The joy of hiking the same L.A. trails again and again
When I first started exploring the trails around Southern California, I did what a lot of new hikers do: I made a list of trails and tried to check them all off.
There’s something innately satisfying about seeing my progress right there in front of me. I’m able to look at the list and say, “Oh, I’ve hiked a third of the peaks in Southern California above 5,000 feet” or “I’ve stood on top of the 10 highest points in the San Gabriel Mountains.”
In my book, as long as you’re outside (and following park rules), you’re doing it right. And for those looking for an entry point into the outdoors, lists can be a good place to start.
But if you’ve been doing this for a while, I’m going to encourage you to try something radical on your next outing: Hike a trail you’ve hiked before.
Get The Wild newsletter.
The essential weekly guide to enjoying the outdoors in Southern California. Insider tips on the best of our beaches, trails, parks, deserts, forests and mountains.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.
Repeat hiking can lead to a greater sense of place attachment, the connection a person can develop with a specific place through greater understanding and emotional experiences. This can be good for your mental health — some research suggests that the stress reduction you experience when outdoors is greater when you’re somewhere you have an attachment to. Place attachment is good for the destinations themselves too. People with place attachment are more likely to protect and care for the spots that inspire them. So the next time you’re getting ready for a hike, why not forgo the new for the known, and see what the trail reveals to you this time around?
This may not sound so exciting, especially if there are so many more hikes on your list that you’ve been meaning to explore. But hear me out. Hiking an old favorite, especially this time of year, is a great way to start paying attention to the small, almost imperceptible changes that can occur in the same place over time.
When I first started hiking in Griffith Park, it kind of felt like a consolation prize. These hikes weren’t as epic or tough as those in the San Gabriels or San Bernardinos, but at least I didn’t have to sit in my car for two hours to get to them, you know? Then I started to notice that even if I was hiking the same exact trail multiple times in a row, the experience was always different. I’d notice the bright red toyon berries showing off in early December, the almost neon green of the California sagebrush atop Mount Hollywood in the spring and the showy monkey flowers clinging impossibly to cliffsides in the summer. Trails that were bone dry in fall could summon ephemeral waterfalls in the winter. If I’d just hiked these trails once, it would be like seeing a single snapshot — now, I could get the full album.
Things to do
1. Learn the secrets of Solstice Canyon. It’s one of the most approachable and interesting hikes in the Santa Monica Mountains, and this weekend you can learn more about its fascinating history. On Sunday at 9 a.m., Ranger Will leads an easy 2-mile history hike. You’ll learn about the Indigenous people who first called this canyon home, the rancho period, the Keller and Roberts families and Angeleno architect Paul Revere Williams. Get there early if you can. Free. Reserve your spot.
Check out “The Times” podcast for essential news and more.
These days, waking up to current events can be, well, daunting. If you’re seeking a more balanced news diet, “The Times” podcast is for you. Gustavo Arellano, along with a diverse set of reporters from the award-winning L.A. Times newsroom, delivers the most interesting stories from the Los Angeles Times every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
2. Celebrate a special month in Joshua Tree. November is National Native American Heritage Month, a good time to learn about and from the Indigenous ancestral caretakers of the land we reside on. (Need a primer? Check out this interactive map of territories, languages and broken treaties. The Native American Land Conservancy and the Mojave Desert Land Trust are hosting a celebration on Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m. at the MDLT headquarters in Joshua Tree, featuring songs, presentations and several local and Indigenous vendors. The event is free, but reservations are required (some spots will be available for last minute walk-ups).
3. Honor the Tongva people with a nature walk (and make necklaces). In another celebration of Native American Heritage Month, the hiking group We Explore Earth joins Josh Andujo of the Gabrieleno Tongva Mission Band of Indians for a land acknowledgement, nature walk and necklace-making workshop using beads and acorns in honor of the Tongva people, who were the traditional caretakers of much of what we now know as Los Angeles County before Europeans arrived. Meet at the Whittier Narrows Nature Center in South El Monte on Sunday at 8 a.m. The event is free, but reservations are required.
4. Take part in a really great walk. Join your fellow walkers at the 17th annual Great Los Angeles Walk, on a route from Exposition Park all the way to Venice Beach, with stops at historical landmarks and other worthy L.A. spots along the way. The walk kicks off at 9 a.m. Saturday at Exposition Park’s Rose Garden. It’s free, and you can join in at any point (check the official Twitter feed to see where the walkers are on the path.)
