3 hassle-free L.A. hikes with free and easy parking

A dirt path leads to hills and the sea. An illustrated yellow sun and two animated waves are set behind the hills.
Malibu’s Corral Canyon Park provides an easy escape from the city.
(Los Angeles Times illustration; photo by Laura Randall)

Editor’s note: The Wild is all about featuring a variety of exciting voices from SoCal’s outdoors scene. Starting this week, that voice belongs to Laura Randall, a veteran journalist who has written extensively about hiking and the outdoors. She is the author of “60 Hikes/60 Miles: Los Angeles,” now in its third edition, and “Pacific Crest Trail: Southern California.” She has lived all over Los Angeles County and has never failed to find good hiking trails nearby.

Every once in a while I get the itch to flee Los Angeles. To get as far away as possible from the gridlock of the 405, the digital billboards, the soul-crushing drives around LAX. I’ve found the easiest way to do that is a local day hike.

But even hiking here can be frustrating, complicated and, yes, expensive. Some parking lots near trailheads charge as much as $12 a day. A few years ago, Rancho Palos Verdes introduced an online parking reservation system with a head-spinning number of restrictions and time limits near the popular Portuguese Bend Reserve. And the L.A. City Council recently announced stricter parking regulations for nonresidents in the dense area surrounding Runyon Canyon.

That’s why my criteria for these mini-getaways are strict: They must be easy to navigate without a lot of confusing spur trails, be outside of areas where weather-related closures are common and — most crucially — offer abundant, free parking. The sooner I can drive to a trailhead and get out of the car, the sooner I can have a welcome respite from the chaos of city life.

In my 25 years of living and hiking in L.A., I’ve collected a handful of go-to trails that fit this bill. Let me be clear: There are plenty of hikes I love that are worth the aggravation and extra effort. But whenever I need to get away and don’t have time to plan ahead, I pick one from this list.


As the weather improves and hillsides turn lush and green, here are three trails to consider for a spur-of-the-moment escape. Like a late summer visit to the Hollywood Bowl or a barefoot walk on the beach in January with Mt. Baldy in the distance, they are only-in-L.A. experiences that never fail to make me feel lucky to live here.

Wildflowers bloom on a hillside overlooking a populated valley with mountains in the distance.
A view of the San Gabriel Mountains from Beaudry Loop.
(Laura Randall)

Beaudry Motorway Loop
There are so many things I love about this six-mile loop in northwestern Glendale: easy street parking, a moderately challenging climb to Tongva Peak and views that showcase the best (and sometimes worst) of Los Angeles. On a clear day, you will see the movie studios of Burbank, the downtown L.A. skyline, the less-glamorous northern side of Griffith Park, the Pacific Ocean and even one of the tallest peaks in Orange County.

A human stops to take a picture of the green valley below them. Mountains can be seen in the distance.
Admiring the views from Beaudry Loop in the Verdugo Mountains.
(Laura Randall)

You will also see (and hear) the cars on at least three major freeways, the transmitters of iconic L.A. radio station KROQ-FM, the foothill communities of Montrose, La Crescenta and Tujunga and the trails of other mountain ranges that appear (deceivingly) close enough to touch. Reaching the peak always takes a little longer than anticipated. But that’s just what you want from a good hike: the feeling that you have really earned those views upon arriving at the top.

A bench with pink polka dots looks out to rocky hills and mountains.
A bench with a view just off Rocky Peak Trail.
(Laura Randall)

Rocky Peak Trail
Don’t be put off by the trailhead’s proximity to the 118 Freeway as you start this five-mile out-and-back hike at Simi Valley’s eastern edge. The traffic noise disappears quickly and you are rewarded with spectacular mountain views and otherworldly rock formations. You’ll see other hikers (and some mountain bikers) on this trail, but thanks to its wide, dusty fire road, it rarely feels crowded. There are plenty of boulders right off the trail, perfect for a lunch pit stop or a view lookout. The trailhead has a small parking lot, with overflow parking a short walk away across the freeway bridge.

