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57 cool walks in L.A. that get you 10,000 steps

The former Fox Studio City Theatre, now a bookstore.
The former Fox Studio City Theatre, now a bookstore, is found along one of the routes in “10,000 Steps a Day in L.A.”
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The COVID-19 pandemic has made urban walkers of us all. With gyms, yoga studios and many pools closed temporarily, people have found solace in walking around L.A. It’s an easy way to log a couple thousand steps and unwind from the work-at-home grind.

Paul Haddad hopes we all keep it up — and invites us to go farther.

The native Angeleno and documentary producer-director created 57 mostly flat walking routes that dive deep into the city, one neighborhood at a time, in the second edition of “10,000 Steps a Day in L.A.” The guidebook couldn’t be better timed. Routes offer close-to-home places to explore, mixing up gritty streets with leafy open spaces — ideal for something new to do during the pandemic pause.

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Each walk includes a map, directions, bits of history and cool things to see along the way. Even if you think you know the city, Haddad surprises you with twists that sharpen the eye-level focus that walking provides.

That’s what happened when he recently took me on a ramble in the western part of Elysian Park (Walk 7) to landmarks new to me. The first stop was the Elysian Park Arboretum, a tree-proud space planted in the late 19th century with 140 species, now a scraggly hillside.

A dusty half-hour later, with city views to the east, we arrived at the Victory Memorial Grove, a century-old World War I stone monument and plaque. And the grove of trees meant to stand forever? It’s “mostly reduced to a small army of steadfast eucalyptus,” Haddad writes in the book.

We finished at the Barlow Respiratory Hospital, winding through a warren of old buildings and passing a stone sundial dated 1902. Haddad later reminded me that the site, still a respiratory hospital, treated influenza patients in the last pandemic.

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“It’s important to have a treasure hunt aspect to the walks,” he said as we parted. He’s right. Books such as his, as well as Charles Fleming’s “Secret Stairs,” are written by people passionate about seeing the city on foot and sharing their remarkable finds. The real treasure is making us all more well-rounded Angelenos, pandemic or not.

Sample walks

“10,000 Steps” divides the city into six areas: Central L.A. and the Eastside; Hollywood and Mid-City; West San Gabriel Valley; San Fernando Valley; the Westside; and the South Bay. If you’re a serious daily stepper, these will cover your first 10,000. Routes are good for beginners and families with kids as well as anyone tired of walking in the same ol’ neighborhood. (Remember, social distancing and wearing masks applies outdoors.)

Haddad describes some of his favorite routes below; details are in the book. You can buy the book ($16.95 to $19.95 on Amazon) at paulhaddadbooks.com or at your favorite bricks-and-mortar bookstore, such as Vroman’s bookstores in Pasadena.

Studio City: Walk 35

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The Rattlesnake Wall along the Los Angeles River Greenway.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

“This is a perfect sampler for the San Fernando Valley. It’s representative of many of the walks: Take a place many people are familiar with, then peel back the layers to reveal obscure features that can only be discovered on foot. Plus, it has that formula of combining nature (in this case, the L.A. River) with residential and business districts, to really capture the flavor of a place.”

The walk starts at Coldwater Canyon Avenue and Moorpark Street and takes you to L.A. River Greenway, where you’ll see the Great Toad Gate and a Rattlesnake Wall, the vintage Fox Studio City Theatre and a history of L.A. mural by Millard Sheets.

Boyle Heights/Lincoln Heights: Walk 4

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Israel Moreno, center, and Jose Cervantes, right, along with other mariachi musicians.
A walking route in Boyle Heights begins at Mariachi Plaza.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

“Statues have been in the news a lot. Lincoln Park has more outdoor statues than any other region, and they reflect its Mexican heritage.” The walk starts at Mariachi Plaza at Boyle Avenue and 1st Street and winds past storefronts and rail yards to El Parque de Mexico and Eastlake Park, the site of the city’s first zoo.

Hancock Park: Walk 22

This walk is called the Platinum Square for its “generous lawns, concealed creeks and a little bit of magic.” It starts at Larchmont Village and takes you past the Getty House, the Wilshire Ebell Theatre, and homes where Nat King Cole and Howard Hughes once lived. “It’s nice and flat, quiet, good sidewalks, and there’s something relaxing about strolling by its architecturally diverse manors with broad, well-manicured lawns.”

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La Cañada-Flintridge: Walk 26

“Much of it is alongside a stream, and the shade from the trees makes for a good summer stroll.” The walk starts on Chevy Chase Drive and takes you into Hahamongna Watershed Park, under the 210 Freeway and on to Memorial Park.

Marina del Rey: Walk 45

Marina del Rey can be confusing for walkers.
Marina del Rey can be confusing for walkers.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
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“This route provides a road map on how to tackle Marina del Rey, which is confusing to navigate for most people. I also like the soothing aspect of walking by the boat slips, looking out onto the water.” The route is straightforward, passing by Mother’s Beach, Burton Chace Park and “The Helmsman” sculpture, which once stood at Helms Bakery and Fisherman’s Village.

El Segundo: Walk 53

A view of the El Segundo water tower and surrounding neighborhood.
The book offers a route that touches on popular landmarks in El Segundo.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

“It is a great sampler, a cross-section of everything ... residential areas, the quaint business district, parks, beach and nature, and some good history.” The walk starts in Library Park and continues past El Segundo High School, the LAX plane-spotter park, Old Town Music Hall and a refinery or two.


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