Is it safe to hike Runyon Canyon? Or work out at the gym?

Get out and enjoy the fresh air and mountains, experts say. Just keep your 6-foot distance.
Get out and enjoy the fresh air and mountains, experts say. Just keep your 6-foot distance.
(Chris Erskine / Los Angeles Times)

Pack this away in the tiny satchel of life’s silver linings: L.A. hiking trails are at their best right now and provide a healthy option for staying fit, refreshed and sane in these housebound times. With the recent rains, wildflowers will be popping, trails will be soft, even the creeks will be flowing.

Medical experts give a thumbs-up to getting out there as long as COVID-19 precautions are followed.

The gym, not so much. On Sunday, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced an emergency action to close gyms and fitness centers, as well as bars, nightclubs and restaurants (except for takeout and delivery).

Amy Stone, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at Touro University Nevada, says that individuals should take part in any outdoor activity they feel healthy enough to do while practicing social distancing recommendations.

“Of course, if you’re feeling sick and have a cough, don’t go out and do any activity,” she urged in an email. Otherwise, hiking, surfing, cycling, trail running and jogging are all good, provided the distance precautions are taken.


Dr. Russell Buhr, pulmonary and critical care physician at UCLA Health, said that when it comes to hiking and biking outdoors, “the more space you put between yourself and others, the safer you are.”

“This is a great time for people to move from crowded indoor [workout] places to outdoor hiking,” Buhr said Friday by phone.

Still, outdoor exercise is an almost irresistible option for active Californians at a time when we’re all cooped up.

Precautions for hikers

--Wider fire roads are best for keeping the 6-foot social distance.

--Let friends know where you are, particularly when hiking remote venues.

--Carry a cellphone.

--Take water.

--To minimize contact with others, go early or late.

--If you haven’t been active in a while, start with a 20- or 30-minute hike with modest elevation gain and work up from there.

Three hikes to get you going

Los Leones, Pacific Palisades: Spring is in full bloom at this coastal trail with expansive views of Santa Monica Bay. Parking is plentiful. Directions: From Pacific Coast Highway, take Sunset Boulevard 0.3 mile, then left onto Los Liones Drive. Trailhead is at 510 Los Liones Drive.

Wilacre Park, Studio City: Wide fire roads with views of the cloud formations over the San Fernando Valley and the basin. Hooks into Fryman and Coldwater Canyon. Limited parking in lot but turns over quickly. From 101, take Laurel Canyon south, to 3431 Fryman Road.


Cherry Canyon, near Descanso Gardens. Lush switchbacks give way to wide fire roads and views across the basin, sometimes clear to the ocean. Trailhead just north of driveway entrance to the gardens. Look for yellow posts. Plentiful parking along the street. From 210 Freeway, take Angeles Crest exit, then downhill to Foothill Boulevard. Right on Foothill. Left on Alta Canyada. Location: 1418 Descanso Drive.

In addition, Los Angeles Times hiking guru Charles Fleming offers these tips on the trails around Los Angeles.


9:22 p.m. March 15, 2020: When this article was published, health experts were still OKing gym workouts. This story has been updated to include Mayor Eric Garcetti’s emergency action to close all gyms and fitness centers and to remove the now out-of-date information.