A shot at fame and fortune isn’t the only reason to come to Los Angeles. Despite its ritzy reputation, Los Angeles is much more than just an entertainment hub. For adventure seekers and hiking enthusiasts, the City of Angels is also a prime destination for some of the best trails in California. Many of these hiking trails can be found in plain view of downtown Los Angeles, in the city of Santa Monica.
Just 15 miles from Los Angeles, Santa Monica is a renowned beach town where the sun shines almost every day of the year. With its miles of coastline and beachfront homes, it’s easy to forget there are plenty of opportunities to step into the wilderness here. From hiking trails that take you to hidden waterfalls to those that take you through an abandoned Nazi sympathizer compound, the opportunities for adventure are abundant in this city. To help you plan your next weekend trip, we’ve rounded up our top 3 must-see Santa Monica hiking trails. Some are long, others are rigorous, but all are worth exploring.
Murphy Ranch Trail
Total distance: 4 miles
Total time: 2-3 hours
Best Season: Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer
The folklore surrounding the origins of Murphy’s Ranch is almost too far-fetched to believe. Word of mouth claims the abandoned structures found in this compound were specifically designed for Nazi sympathizers to live after Germany won WWII. The inevitable failure of this operation is that never came to fruition. The location for this supposed hideaway is just as perplexing, you can reach it by taking a relatively short hike through the hills of an affluent Pacific Palisades neighborhood.
While it isn’t entirely clear if this compound was truly built to provide shelter for those supporting Germany during WWII, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence found on the Murphy’s Ranch Trail that points to some sort of community being quickly left behind for ruins.
The Murphy’s Ranch Trail altogether spans 4 miles, and will take adventure seekers past the remains of an abandoned power house, water tank, machine shed, and raised gardens. All structures have been tagged with graffiti, only adding to the overall allure of the area. Interesting sights aside, this trail also doesn’t fail to give a full body workout and isn’t for the faint of heart. With over 500 stairs to climb, your glutes and hamstrings will be throbbing for the next few days.
The graffiti, elusive nature of the area, and spooky aura surrounding Murphy’s Ranch make this my all-time favorite hike in the Santa Monica area. Venture here yourself to see what became of this desolate compound.
Temescal Canyon Trail
Total distance: 3.1 miles
Total time: 1-2 hours
Best Season: Fall, Winter, Spring
If you’re in need of a quick, easy weekend escape outdoors, Temescal Canyon is your destination. Tucked away in the hills of Pacific Palisades, the Temescal Canyon Trail takes you through shaded woodlands while providing sweeping views of the Pacific coast along the way. This eclectic experience, hiking through rugged wilderness with the beach just miles away, makes this the quintessential California trail every SoCal hiker needs to add to their bucket list.
The Temescal Canyon trail picks up at Temescal Gateway Park, adjacent to the Topanga State Park and just 20 minutes away from downtown Los Angeles. The trail takes hikers on a short, 3-mile loop down into a wooded canyon, across a short bridge and past a seasonal waterfall near the halfway point. Being in close proximity to Los Angeles, this is the ideal break from the ever-flowing traffic and busy city life.
If you’re looking to extend your hike an extra 1.6-miles and gain some additional elevation, ascend the ridge to Skull Rock, a uniquely shaped rock formation.
Los Liones Trail to Parker Mesa Overlook
Total distance: 7.3 miles
Total time: 3-4 hours
Best Season: Fall, Winter, Spring
Sometimes the most beautiful destinations take a little bit of work to get to. Such is the case with the Parker Mesa Overlook, accessible by hiking 7.3 miles through Los Liones Canyon. With over 1,500 feet of elevation gain, the first half of this hike is at times a strenuous uphill battle. The spectacular views of the California coastline, Santa Monica Bay, and city landscape at the overlook make the climb well worth the effort, and the wood benches at the top will give your legs welcome reprieve.
The hike to Parker Mesa Overlook can be accessed via several fire roads at the west entrance of Topanga State Park, however for the best all-encompassing views I’d recommend taking the Los Liones Trail. Instead of hiking along a rock-ridden, desolate fire road, you’ll be taken through a lush green paradise.
Bring a picnic lunch and soak in the views at Parker Mesa Overlook for one fulfilling, adventure-packed day.
Whether you live in the surrounding Los Angeles area or you are taking a road trip through the golden state, a detour to Santa Monica is a must. Aside from its impressive coastline, Santa Monica also offers miles of hiking trails that will leave you feeling a world away from the hustle and bustle of city life. From summit views that will leave you breathless to mysterious abandoned structures, there’s something for everyone to experience on Santa Monica hiking trails. At different lengths and difficulties, you can bring the whole family or plan a romantic daytime date. Hopefully these three trails have sparked some inspiration to get out there and hit the trails. The question is, which will you tackle first?
Today’s post was sponsored by Daymaker, creator of custom itineraries for the perfect day in Los Angeles. Thanks for supporting all of the adventure-minded Sun Kissed Hiker partners like Daymaker!