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A shaded hike in La Cañada Flintridge that’s perfect on a hot, sunny L.A. day

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE FEBRUARY 28, 2018: The start or in this case the end of the Descanso Trail is a
This is a hike that will get your heart pumping.
(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

This short, steep loop in La Cañada Flintridge is more of a hike than a walk. But the hard work earns magnificent views. Largely shaded during the afternoon, this is a good hot-day route. But the slippery surfaces require sturdy legs and good shoes, and make this a dry-weather walk only.

Find more great L.A. Walks — maps included >»

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE FEBRUARY 28, 2018: The start of the Descanso Trail has a warning about a steep
The start of the Descanso Trail has a warning about the steep climb.
(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times )
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1. Begin walking at the marked trailhead near 1450 Descanso Drive, near the entrance to Descanso Gardens. Follow the arrows for Descanso Trail into a narrow dale shaded by oak trees, keeping a black mesh fence on your left. Note the sign that says “Steep Trail Ahead Dismount Advised,” and soon begin a series of sharp switchbacks.

2. As the trail flattens out, enjoy the big views of the San Gabriel Mountains behind you. On a clear day you can see the tops of Mt. Wilson and Mt. Lowe.

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE FEBRUARY 28, 2018: Left to right. Rebecca Benson and her dog Harley get their p
Rebecca Benson and her dog, Harley, smile for the camera.
(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times )

3. Where the black mesh fence ends, bear left and stay on the wide dirt path. Below to your right is the SR-2 Freeway, and in the distance is the Beaudry Motorway, another great place to take a hike. To your left are the grounds and water features of Descanso Gardens.

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Hear something in the distance? That’s a firing range, in a nearby canyon, used by the Glendale Police Department.

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE FEBRUARY 28, 2018: A view of Downtown LA and the 2 Freeway , as seen from the D
Sweeping views of DTLA.
(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times )

4. At about the 1.4-mile mark, a descent finally begins, and the buildings of downtown Los Angeles will come into view.

Just ahead, take a sharp left-hand turn onto Edison Road, noting the trail marker for “Forest Hill Exit.”

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE FEBRUARY 28, 2018: Power lines are seen on the Descanso Trail on February 28, 2
A short-steep stretch of the Descanso Trail.
(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times )

5. Walk between a rusty water tank and a set of high-tension electric lines. Just after these, bear slightly right and head downhill on the wide dirt road.

If you want a slightly longer walk, keep going straight ahead and after a quarter-mile leave the dirt road for a narrow path off to the right, following signs for the “Conservancy Trail.” This winds up in the same place.

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE FEBRUARY 28, 2018: A hiker makes her way up the Descanso Trail on February 28,
A hiker makes her way up Descanso Trail.
(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times )
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6. Pass a yellow gate to find yourself on pavement again. This is Forest Hill Road.

Follow it downhill under oak shade through a quiet residential neighborhood.

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE FEBRUARY 28, 2018: A runner enjoys the Descanso Trail on February 28, 2018. Thi
A runner enjoys the Descanso Trail.
(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times )

7. At the T intersection, turn left onto Padres Trail, then right onto Encinas Drive. When you meet Descanso, turn left, and return to your starting point.

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE FEBRUARY 28, 2018: Walkers head down the Descanso Trail on February 28, 2018.
Walkers head down the Descanso Trail.
(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times )

The stats

Distance: 3 miles

Difficulty: 4 on a scale of 1 to 5

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Duration: 1 ½ hours

Details: Free street parking. Okay for mountain bikes and pets on leashes. Accessible by Glendale bus lines 3, 32, 33, 34.

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.

Twitter: @misterfleming

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