Granola bars and trail mix are reliable snacking standbys, but your hiking fuel could use an upgrade. Here’s something I’ve learned while exploring the local trails: A hike is a good excuse to eat a sandwich; a sandwich improves every hike; and in Los Angeles, you can almost always find one not far from the other.
I call them sandwich hikes, and these are my favorites. I’ve included trails of varying mileage and difficulty, paired with delis and restaurants half an hour or less from the trailhead.
This is not a comprehensive list of L.A.’s best sandwiches — sturdiness, tidiness, portability and proximity were major considerations along with taste. You won’t find Langer’s No. 19. Same goes for meatball subs, egg or tuna salads, cheesesteaks, croque madames, patty melts, triple-decker clubs and anything that comes with a side of marinara, beef jus or other dipping sauce.
Still, it’s sensible to ask for extra napkins, invest in some wet-naps and keep a roll of aluminum foil in your car. Your hands and the inside of your backpack will be the better for it.
Bay Cities Italian Deli, Santa Monica + Temescal Canyon and Skull Rock
This is the quintessential Westside sandwich-hike combo, the benchmark by which all others are judged. You know to order the signature Godmother, stacked with five Italian meats, and to get it with hot peppers and the works. For the hike, do the Temescal loop counterclockwise, ascending through the sometimes-shaded canyon and descending down the sunny ridge. There’s a seasonal waterfall — usually no more than a trickle — after a mile and a half. You could eat there by the bridge, but the move is to take the short extension to Skull Rock. Hoist yourself onto the face-shaped boulder and wriggle your way through the tiny opening. You’ll emerge in the skull’s eye socket, a cozy nook with a private view of the coastline. From Sunset Boulevard, this route is just over 4.5 miles.
Brisket banh mi
Gjusta, Venice + Hondo Canyon
Hondo Canyon is tranquil and secluded — just what you need after braving the hectic scene at Gjusta. You face a lot of decisions at the all-day restaurant (the sandwich section of the menu alone contains more than 20 options). Go with the brisket banh mi. The smoky meat is luscious, edged with fat and spiked with garlicky aioli and chiles on a housemade baguette. Skip the search for a table on the patio and head to Topanga for a hike that often gets overshadowed by its flashier neighbors. You’ll traverse a lovely stretch of the Backbone Trail with steady incline and an abundance of tree cover; the turnaround point for this 10-mile out-and-back trek is Topanga Lookout.
Ospi, Venice + Los Liones Trail to Parker Mesa Overlook
There are three main ways to hike to the jaw-dropping panoramic vista at Parker Mesa Overlook. At 7.3 miles round trip, the Los Liones Trail is the longest option but also the one closest to Ospi, a new Venice restaurant that sells lunch-only Italian sandwiches. I like the mortadella with creamy stracchino cheese and a scattering of pistachios on a handmade schiacciata roll, snugly packed in a plastic takeout container with a tight-fitting lid. If you’re lucky, the wooden benches at the overlook will be unoccupied. It’s a flawless vantage point from which to relax and take in the view: the picturesque curve of Santa Monica Bay below, downtown L.A. in the distance and miles of deep-blue ocean.
Attari Sandwich Shop, Westwood + Inspiration Point at Will Rogers State Historic Park
A short and sweet two-mile loop takes you past a polo field and through a grove of eucalyptus trees on the way to Inspiration Point. Take a break at the cluster of picnic tables and benches against a gorgeous backdrop, with easy-to-spot landmarks from Catalina Island to a peekaboo glimpse of DTLA. Your sandwich, from Attari in Westwood, is also a looker: slabs of velvety-soft beef tongue encircled by chunky pickles, shredded lettuce, tomato, mayo and mustard on a slender and flaky French baguette. It’s available in half or whole sizes and double wrapped in paper and foil. Extend the hike into a 6¾-mile lollipop loop by adding an out-and-back section along charming Rivas Canyon Trail.
Heroic Italian, Santa Monica + Tuna Canyon Park
Two out-and-back trails branch off in opposite directions from a fork shortly beyond the easy-to-miss trailhead on Tuna Canyon Road: Do them both for a low-key hike of about four miles. The trail to the left (heading east) ends at a rock labyrinth; from there or the bench nearby, enjoy the OMG view accompanied by Heroic Italian’s OMG. The sandwich has gone through a few iterations, but you can generally count on four or five Italian meats, smoked mozzarella, jammy roasted tomatoes and giardiniera on crackly toasted ciabatta. Getting it spicy with Calabrian chile sauce is a must.
