6 hikes perfect for a Mother’s Day picnic
Moms who are wild at heart or don’t want to skip their daily steps may like this gift: a Mother’s Day hike. Think about a picnic along a scenic hiking trail that’s super easy for the whole family. It’s a great way to spend outdoors time with Mom — and a good last-minute option if you’re stumped on where to go. Early morning or dusk may be the best times to beat the crowds.
These six hikes aren’t too far away and are great for a half- or full-day outing. Grab a to-go lunch (here’s our list of the right sandwiches for 22 SoCal hikes), or make your own fancy fixings. Use a trail guide or app so you don’t get lost. Enjoy!
Inspiration Point at Will Rogers State Historic Park, Pacific Palisades
- Easy 2.25-mile hike, 324 feet of gain
- Parking lot open 8 a.m. to sunset; $12 to park for the day
- Picnic on the bench at the point or find a shady spot at the park
The handy thing about this hike is its location: close enough to avoid a freeway meltdown, easy enough to be home by dinner. And, of course, there are the views that reveal the curve of Santa Monica Bay, the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and is that Catalina Island in the distance?
It’s also a beautiful spot in the Santa Monica Mountains to enjoy with Mom, breathing deep to take in the scent of sage along the way. You’ll face stiff competition for the single bench at the vista point — hikers, runners, cyclists and selfie-lovers stop here — so you may decide to eat elsewhere in the park. There are picnic tables, some with shade, at the start near the historic home where author and columnist Will Rogers lived.
Start: Will Rogers State Historic Park, 1501 Will Rogers State Park Road, Pacific Palisades.
From Malibu to La Jolla, here are five Southern California trails that do something most hikes don’t — take you to the edge of the ocean.
- Easy 1.4-mile loop, 347 feet of gain
- Open sunrise to sunset
- Picnic atop the point or on the beach
The larger trail network at scenic Point Dume takes about 90 minutes to explore, but don’t rush. This is your gift to Mom, so linger to take in the views. The slight uphill walk that makes up Point Dume Cove Trail brings you to the high point: a flat-topped hill with a commanding panorama of ocean, beach and coastal bluffs.
You get a wide view of Santa Monica Bay from the point’s high ground or the 200-yard boardwalk near the top of the hill. As a plaque notes, Point Dume got its name from English explorer George Vancouver, who sailed by in 1793, attempted to name it for Francisco Dumetz, a Franciscan priest at the Ventura mission, and apparently left out the “tz.” Besides savoring the view from up top, hikers can take a side trail down to tide pools at the beach.
Start: Take Malibu’s Westward Beach Road to Birdview Avenue, then park at Point Dume State Beach. To start atop the bluffs, head for the 29200 block of West Cliffside Drive, where there are 10 two-hour parking spots. If they’re full, continue to Grasswood Avenue, turn left and look for street parking, once it’s legal.
- Easy 2.6-mile loop, 462 feet of gain
- Open 8 a.m. to sunset
- Picnic at one of the benches at the vista point
For those who like a view of the ocean that’s higher than eye level, Charmlee Wilderness Park above Malibu offers wide-angle views, often with Catalina and Santa Barbara islands on the horizon. The Ocean Overlook Loop offers a chance to gaze at the Pacific and appreciate the coastal curves below.
It’s also a place to see how Southern California wildland rebounds after fire. The park was a lush cliff-top site in November 2018 when the Woolsey fire swept through. It reopened in October after being shut for two years to repair and clear damaged trails (some remain closed). The landscape has been altered, but the views are unbeatable. You’ll see native oak trees that are scorched and black, many with leafy new growth emerging amid the char.
Picnic areas remain but have lost their landscaped charm to the fire. Picnic with Mom on one of the metal benches or boulders facing the ocean.
Start: Charmlee Wilderness Park, 2577 Encinal Canyon Road, Malibu.
Pandemic or not, Griffith Park takes you to L.A.'s urban edge and plunges you into what remains of our wilder side. Let this mini-guide send you on your way.
Fern Dell to West Observatory Loop, Griffith Park
- Easy 2.5-mile loop, 613 feet of gain
- Open 5 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
- Picnic in the leafy Fern Dell area or at the observatory
Griffith Park is guaranteed to be crowded on Mother’s Day, but most people stay in the flat, drive-up areas. Take Mom on this lovely loop hike that starts in lush Fern Dell, a surprisingly woodsy idyll that will be hard to leave behind. At the top of the nature trail, hike up one of the wide trails (West Observatory Trail) leading to the Griffith Observatory. It’s a climb but not terribly steep. At the top, you’ll take in city views (the observatory is still closed because of the pandemic) and descend on a different trail.
Stop to picnic on the observatory lawn or find a quiet spot in Fern Dell.
Start: Fern Dell area of Griffith Park, Fern Dell Drive, Los Angeles.
The West Loop Trail, Elysian Park
- 2.3-mile loop, 236 feet of gain
- Open sunrise to sunset
- Picnic anywhere along the way or at designated tables
The West Loop Trail is an easy introduction if Mom has never explored Elysian Park near downtown L.A. Follow a wide dirt path that winds uphill past a grove of eucalyptus trees. From the high point, you’ll see Taylor Yard, Mt. Washington, the L.A. River, Rio de Los Angeles State Park and Forest Lawn.
As you continue, you’ll see the Marian Harlow Memorial Grove, a shady green space good for picnicking. The loop continues through eucalyptus, pine and oak trees to an area with barbecue pits and bathrooms — another potential spot to dine alfresco. (Follow the route with this article from the Los Angeles Times archives.)
Start: Elysian Park, the western part of Elysian Park Drive, at Stadium Way in Los Angeles.
Danielson Monument, Point Mugu State Park
- 5.5 miles out and back, 800 to 1,000 feet of gain
- Parking lot (free) open 8 a.m. to sunset
- Picnic at the monument site
The burial site of rancher Richard E. Danielson Jr. in Pt. Mugu State Park is framed by a large metal arch proclaiming “Peace, Love, Joy.” What better words to inspire on Mother’s Day? The memorial stands in a quiet spot, a great place to linger.
This hike is long and can be difficult. The trail starts near the Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa Native American Indian Cultural Center, which is closed because of the pandemic. The trail winds through grasslands until you reach a canyon with a small waterfall (sometimes). From there, it’s an uphill climb to the monument. Danielson, who died in 1988, donated more than 5,500 acres to what eventually became the state park.
Start: Point Mugu State Park; the parking lot is at Via Goleta and Lynn Road in Newbury Park.
Need more trail choices? Check out our 50 best hikes in L.A.
Christopher Reynolds and Charles Fleming contributed to this story.
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