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You’d never believe this serene hike is just outside DTLA

This centrally located Mt. Washington walk is freeway close and just minutes from downtown Los Angeles. But it gets off the beaten path quickly and offers serenity, silence and solitude.

1. Start walking from San Rafael Avenue, near the corner of Elyria Drive near the stately Self-Realization Fellowship grounds. Begin walking north, or slightly downhill, toward Rome Drive. Continue as the road rises under oak trees past a fine old Craftsman home and Mt. Washington Elementary School.

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2. Bend slightly left and then turn left onto Sea View Avenue – ignoring the "No Outlet" sign – as the road descends into a quiet neighborhood marked with impressive cactuses.

3. Pass a chain gate as the pavement ends and is succeeded by a wide dirt path. Canyon views will open on your left as hawks and crows wheel overhead.

4. Stay on the dirt path as it winds around the hillside, shaded by oak, pepper and eucalyptus trees. In time, climb a slight grade and pass another chain gate as paved sections of the road return.

5. When you hit San Rafael, turn right. Walk past Moon Canyon – where more trails beckon – and follow San Rafael past the turn for Sea View Avenue, past the elementary school and back to your starting point.

6. If you have time, make a side visit to the Self-Realization Fellowship, whose gardens and shady paths are open to visitors 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays.

The stats

Distance: 2 miles

Difficulty: 2 on a scale of 1 to 5

Duration: 1 hour

Details: Ample free parking. Dogs on a leash are OK, but not at the Self-Realization Fellowship.

Fleming is the author of "Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles" and "Secret Walks: A Walking Guide to the Hidden Trails of Los Angeles." Each month, he leads a free walk at one of his favorite spots in Southern California. Find out more at his Facebook page, Secret Stairs. He can also be reached at charles.fleming@latimes.com.

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