head north until it dead-ends in a cul-de-sac. There are two main routes up to the glorious “Overlook”: meander the narrow switchbacks on the east side of the ravine, up to the fire road and then loop around to the west – or bully your way straight up the west face and eventually emerge at the foot of the Overlook’s clearing. This second route is a rough and tough way to go – but either route delivers the reward of unparalleled airliner views.
For the wild and crazy at heart, here are three great hikes to write home about, providing that you survive:
The Wind Caves: From the Santa Ynez Trail in the Palisades Highlands, follow the trail as if you were going to Trippet Ranch in Topanga. Just after you make the left turn at the signpost that separates the Waterfall from Trippett, head up the narrow passageway on the left, up and “over” the small caves. Follow this route along the ridgeline that paces the Trippet Trail. This is daredevil stuff, with razor ridges, sheer drops and all kinds of fun.
The Crack: The same basic Santa Ynez approach as above, but go towards the Waterfall. As the canyon narrows there are discreet side trails straight up to the right. The secret path will eventually take you to rocky “crevasse,” a sort of half-tube that you scooch up to ascend. Very tricky stuff but a lot of wow, including the winding descent back to civilization.
Marty Falls: Before the same signpost for the two hikes above, there is a covered-over trail to a famous-in-its-day-now-decrepit quarry, a working gravel mine long abandoned. Brave the rampant poison oak, hike over the remains of the cable car and collapsing building and you’ll be on your way up the jungle of a hike ending at a seldom seen seasonal waterfall. Do this hike and you’ll be ready for stunt work in the next Indiana Jones movie.
Other mostly sane trails to check out: Rivas Canyon via Will Rogers; Top of Kenter; Bienveneda to Temescal Ridge; Queensferry to Sullivan Canyon.