Broad Street Oyster Co., Malibu + Mugu Peak
It’s pretty extra to bring a lobster roll on a hike, but this trail begins with a punishing ascent and you deserve a reward after gaining 900 feet in the first 2/3 of a mile. You’ll find a worthy one at Broad Street Oyster Co., a former pop-up that upgraded to a full restaurant last year. Order in advance or be prepared to stand in line; you’ll also need to wrap your lobster roll in foil to make it hike-ready. Many people opt to go directly to the top, about a mile from the trailhead on PCH, and back — a fine choice if you just want a fast leg-burner. But better to delay the peak by tacking on some mileage through La Jolla Valley Natural Preserve, a flat expanse of native grassland that bursts with wildflowers in the spring. If the thought of buttery seafood on a hike makes you squeamish, John’s Garden at neighboring Malibu Country Mart has conventional deli sandwiches.
Lily’s Malibu, Malibu + Sandstone Peak
That mesh side pocket on your backpack meant for a water bottle? It fits a burrito perfectly. This pairing brings together my ideal Westside hike — a six-mile loop to the highest point in the Santa Mountain Mountains — with a classic breakfast burrito from Lily’s Malibu (I get mine with bacon and avocado). Order ahead by phone or online as wait times can exceed an hour and bring a Ziploc for the containers of addictive green hot sauce. The hike, which takes you along the Backbone and Mishe Mokwa trails, has it all: challenging but manageable incline, lushly carpeted green hillsides, imposing cliffs and unusual rock formations, and phenomenal mountain and ocean scenery.
Black pastrami Reuben
Brent’s Deli, Westlake Village + Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa
Snack on the sides that come with your sandwich as you drive the 15 minutes between Brent’s and Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa. At the Wendy trailhead, ditch the foam box your sandwich came in and repackage it in foil. The black pastrami is the must-order at Brent’s, although the mountain of meat and Russian dressing push the limits of an appropriate hike sandwich. Luckily, you’re in for only a gentle four-miler. This one takes you around the Satwiwa Loop and on Old Boney Trail, a path that meanders pleasantly along the golden rolling hills that are a hallmark of the area.
Corsica’s Deli, Sunland + Trail Canyon Falls
The dozens of “special sandwiches” at Corsica’s are named after family members and customers of the 50-year-old Sunland market and dressed as you wish with mayo, mustard, shredded lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, oil and spices. The muffuletta is an exception. Corsica’s rendition comes on a plush oblong French roll with four kinds of cured meats, two kinds of cheese and “chopped olive tapenade, ONLY,” the menu reads. The double slathering is generous, but still, this is an orderly and contained sandwich that travels well. It’s a quick drive up twisty Big Tujunga Canyon Road to the beginning of the four-mile Trail Canyon Falls hike in the Angeles National Forest. Your destination is, in a healthy rain year, a beautiful 40-foot waterfall that cascades like a sheer curtain.
Best way to complete the trail through the Santa Monica Mountains from Malibu to Pacific Palisades
Build-your-own bagel sandwich
Hank’s Bagels, Burbank and Sherman Oaks + Fryman Canyon
Start your day with a mellow 2.6-mile hike positioned between the two locations of Hank’s Bagels. There are eight bagel sandwiches, but I prefer to build my own, usually involving a chewy rosemary sea salt bagel (untoasted!), scallion cream cheese and the shop’s first-rate gravlax. Despite its name, the popular Fryman Canyon loop begins in Wilacre Park and takes you through Coldwater Canyon Park. You’ll find several shaded benches and picnic tables near the TreePeople grounds. Adding an out-and-back trek along Betty B. Dearing Trail to Nancy Hoover Pohl Overlook brings the hike to 6.7 miles.
Roasted eggplant stuffed pizzette
Pizzette, Culver City + Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook
Take a spin around the just-opened Citizen Public Market before heading to Pizzette, Nancy Silverton’s spot at the Culver City food hall. Choose from among the stuffed pizzettes, which the chef created as a sort of pita-sandwich-meets-pizza hybrid. I’m partial to the vegetarian one with tender roasted eggplant. You’ll unearth new ingredients as you make your way down the roomy pocket: a chunk of potato, crunchy cucumbers, two halves of a coffee-stained egg, all melded with labneh, tahini and the vibrant green hot sauce zhoug. It’ll be tempting to take your food to the rooftop terrace, but the imposing set of stairs up to Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook is just a few minutes away by car. You’ll need to rewrap this one in your own foil before you begin the brief ascent (your options are straight to the top or by a series of switchbacks).
