Let me tell you a little secret: hiking is just walking somewhere beautiful! Even the most un-athletic among us (me) can get on board with that. With its diverse landscape and gorgeous weather, LA is practically begging you to get out and take a hike!
• Griffith Park and the Observatory
Hiking in Griffith Park is perfect for any skill level because not only is there a lot to see (hello Hollywood sign), there are several different vistas at varying altitudes, so you can customize your hike as you go.
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Length: 2 — 5 miles
Hike it: Begin near Fern Dell, just off Los Feliz Blvd. Pick up the trail above the playground and keep to the right. The gentle hike will wind back and forth, providing views of the observatory above and Los Angeles below. At the top, you can choose to stop and visit the observatory for free (it's closed on Mondays) or, if you're feeling strong, continue up to the second vista. From the observatory parking lot, head uphill and hang a left for the widest, friendliest trail. Follow it around until it pops you out at the upper picnic area. If you prefer to just visit the observatory or only do the second leg of the hike, simply drive up Fern Dell and park for free in the observatory lot.
• Runyon Canyon Loop
Runyon is perfect for a quick hike in the heart of the city. It's crowded at times, but it's dog-friendly and great for people-watching (and often celebrity sighting).
Length: 3 miles
Hike it: From Hollywood blvd, turn up Fuller and park near the top — the gated entrance is easy to find. Once inside, head right and hike the loop counterclockwise.
• Echo Mountain/ Sam Merrill Trail
Around the turn of the century, Echo Mountain was home to Thaddeus S.C. Lowe's mountain railway and resort, a popular Southern California tourist destination until an electrical fire burned it to the ground in 1936. The ruins of the "Railroad to the Clouds" and hotel remain at the top of Echo mountain, along with some truly breathtaking views.
Length: 5 miles, roundtrip.
Hike it: From the 1-210 freeway, exit at Lake Avenue and drive north about four miles until it ends (when it intersects with Loma Alta Drive). Look for the stone gateway to find the trailhead.
The "phone" on Echo Mountain will aim your voice in just the right direction to get the best echo.
• Will Rogers State Park/ Inspiration Point
In addition to hiking trails, Will Rogers' former estate in the Santa Monica Mountains offers picnic lawns, polo fields, tours of the ranch house and even trail rides. This particular hike is shaded with eucalyptus trees and provides beautiful ocean views.
Length: 2 miles
Hike it: From Sunset blvd in Santa Monica, head into the Will Rogers State Park main entrance and park by the visitor's center. Above the riding arena and stables, look for a sign marking the trailhead. The trail is wide and easy to follow and inspiration point, the flat vista overlooking the ocean, is the mid-point of this short loop.
(Images: 1.Shutterstock 2. Shutterstock 3. Yelp user Natalie K 4.Flickr user Michele Markel Connors, licensed under Creative Commons)