A trail leads to a bright green valley
Corral Canyon Park is bursting with wildflowers and green hillsides right now.
(Laura Randall)

Sara Wan Trailhead at Corral Canyon
This shadeless Malibu coast trail is best enjoyed in the morning before beach crowds show up. There’s a small fee-based parking lot but also ample free parking along Pacific Coast Highway. Most people opt to follow the 2.5-mile loop counter-clockwise, but either way it’s a lovely introduction to Malibu’s canyons and coastal bluffs. Right now, Corral Creek is flowing, the area is exploding with wildflowers and the intoxicating aroma of sage, fennel and salt is in the air. If you time your visit right, you can end your hike just as Malibu Seafood is opening for the day and cap off your excursion by enjoying a lobster roll while staring out at the Pacific.

A  sunny valley seen from the top of a mountain, left, and a bike repair station next to a Hummingbird Trail pole.
The views from Beaudry Loop extend to the Pacific Ocean on clear days, left, and Rocky Peak Trail draws hikers and mountain bikers but rarely seems crowded.
(Laura Randall)
A wiggly line break

3 things to do

Docents lead guided tours at Bixby Marshland in Carson.
(L.A. County Sanitation Districts)

1. Tour a marsh teeming with wildlife in Carson
Once part of a much larger wetlands environment known as Bixby Slough, Bixby Marshland was restored by the Los Angeles County Sanitation Departments and opened to the public in 2009. Now, it’s an unlikely haven of green space tucked in the shadows of the 110 Freeway and home to herons, hawks, ducks, tree frogs, willow and sycamore trees and more. It’s open Saturday for guided and self-guided tours from 8 a.m. to noon. There will also be programs that focus on teaching, healing and entertaining led by Indigenous people, local performance artists and naturalists. No reservations are necessary, and the paved paths are wheelchair-accessible. For more information, visit

2. Practice yoga on the sand in Hermosa Beach
The warrior pose is even more rejuvenating when you’re staring at the ocean with crashing waves as your soundtrack. Hermosa Beach kicks off a month of free mindful yoga classes on Monday as part of the Beach Cities Free Fitness series. Classes are led by certified instructors the first three Mondays in May from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. You’ll meet in front of Scotty’s restaurant, 1100 the Strand, near the Hermosa Beach Pier. Walk-ups are welcome, but you can register in advance at

3. Go stargazing on Mt. Wilson
The venerable Mt. Wilson Observatory kicks off its warm weather season Saturday with an evening lecture on Edwin Hubble and the dawn of modern cosmology presented by retired Jet Propulsion Laboratory astrophysicist Tim Thompson. Guests can then observe the skies through the observatory’s 60- and 100-inch telescopes, as well as additional ones provided by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society. Tickets are $50 and food trucks will be on hand. Or bring your own picnic to enjoy under the stars. The event runs from 5:30 to 11:30 p.m., and you can find tickets at

A wiggly line break

The must-read

President Biden, First Lady Jill Biden and chief groundskeeper Dale Haney plant a tree at the White House.
President Biden, First Lady Jill Biden and chief groundskeeper Dale Haney plant a tree on the South Lawn of the White House in 2022.
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

The first house I lived in here in Los Angeles sat on a canyon that had a couple of oak trees with canopies so wide that an entire class of kindergarteners could fit under them. My husband and I were advised by our neighbors to treat them with respect and care: never overwater them and prune lightly, if at all, and only during certain times of the year.


I thought of those majestic trees when I read Laurie Wayburn’s Arbor Day opinion piece in The Times about the important role that older, more natural forests play in the climate crisis and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Planting new trees, while well-intentioned, Wayburn notes, doesn’t have nearly the impact on carbon sink as properly caring for the forests we already have. There are so many trails in Los Angeles with old-growth native trees that provide shade, tranquility and joy for hikers who approach them on scorching-hot days. Next time you see one, take a moment to appreciate not only its beauty but also its role as a climate-change-fighting powerhouse.

Happy adventuring,

Signature for Laura Randall


A few more tips to make any hike as hassle-free as possible: Get your backpack ready the night before. Fill your water receptacle and put it in the fridge and make sure you have sunscreen, snacks and a first-aid kit ready to go. The earlier you can leave, the better your chances of avoiding traffic and parking headaches and achieving that goal of getting away from it all.

I’m excited to share my own experiences covering travel and the outdoors in Southern California. At the same time, I love that there’s always something new and exciting to discover here, whether it’s an under-the-radar trail or a group hosting an outdoorsy event. If you hear of something that might interest readers of The Wild, drop us a line.

For more insider tips on Southern California’s beaches, trails and parks, check out past editions of The Wild. And to view this newsletter in your browser, click here.