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ALTHOUGH LOS ANGELES is a true megalopolis, its geographical boundaries – the Pacific Ocean to the south/west and the San Gabriel and Santa Rosa mountain ranges to the north/east – give great access to outdoor adventure. All it takes is some local knowledge and the right timing.
Escape Time*: 20-40 minutes
Payoff: Panoramic views of LA, the ocean, and the mountains
There are several hiking options within 20-40 minutes of downtown Los Angeles, depending on what you’re looking for. These trails are on pavement, fire roads, or well-maintained trails, so you won’t need serious hiking boots. Solid trail shoes/sandals are a good idea.
- Runyon Canyon (easy to moderate, 3.5 miles roundtrip) – Less than half a mile off Hollywood Boulevard, it has a great view of the city. It’s also dog-friendly, but you’re likely to find everyone else with their dogs there, too.
- Temescal Ridge Trail in Topanga State Park (moderate, approx. 3 miles roundtrip) – A more strenuous hike that goes through wooded hills and will pay off with views of the greater LA area and the Santa Monica pier. This is a hike that will be quieter during the week. You can find the trailhead at the Temescal Gateway Park (there’s a parking fee).
- Rock Pool Trail in Malibu Creek (easy, 3.5 miles roundtrip) – If you just want to get away and stay in the hills, this trail is a good one. It goes through wide open spaces where the tv series M.A.S.H. was filmed. There are also shaded wooded areas.
Escape Time*: 10-50 minutes
Payoff: Miles and miles of Pacific coastline to choose from
What you need to know: Follow the Southern California surf forecasts and tide reports. Some spots, like Malibu, can go off on a summer south swell. For a complete map of all the surf areas, order one of Franko’s maps of L.A. County Surfing before you head out.
The go to spot is pretty much Manhattan Beach. It’s more or less a close out, but always has fast corners. Malibu is a world-class point and always packed with crowds. Surf this place with a lot of patience and respect. .
Adventure: Mountain Biking
Escape Time*: 30-50 minutes
Payoff: A little bit of everything
- Backbone Trail in Malibu (moderate, 10-12 miles) – With single tracks and fire roads, steep climbs and fast descents, this is a great trail for an intermediate mountain biker.
- Malibu Creek Fire Road Loop (moderate to strenuous, 14-15 miles loop) – Besides the tough 3-mile climb up Bulldog and a 1-mile technical single track, this trail is mostly mellow fire roads.
Adventure: Bouldering/Rock Climbing
Escape Time*: 20-40 minutes
Payoff: Boulder in the footsteps and handholds of Royal Robbins, Yvon Chouinard, and John Bachar — or climb some of the longest and steepest routes in Southern California
- Stoney Point – The local bouldering crag, considered to be one of the very first bouldering areas in the US. The classic problems range from V0-V7, and are around 15 feet and higher.
- The Ghetto Wall at Malibu Creek State Park – Pocketed volcanic rock that may look familiar if you’ve seen Planet of the Apes (it was filmed in Malibu). The trek requires traversing a rock wall around a pool (unless you bring your inflatable raft), but you’ll end up at an area with sport routes from 5.9 to 5.14a.
- Echo Cliffs – With 17 routes from 5.6 to 5.10c, Easy Street is great for beginner to moderate lead climbers. The Grotto has even more moderately graded routes, from 5.8-5.10d.
*Estimated travel times do not include traffic delays
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