The must read
It’s probably no surprise to read that the last few years have been — let’s say a trying time for many of us in terms of mental health. For me, walks on local trails and time in parks were a real lifesaver. Times writer Julia Carmel profiles a number of therapists in California who have taken their practices off the couch and into the outdoors. You can try surfing therapy or dancing therapy oven hiking therapy with the Mind Body Therapy Center’s Daniel Gaines.
The red flag
Hikers in the San Gabriel Mountains know the trek to the Bridge to Nowhere well — it’s one of the most popular and epic day hikes in Southern California, and it’s a route I try to do at least once every summer. But this area has not been without its controversies. Beyond the area’s epic natural beauty, there are a number of manmade historical features, including abandoned roads, tunnels, mines and an iconic 120-foot-tall concrete arch bridge. Although the bridge is surrounded by the Sheep Mountain Wilderness, it sits on a private land inholding, and Bungee America has been operating a jump there since 1989. Not everyone is happy about that. Times writer Louis Sahagún details the ongoing efforts to shut the jumpers down. A court decision is scheduled for today.
Too often, reporting on climate change can lean toward pessimism, so it’s refreshing to come across a story about people doing something right — and seeing success. In the New York Times, Karan Deep Singh and Bhadra Sharma wrote about Nepal, which began a nationwide community-managed reforestation program in the 1980s and has dramatically improved forest health: In 1992, the country had about 26.2% tree cover, which increased to 44.9% by 2016. Now they are seeing the return of many endangered plant and animal species and looking to manage the program as it matures and runs into new, complex problems.
Five questions with …
Michael Schneider, founder, the Great Los Angeles Walk
What inspired you to start these very long walks? The Great Los Angeles Walk started as a fun way to mark my 10th anniversary in Los Angeles, in 2006. Inspired by Kevin Roderick’s book about Wilshire Boulevard, “Grand Concourse,” I decided to walk the entire length of the street, from downtown to the ocean (almost 16 miles). On my blog, I invited readers to join me, and about 40 of us explored Wilshire that day. We had a great time, and people started asking me what street I planned to walk the next year. I decided to hit Pico Boulevard as a sequel the following year, and an annual tradition (always the Saturday before Thanksgiving!) was born.
How is L.A. experienced differently on foot than from inside a car? You’d be amazed at the architecture, the businesses, the small touches (from statues to pocket parks to tiny hole-in-the-wall eateries) you miss when you’re speeding through Los Angeles. Every year I encounter something unique by taking the time to really take in my surroundings.
What are some of the sites you’re excited to see along this year’s walk? We last walked through West Adams in 2009, and it remains my favorite route of everything we’ve done. Seeing classic architecture like the South Seas Home, the “Six Feet Under” house, Golden State Mutual Insurance building, and more — getting a real taste of history is really a huge draw for this route. We’re also visiting unique attractions like the Velaslavasay Panorama, enjoying lunch at Bee Taqueria and more.
How has the walk grown and changed since you started? What started as a handful of attendees has turned into hundreds each year, and more continue to attend. But also, with the addition of the Metro Expo Line, transportation has become easier to get to and from the beginning and end. And of course, social media makes it easier for people to stay in touch all day and post their adventures.
Any tips for first-time walkers? Bring sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses and water. But even more importantly: SLOW DOWN. It’s not a race. No one wins a prize for being first. In fact, if you’re first, you’ve already lost. Because it means you didn’t heed the goal of the walk: to take time, explore and learn all about your city. Step into the lobby of a building. Walk into a small business that looks interesting. Grab some food or drink from local vendors. Take tons of photos. Pace yourself. And join us at Fat Sal’s Venice at the end of the walk for a celebratory gathering.
If you haven’t had the chance to experience the joy and magic of visiting Channel Islands National Park, your options have just increased a bit — the Park Service has finally completed the long-awaited project to replace a wharf on Anacapa Island, meaning the uniquely-shaped islets areonce again open to day-use visitors and overnight campers. A final phase of construction is set for early 2023, but the wharf will remain open during the process. Island Packers Cruises is the authorized ferry boat provider to the islands, and you can book weekend trips now.
It's a date
Get our L.A. Goes Out newsletter, with the week's best events, to help you explore and experience our city.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.