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Did you know LA has some of the country's best urban hikes?

by Leo Duran | Take Two®

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A Martinez (r) on a hike/interview in Griffith Park with Casey Schreiner, author of the book, "Day Hiking Los Angeles." Leo Duran/KPCC

Los Angeles may be best known for Hollywood, but the real star of Southern California are the hiking trails.

"L.A., more than any other city I think, is shaped by, surrounded by and bisected by its wilderness," says Casey Schreiner of Modern Hiker and author of the new book, "Day Hiking: Los Angeles."

In Griffith Park, alone, is a network of trails 53 miles long all within city limits – a feat few American cities can match. But then there are also trails to find along mountainsides, overlooking the beach, snaking through the desert and more.

Hiking is actually a key piece of L.A.'s history.

"At one point, it was the reason that people came to L.A." says Schreiner.

Called the Great Hiking Era, it spanned between the late 1800s through the early 1900s.

Photograph of the Roamer Hiking Club at Upper Chilao Recreational Area in Angeles National Forest, ca.1930.
Photograph of the Roamer Hiking Club at Upper Chilao Recreational Area in Angeles National Forest, ca.1930. USC libraries/California Historical Society

People from all over the world traveled to Southern California to stay at wilderness resorts like Sturtevant Camp in Santa Anita Canyon, which still exists today.

They could trek through the landscape on trails created over centuries by a combination of Native American tribes and migrating wild animals.

It's surprising to some who only think of L.A. as a dense city with a history of glitz and grime.

"Day Hiking Los Angeles," by Casey Schreiner
"Day Hiking Los Angeles," by Casey Schreiner Mountaineers Books

"Hiking is not necessarily broadcast as a selling point of the city of Los Angeles," says Schreiner. But it is a way of life, here (and a great way to see celebrities at places like Runyon Canyon!).

It's also very accessible to all levels of hikers compared to other regions.

"People who move here from parts of the country that have a very strong hiking tradition, like the Pacific Northwest, don't see anything that looks what they're used to hiking," he says. "What's great about L.A. is that the hiking here is open to casual, beginning hikers."

So, no, $6,000 worth of gear isn't required. In many cases, sneakers and gym shorts will do.

And he believes that L.A. is on the verge of another great hiking era.

"The people who are hiking here are very diverse and extremely varied," says Schreiner, "and people in L.A. are finally waking up to the idea that L.A. is an amazing outdoor city."

"Day Hiking Los Angeles" is now available in stores and online.

Casey's recommendations for hikes in Los Angeles

For beginners

The Puente and Chino Hills in San Gabriel Valley

An overlook of Hacienda Heights from the Puente and Chino Hills trails.
An overlook of Hacienda Heights from the Puente and Chino Hills trails. Casey Schreiner/Modern Hiker

The trails are 4 to 5 miles, each, and are rated easy to moderate.

"You don't want to go there during the summer because it gets totally baked and fried by the sun," he says, "but during the winter and spring, it has some of the best views in the whole of L.A. County."

For intermediate hikers

Sandstone Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains

The view from the Sandstone Peak trail in the Santa Monica Mountains.
The view from the Sandstone Peak trail in the Santa Monica Mountains. Casey Schreiner/Modern Hiker

This is a 6-mile trail that loops around the tallest mountain in the range, and it's good anytime of the year.

"This is my favorite hike in the L.A. region.," he says.

You'll be able to see everything great about Southern California's landscape: rock formations for climbers, Channel Islands in the Pacific, oaky woodlands and more.

For expert hikers

Twin Peaks in the San Gabriel Mountains

The tops of Twin Peaks in the San Gabriel Mountains.
The tops of Twin Peaks in the San Gabriel Mountains. Casey Schreiner/Modern Hiker

"It's sort of known as one of the toughest, most remote hikes in the San Gabriels," he says.

Half of it is off-trail, and the elevation gain can be brutal.

"That is a leg-buster that will have you walking funny at the office the next day," says Schreiner.

 

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