No. 3 soppressata
Larchmont Village Wine, Spirits & Cheese, Larchmont + Runyon Canyon and Trebek Open Space
All of the sandwiches at Larchmont Wine, Spirits & Cheese are available in a half size — perfect for Runyon Canyon, which gets a lot of flak for being a half hike: short on miles and long on Hollywood types and their dogs. The No. 3 on a baguette (ciabatta is your other option) is my go-to. It’s made with soppressata and manchego and feels like a bit of a throwback thanks to a thick layer of sun-dried tomato spread and drizzles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. You can more than double the not-even-two-miles basic loop at Runyon by venturing over to neighboring Trebek Open Space, donated by the late “Jeopardy” host; they’re connected via Solar and Astral drives. Hiking both will help you justify ordering the whole footlong sandwich.
Grilled lemongrass beef num pang
Gamboge, Lincoln Heights + Hollywood sign
The ultimate L.A. checklist hike gets combined with a promising upstart: Gamboge, a Cambodian deli and market with superb num pang. There are a handful of sandwiches to choose from — pulled chicken, spicy pork shoulder and trumpet mushrooms among them — but my favorite is the grilled lemongrass beef: hefty slices of medium-rare marinated skirt steak buried under a tangle of pickled carrots and papaya. The puffy split-top bolillo is crusty on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside and slicked with Maggi-laced mayo, chile jam and pate. The num pang remained intact and fresh long after pickup, an excellent companion for the 6.4-mile round-trip hike to Mt. Lee and the back of the Hollywood sign along Brush Canyon Trail. Bag three peaks in one go by continuing on to nearby Cahuenga Peak and Burbank Peak.
Angry Egret Dinette, Chinatown + Mt. Hollywood
Wes Avila has been on a creative tear at his new Chinatown spot, Angry Egret Dinette, churning out what he calls “genre-bending street food” at exhilarating speed. Two early standouts came along for an afternoon at Griffith Park: the beefy and juicy Whittier, and the squash-blossom-tempura-filled Saguaro. Both sandwiches are robust, bold and cohesive, but I loved the way the latter evolved over the course of the hike; the crispy tempura had softened, bringing to mind the shell of a chile relleno, and become infused with the heat of the salsa macha. There are many ways to get to Mt. Hollywood, but the four-mile route I do most often starts just south of the Greek Theatre on Boy Scout Trail — parking near the trailhead is plentiful and free — and takes you past the observatory.
Red pepper goat roti
Bridgetown Roti, Arts District + Vista View Point at Griffith Park
Avoid the tourists at Griffith Observatory and Mt. Hollywood with a hike on the park’s calmer east side. Park near the merry-go-round or the old zoo and make your way to the top of Vista Del Valle Drive — several trails of varying length, including Fern Canyon, Hogback and Bill Eckert, will lead you to the road. The large semicircular helipad boasts a magnificent view of downtown L.A.; on a clear day, you can see all the way to Catalina Island. You’ll find other hikers stopped at the lookout point, dangling their feet off a ledge of broken pavement while tearing open protein bars. You’ve got something much better: a buttery and pliant roti loaded with fall-apart goat meat, potatoes and ribbons of spiced purple cabbage slaw from the wonderful Bridgetown Roti. The Caribbean pop-up typically operates out of an Arts District ghost kitchen and is open only Fridays through Sundays — but until 8 p.m. A sunset or night hike might be in order.
Layered omelet sandwich
Konbi, Echo Park + Elysian Park West Loop Trail
Ordering an egg sandwich from Konbi that isn’t its Instagram-famous egg salad sando seems wrong, but the omelet is a tidier option and comes nestled inside a cute backpack-ready square paper box. Adding to that convenience: Elysian Park is less than 10 minutes away by foot; no need to drive and repark. The West Loop Trail is a straightforward and laid-back 2.4 miles, and you’ll have your pick of spots to sit. Of the two omelet sandos, I prefer the version with nori and crab meat encased in the layers of egg; a jolt of Dijon mustard offsets the sweet notes of the crab. Konbi opens daily at 9 a.m., making this a terrific morning sandwich hike.
