4 great L.A. hikes that offer treats near the trails

A view from Mt. Wilson Trail looking out to clouds and trees
Above the clouds on the Mt. Wilson Trail.
(Los Angeles Times illustration; photo by Laura Randall)
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When I was section hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, I met a thru-hiker (trail name: Toots Magoots) who shared a fun way she rewarded herself during a long, grueling stretch of the 2,650-mile route. She smuggled cupcakes and a Coke into her backpack and surprised her hiking partner with them on her birthday. It was a “major treat,” she recalled, after a steady diet of granola bars, nuts and oatmeal.

It made me realize that sometimes we need more than just beautiful scenery to keep us going on the trails. Even shorter day hikes are more satisfying when they’re combined with a good meal or a new experience.

Whenever I’m hiking in a new neighborhood or one I rarely get a chance to visit, I try to treat myself to something at the end that makes the trip more memorable or expands a single event into a fun outing. Here are a few hikes that offer rewards beyond the amazing views and cardio workouts we have come to expect on most Southern California trails.

The Mt. Wilson trailhead in Sierra Madre, left; Lunch (a wrap, cookie and soda) with a view on Mt. Wilson, right.
The Mt. Wilson trailhead in Sierra Madre, left; Lunch with a view on Mt. Wilson, right.
(Laura Randall)

Mt. Wilson Trail, Sierra Madre
The iconic Mt. Wilson Observatory has always welcomed hikers who make it to the top from various trailheads in the San Gabriel foothills. But this summer, there are also fresh sandwiches and delectable pastries to motivate you to push through that last 1,000 feet of elevation gain. Pasadena’s Little Flower bakery has taken over concessions at the Cosmic Cafe on weekends. That means along with hot dogs and sandwiches, you’ll find the bakery’s signature cookies, brownies and raspberry bars on the menu. It doesn’t get much better than enjoying a sea salt caramel-chocolate cookie and ice-cold drink while looking down the mountain at the trail you just conquered.

The trail start to Hsi Lai Temple, left; The ornate entrance gate of Hsi Lai Temple, right.
The trail to Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights begins as a single track and links to the Skyline Trail, left; The ornate entrance gate of Hsi Lai Temple, right.
(Laura Randall)

Skyline Trail, Hacienda Heights
The largest Buddhist monastery on the West Coast sits along the Skyline Trail in Hacienda Heights. Its orange pagodas can be seen in the distance from many trails in the area, but only one path leads right to it. It’s a moderate three-mile trek that begins as a single track off Holmes Circle and links up with fire roads that wind their way to Hacienda Boulevard and Hsi Lai Temple. The massive, ornate entrance gate and large parking lot can be jarring as you emerge from the low-key trail. But inside, it’s a peaceful sanctuary where you can meditate for a moment or enjoy a vegetarian buffet lunch ($10 a person; open daily). Be mindful of the dress code: no tank tops, shorts or flip-flops.

Forrestal Reserve in Rancho Palos Verdes, left; Chori-Man in San Pedro is a great place for post-hike burritos, right.
(Laura Randall)

Forrestal Reserve, Rancho Palos Verdes
Forrestal Reserve is a 155-acre reserve known for its abundance of coastal sage and high cliffs layered with basalt, sedimentary folds and fish fossils. You can piece together a moderate morning hike by heading north on the Quarry Trail and connecting to the Flying Mane Trail and a series of shorter trails that eventually loop back to Forrestal Drive. Then head a few miles east to the Chori-Man in San Pedro for a burrito that will blow your mind and gustatory sense. Everything is good here, but I dream most about the signature breakfast burrito with housemade maple habanero chorizo. (But beware: It’s closed Monday and Tuesday.)

The Cobb Estate gated entrance, left; A pizza from Side Pie, right.
The trail to Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point begins at the Cobb Estate at the top of Lake Avenue in Altadena, left; A pizza from Side Pie, right.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times; Side Pie.)

Cobb Estate to Inspiration Point, Altadena
This trail begins at the Cobb Estate at the top of Lake Avenue in Altadena. It’s a strenuous switchback-heavy hike, whether you take it 2.5 miles to the ruins of the turn-of-the-last-century Echo Mountain resort or continue another 2.5 miles to the picnic tables and city-to-ocean views of Inspiration Point. Either way, you deserve a reward upon completion. My editor Alyssa loves the thin-crust pizzas and chill vibe of the Grateful Dead-themed Side Pie, half a mile south of the trailhead on Lake. I usually opt for the walk-up window at Connal’s, a little farther south on Washington Avenue in Pasadena. My kids will climb any mountain for the caramel or wild cherry-butterscotch milkshakes.

A wiggly line break

3 things to do

A sign shows the start of the Pacific Crest Trail near Three Points trailhead in the Angeles National Forest.
The Pacific Crest Trail near Three Points trailhead in the Angeles National Forest.
(Laura Randall)

1. Hike a section of the Pacific Crest Trail
The Sierra Club is offering the opportunity to sample a small part of the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail on Saturday morning with a moderate 10.4-mile day hike led by the Angeles Chapter Gay and Lesbian Sierrans. The out-and-back hike begins in the Angeles National Forest at Three Points trailhead and heads east on the Pacific Crest Trail to Cloudburst Summit. The hike is free and open to all, but a signed medical form is required. For more information on this and ridesharing from La Cañada, go to

2. Learn how native plants are grown in Irvine
The native seed farm in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains began in 2009 with a straightforward goal: grow plants that support habitat restoration across the natural spaces that make up the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. Volunteers play a big role at the 14-acre farm, and from 8 to 11 a.m. Friday and 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, they can help out with weeding, harvesting and other tasks while also learning about local plants and wildlife. Advance registration is required. For more information, visit

3. Watch a movie outside in Montecito Heights
The Audubon Center at Debs Park is hosting a free community movie night Friday in its courtyard from 5:30 to 9:30. The center will be screening the animated “Book of Life” and also have film-inspired crafts and activities, such as puppet-making with the Arroyo Arts Collective and guided storytelling with Audubon Center staff members. For more information, visit

A wiggly line break

The must-read

A snow-covered Mt. Fuji is seen from an airplane window.
Snow-covered Mt. Fuji, Japan’s highest peak at 12,385 feet, is seen from an airplane window.
(Itsuo Inouye / Associated Press)

Monday marks the start of climbing season on Mt. Fuji, and climbers this year will find new restrictions in place to control crowds and prioritize safety. It’s a reminder of why there’s a lottery-based permit system for our own mighty peak, Mt. Whitney. If you didn’t score a permit this year (the quota season runs May through October), there’s always the possibility of finding a cancellation on When a group reduces its size or cancels, the spaces are put back on the website for reservations.

Happy adventuring,

Signature for Laura Randall


As I recently walked through the parking lot of Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, something unusual caught my eye: four electric vehicle charging stations. It turns out that more than 20 state parks and beaches offer free public EV charging, including Will Rogers, Chino Hills and Los Angeles State Historic Park. How great would it be if this perk were expanded to more parks and trailheads? We could plug in and charge up while enjoying some quality outdoor time, rather than killing time in a big-box store or deserted parking lot. As pressure mounts to improve the state’s EV infrastructure, California aims to have 250,000 additional chargers installed by the end of 2025. Let’s hope that some of them show up near our green spaces.

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.