How to make friends in L.A.? Walk

A group of women in athletic gear walking on a dirt path.
L.A. Girls Who Walk, a group inspired by City Girls Who Walk in New York City, hosts walks in L.A. for women to get some steps in and make friends.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

On a Saturday morning, Beverly Fagoaga nervously arrived at the Lake Hollywood Reservoir trail where a local collective known as L.A. Girls Who Walk was hosting a three-mile stroll.

Garbed in running tights and sneakers, the 24-year-old sales representative wasn’t just there to get her steps in for the day on the scenic pathway, which overlooks an idyllic lake and offers a view of the Hollywood sign. Her main objective was simple: She was there to make friends.

“I came here just to meet people,” Fagoaga said during the walking event. She added that making friends as an adult can already be a challenge and that the pandemic has only made interactions with strangers more complicated.

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Fagoaga, who works from home, was diagnosed with depression in 2020. Since then, she’s been going on walks regularly with her dog to help her cope. But on this particular Saturday, she decided to get “out of her comfort zone” and attend an L.A. Girls Who Walk event after learning about the group on Instagram.


“In high school, you’re forced to be with people for like eight hours a day, but as you get older, you’re not forced to,” she said. “So you kind of have to push yourself to do it, so that’s what I’m doing today.”

Monica Figueroa, middle, greeting two people facing her on either side of the frame. All are dressed in workout clothes.
Monica Figueroa, middle, greets a group of walkers at Runyon Canyon Park. Figueroa founded San Diego Girls Who Walk in her hometown, and then later expanded to create L.A. Girls Who Walk when she moved to L.A.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

It’s a feeling that Monica Figueroa, founder of L.A. Girls Who Walk, can relate to. As someone who’s struggled with anxiety throughout her life, she decided to launch the group in June to help others, including herself, meet new people and hopefully make long-lasting friendships through the low-stakes activity of walking. She started a chapter of the walking group — San Diego Girls Who Walk — in her hometown in May.

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Although the word “girls” is in the name, Figueroa said that nonbinary people and gay men are welcome to the monthly meet-ups, which are free.

Walking is “a very low-budget, accessible and healthy activity to do when you’re being social, and there really aren’t that many of those things to do [in L.A.],” said 28-year-old Figueroa, who moved to L.A. in May for work. She is working to make the walk events more accessible for those who need disabled access, she added.

“Everything either costs money, [or] causes you to be up late at night, which is not good for your health. It just seems like everything comes with a price, and [walking] really is one of the few things that doesn’t.”

Two women in athletic clothing stand talking with others off-camera in front of a sign for Runyon Canyon Park.
Camila Zas and Leila Areff arrive near an entrance to Runyon Canyon Park for a trek with L.A. Girls Who Walk.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Walking is what helped Figueroa make buddies after she was sent to work in New York City for several months last year. The pharmaceutical sales representative didn’t want to explore the city alone, but she was becoming fed up with how difficult it was to make genuine connections with people. She’d tried using Bumble BFF, a mobile app for people seeking friendships, though she found it to be superficial due to the app’s visual nature.

“You don’t really get to know people just by looking and swiping very quickly,” she said. “It’s not the best way to make friends. You [may] think you like it because you can pick and choose, but people pick and choose too much.”

After getting flaked on multiple times, Figueroa eventually found luck when she bluntly asked a woman she’d connected with on Bumble BFF if she wanted to attend an event hosted by City Girls Who Walk, a collective that invites women to walk for the purpose of making pals. Figueroa and the woman attended the event multiple times together and bonded with two other women whom they added to their friend group. But when Figueroa received a job promotion that sent her to live in L.A. long-term, she was back at square one having to make new friends in a new city.

Shadows of multiple people walking on concrete.
A group of walkers participating in L.A. Girls Who Walk cast shadows upon the ground on a bright morning in Runyon Canyon Park.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Inspired by City Girls Who Walk and seeing how walking groups were popping up around the country, Figueroa decided to conceive her own clubs with San Diego and L.A. Girls Who Walk, which each hold at least one walk per month. She’s since held nearly 20 walks in San Diego and roughly 10 in L.A.


Many of the people who’ve attended L.A. Girls Who Walk events have discovered the collective on social media. A video of dozens of women socializing while strolling on a picturesque trail has garnered nearly 200,000 views on TikTok.

Lacey Stansell, who moved to L.A. from Washington, D.C., in July, went to an L.A. walk because she thought it would be a safe way to meet people without having to risk her health.

“It’s really hard for me to make friends in the traditional way [at] like indoor events because when people wear masks, I can’t understand them since I rely on lip reading. And if they aren’t masked, I am worried about catching COVID,” said Stansell, who has kidney disease and is Hard of Hearing. “So this is like the perfect medium. I can see people, I can talk [and] it’s relaxed.” By the end of the walk, she was exchanging phone numbers with another attendee who was also a recent L.A. transplant.

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There’s an array of meet-up groups for specific interests and hobbies in L.A., but what attracted Miranda Mangahas to the walking club is the fact that it doesn’t take much effort.

“It’s easy. I don’t need to be super skilled to do it. I just have to show up,” said Mangahas, 24, who moved to L.A. during the height of the pandemic for work. She became a volunteer for L.A. Girls Who Walk after going to one of its events.

A group of women in athletic wear walking on a dirt path in the sun.
Monica Figueroa, middle, walks with participants of L.A. Girls Who Walk in Runyon Canyon Park on a sunny Saturday.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Walking is also different from other activities because it “gives you space to communicate,” Mangahas said. “Because, really, what else are you doing on a walk? If you’re biking or if you’re doing some type of sport, you might be able to talk on the sidelines or you’re focused on actually doing the activity.”

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As the demand for Figueroa to host more walks throughout L.A. has grown, she started a Discord group chat — which now has nearly 2,000 members — so people could host walks in their own neighborhoods. After meeting several women who lived in her community via the chat, Sophie Senarath started a subgroup in Pasadena.

“I didn’t really know many other women my age in the area, so it was a great way to just be like, ‘Oh wow, I knew there were other people my age who had similar interests to me who live around me.’ It was just a matter of getting connected with them,” said Senarath, 28, who moved to Pasadena more than a year ago.

To make friends, you have to be a friend, “so that’s why I really wanted to start doing the events and doing them every week,” she added. “Even if only one person showed up or 10, it doesn’t really matter. The point is meeting people and getting out of the house and doing something that’s healthy for you and also just a positive way to have social interaction.”

L.A. Girls Who Walk has become much more than just a walking group, Figueroa said, as many of the attendees host other social gatherings such as dinner and paint parties on a regular basis. “It’s been really great to see and hear that people have had actual long-sustaining friendships,” she said.

“My hope essentially is for girls who are in that position [and] are looking for friendship to really see our club and our group chat as the first step in doing that successfully,” Figueroa said before quickly adding, “or maybe even the second step when Bumble BFF hasn’t worked out.”

A group of women standing in a circle at the mouth of a trailhead in a park.
L.A. Girls Who Walk gather at the end of their walk and talk for a few minutes in Runyon Canyon Park. The walking group has grown so popular that people have started spinoffs in their own neighborhoods using a Discord chat community.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)