Wax Paper, Frogtown + Beaudry Loop
The sandwiches at Wax Paper are named after radio personalities and tend to be hulking, heaping things. For a hike, opt for the more practical Audie Cornish: ham, cornichon vinaigrette, honey butter and a shower of grated cheddar on a sturdy Bub and Grandma’s baguette. At nearly six miles with 1,500 feet of elevation gain on almost entirely exposed wide fire roads, Beaudry Loop should be avoided when it’s hot. But on a crisp, overcast day, this easy-to-navigate loop in the Verdugo Mountains provides a solid workout with sweeping mountain and urban views — including a killer perspective of downtown L.A. The squat cement blocks near the radio towers make for good ad hoc picnic benches.
Seasonal fruit sando
Katsu Sando, Chinatown + Eaton Canyon Falls
You don’t need a full meal or a full afternoon for this 3½-mile hike over gradual terrain to a waterfall in the San Gabriels. Here’s a best-of-both-worlds plan: Get a savory hot sandwich from Katsu Sando to eat on the spot in Chinatown (the honey walnut shrimp one is brilliant and delicious) and grab a seasonal fruit sando from the cold case to take with you for dessert at the falls. The pillowy milk bread is usually lined with strawberry halves, sometimes with chunks of mango and kiwi too, packaged in a triangular plastic case that seems precision-engineered for the sando’s exact shape. Looking for a more challenging hike? Adjacent Henninger Flats is two miles longer with an additional 1,000 feet of elevation gain. Free timed entry is required for both because of COVID-19; register online.
Yuzu kosho turkey
Jeff’s Table, Highland Park + Ernest E. Debs Regional Park
Dependable turkey gets a citrusy, peppery twist with a boost of yuzu kosho, thinly sliced lemons and a salad’s worth of arugula at Jeff’s Table. The sandwich operation tucked inside a liquor store in Highland Park is less than a mile from Ernest E. Debs Regional Park, a hidden gem in Montecito Heights. There’s a choose-your-own-adventure vibe because of the slightly confusing network of intersecting trails. But stunning unobstructed views of DTLA, the Valley and the San Gabriel Mountains — including, on a recent afternoon, a snow-capped Mt. Baldy — abound. Picnic on the grass or on the benches near the turtle-teeming pond. Bonus: The Jeff’s Special, a relatively modest and compressed Reuben, also held up surprisingly well.
Huge Tree Pastry, Monterey Park + Rose Bowl
This matchup is for the times when you want to walk without incline and eat without stopping. Huge Tree Pastry in Monterey Park specializes in Taiwanese breakfast foods such as pan-fried radish cakes, green onion pancakes and bowls of piping-hot soybean milk. The cafe also makes a filling salty fan tuan; the kaleidoscope of white or purple rice, fried egg, you tiao, pork floss and sour-sweet pickled greens is molded into a formidable log and secured in plastic wrap, a convenient on-the-go option for a leisurely 3.1-mile stroll around the famed Pasadena stadium.
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Roma Market, Pasadena + Echo Mountain
The sandwich — that’s what it’s called — at Roma Market is simple, unassuming and no fuss. Wrapped in bubblegum pink paper, it is a $5.50 workhorse of salami, mortadella, capicola and provolone that you can devour one-handed while you drive; buy the day before for a cross-country flight; or take on a day hike of any length with zero concerns. Both the old-school market and the Sam Merrill Trailhead are on Lake Avenue, an eight-minute drive apart, making the sandwich a no-brainer for the 5½-mile trek to the historic ruins atop Echo Mountain — one of the greatest hikes in Southern California.
Grilled pork banh mi
Saigon’s Bakery and Sandwiches, San Gabriel + Mt. Wilson
You’ll want to get an early start to tackle this strenuous 14-mile out-and-back hike to the top of Mt. Wilson, and you’ll need a durable sandwich to withstand the long day. Sure, you could assemble a PBJ at home in the predawn hours, but why bother when Saigon’s Bakery and Sandwiches is open from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily? Banh mi are fantastic hiking sandwiches — compact, neat and hardy — and the ones at Saigon’s are buy two, get one free for round rolls, and buy six, get one free for baguettes. Here’s a Mt. Wilson hike hack: If 14 miles is too daunting, arrange to have a friend pick you up at the observatory — cars are allowed at the summit. Thank them for the ride with an extra sandwich or two.