One positive aspect of Los Angeles' urban sprawl is the presence of numerous wilderness areas within or close to the city. For example, about half a mile northeast of the bustling intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue lies the rustic Ferndell section of Griffith Park. Just off Sunset Boulevard west of Beverly Hills is Will Rogers State Historic Park.
The You pages of View asked Milt McAuley, hike leader and author of books on hiking in the nearby Santa Monica Mountains, to select and comment on a sampling of free hikes ranging from "very easy" to "quite difficult."
When information is not provided here, it is advisable before going out for the day to inquire about parking and whether pets are welcome on the hikes.
Otherwise, McAuley says that the only requirements to participate are a willingness to cooperate with the hike leader and to be in physical condition appropriate for the hike you choose. In ascending order of difficulty, they are:
Nature Trail at Trippet Ranch--"The Nature Trail at Topanga State Park at Trippet Ranch is a good place for easy-paced photo hikes and self-guided tours." Turn east on Entrada Road off Topanga Canyon Boulevard to reach the parking lot. Brochures describing the surroundings are in a box near the pond, which is visible from the parking lot. "About 60 kinds of wildflowers bloom here throughout the year. The best time to view these flowers is between March and May." Bring at least $2 to pay for parking in the state park (no parking outside the park gate). Remember, no dogs allowed. For information, call (213) 455-2465. (One mile; one to three hours.)
Winging It Walk--"On the first Sunday of every month, a member of the Audubon Society and a Sierra Club hike leader team up
for a bird-watching walk in Topanga State Park." Turn east on Entrada Road off Topanga Canyon Boulevard to reach the parking lot. "You don't have to join either group. Remember that they leave at 8 a.m.--sharp. The owls don't wait." Bring binoculars and at least $2 to cover the cost of parking in the state park (no parking outside the park gate). Call the Sierra Club at (213) 387-4287 for further details; no dogs. (It's 1 1/2 miles; three hours.)
Chicken George Hike--"This easy hike is for people who want to go a mile or two in an hour or two. Depart from the Visitors' Center at Malibu Creek State Park and follow the Gorge Trail to Rock Pool at the mouth of the gorge. Both the pool and the gorge contain large volcanic boulders. Volcanic cliffs rise from both sides of the pool, forming a spectacular setting." Not part of this hike, but along Backbone Trail, about 1 1/2 miles from Rock Pool, are the TV graves of "Roots' " Chicken George and his wife. (It's 2 1/2 miles round trip; one to two hours.)
I Love L.A. Hike--This hike offers a spectacular city view. Leave from the Griffith Observatory parking lot. Go north to the top of Mt. Hollywood, where you can see Hollywood, West Los Angeles, the ocean on most days, Catalina on clear days, the San Fernando Valley, Burbank, Glendale and Downtown Los Angeles. Night hikers often come here to admire the city lights. "A good side trip is to continue a quarter of a mile east from the top of Mt. Hollywood to Dante's View, where you'll find a cool grove of trees with benches and water--a beautiful lunch stop." (It's 2 1/2 miles round trip; 1-two hours.)
Will Rogers Hike--"This hike combines exercise with a bit of nostalgia. Reach the trail head by driving north on Will Rogers State Park Road from Sunset Boulevard, 4.6 miles from Pacific Coast Highway. Will Rogers bought the ranch in 1922; it became a state park in 1944. The house and grounds are preserved as they were. Hike north along the trail near the tennis courts west of park headquarters." Bring $2 for parking. (A 5 1/2-mile loop; two to three hours.)
Water, Water Everywhere Hike--"This is not a strenuous trip . . . unless you elect to climb the waterfalls in the canyon. This may not be a good hike for new hikers because the trail is hard to find, there are poison-oak plants, and the trail goes through a culvert, and in high water this could be dangerous." The trail head is reached from Sunset Boulevard. Turn north on Palisades Drive and proceed 1 3/4 miles to the entrance of Santa Ynez State Park. Walk upstream, initially staying on a trail that follows along the east bank. Later on, the trail crosses and recrosses the stream many times and loses its identity as a trail on occasion. When in doubt
use the stream as a guide. Half a mile from the trail head, walk through a cement culvert, then past a cement apron water drainage, and continue upstream until you come to a gate. Immediately beyond the gate is a fork in the stream and the trail. Take the left fork of the trail and go 300 yards to an old cabin site, which is on the point of land at the stream junction; all that remains of it are two chimneys hidden in the chapparal. Then go right to the waterfall, which is about three quarters of a mile upstream. Be prepared for some vigorous boulder hopping. The canyon walls become steep and rugged. Several falls come first; you are challenged in climbing up some rocks. Park on Palisades Drive
and walk in the park. (Four miles round trip; 2 1/2-3 1/2 hours.)
Herbert Hoover Hike--"This hike starts at Tapia State Park, going north on an unmarked trail into Malibu Creek State Park to Century Lake. Return on the Chaparral Trail to the Mott Adobe ruins, and double back." Take Las Virgenes/Malibu Canyon Road to the trail head, near Piuma Road and across from the L.A. County Fire Department. John Mott, an attorney, built an adobe on the west bank of Malibu Creek in 1911. Herbert Hoover visited there several times. "The adobe was damaged by rain in 1969 and destroyed by fire in 1970." This hike brings you past the television graves of "Roots' " Chicken George and his wife. (Six miles round trip; 2 1/2-3 1/2 hours.)
Indian Country Hike--On La Jolla Canyon Road in Point Mugu State Park is the La Jolla Valley Loop Trail. "Indians lived in the La Jolla Valley early in man's occupation of the Santa Monica Mountains, probably as long ago as 7,000 years. This is a beautiful hike that shows off the western part of the Santa Monica Mountains." (A six-mile loop; 2 3/4-four hours.)
Hike With a View--"This is a trip in Topanga State Park that is on a fire road all the way. Although steep in a few places, it is a good introductory hike. The trail head is at Fire Road 30 on Mulholland Drive, four miles east of Topanga Canyon Boulevard on a dirt road. (This road may be impassable during the winter.) Park near the entrance to Fire Road 30, but do not block the road. Walk about two miles to Hub Junction, an intersection of four roads. By taking the road on the right, you will go uphill for views of Santa Monica Bay. Follow the loop back to Hub Junction." (Seven miles; 2 3/4-four hours.)
Valley to the Sea Hike--This moderately strenuous, one-way hike begins at the south end of Reseda Boulevard (entrance to Caballero Canyon) in Tarzana and returns by bus. You get a 360-degree view that covers the coast, the San Fernando Valley and the mountains of the Los Angeles basin. The Sierra Club leads this hike on the last Sunday of every month beginning at 8 a.m. Bring a minimum of 85 cents for bus fare, lunch, water, and appropriate clothing. Call the Sierra Club at (213) 387-4287 for further details. (It's 10-14 miles; all day.)
McAuley suggests that hikers new to the Santa Monica Mountains hike with a group or a knowledgeable companion. He suggests that hikers obtain (at the very least) maps or detailed directions covering the route that they plan to hike. The main office of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area can be reached at (818) 888-3440; the Santa Monica Mountains district office of the California Department of Parks and Recreation can be reached at (818) 706-1310. The Angeles Chapter Sierra Club activity schedule lists Sierra Club hikes; it sells for $3.50 to non-members at many Southland backpacking stores; it is free to Sierra Club members.