12 of L.A.’s Best Urban Trails for Dogs
12 of L.A.’s Best Urban Trails for Dogs
By Matt Pawlik
Los Angeles has no shortage of doggie-centric outdoor spaces, including the hipster hound haven that is Silver Lake Dog Park and Rosie’s Dog Beach, the beautiful stretch of coastline in Long Beach that allows for off-leash sand play. The Laurel Canyon Dog Park (the oldest in the city) and the massive (6½-acre) Sepulveda Basin Dog Park are also good options for a recreational romp with your dog. However, if you want to hit the trails for a hike with your pup, we recommend these 12 hikes as the best doggone adventures in town. For more places to go, check out the 50 Best Hikes in L.A. and the 40 Best California Outdoor Experiences.
Hollywood Hills West- Urban Trail
Lights, camera, Runyon! It’s certainly not quiet on the set of Runyon Canyon in Hollywood, but the trail system here is one of the most pupular for active Angelenos and their canine companions. Check out this LA Parks Map()to plan your doggie-driven route through the 160-acre greenspace. I recommend the full feature-length loop for an A-list workout and big-budget views. After a short stint on the trail, look for the gate that shows the off-leash area to release your dog for an adventure (leashes are also required at the north end of the park). Humans and dogs alike enjoy canyon vistas and chaparral-covered hillsides along both fire roads and single-track offerings, but the real treat comes with the elevation gain. Throughout the park, find aptly named viewpoints such as Clouds Rest and Inspiration Point, which provide cityscape panoramas that stretch to the San Gabriels and Santa Monica Bay on clear days. For more Hollywood-area hiking (and fewer yoga mats), head to the scenic Trebek Open Space next door, named after the late “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek. We’ll take pup-friendly hikes for $200! Start at the trailhead at the end of Fuller Avenue just past the intersection with Hillside Avenue. Street parking. Off-leash is OK.
Upper and Lower Canyonback Trail
UPPER AND LOWER CANYONBACK TRAIL
Ready to unleash your inner mongrel? Bring your canis familiaris to the Upper Canyonback trailhead for an autonomous adventure, where dogs benefit from the sovereignty of a rare off-leash hiking area and humans have the freedom to choose one of two paths that run along the ridge. Take either a wide fire road or narrow single track (or one up, one down) to explore the canyon but note that while the trails do overlap, only the single track reaches the high point of the hilltop. You can optionally take the connecting Hollyhock fire road west to create a loop through Mandeville Canyon to San Vicente Mountain and the famous Nike Missile site. Otherwise, at the terminus of Upper Canyonback, take a short walk on the paved road to reach the Lower Canyonback trail which heads all the way to Kenter Ave in Brentwood and continues to offer great views of West LA (look for the Getty!), the summits of the Santa Monica Mountains and, of course, the Pacific Ocean. Talk about the pawfect doggie day trip! Trailhead: Off Mulholland Dr, just south of intersection with Encino Hills Drive. Park on the street. Off-leash OK.
Inspiration Point Loop
American humorist Will Rogers once mused: “If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die, I want to go where they went.” Visit his namesake Will Rogers State Historic Park in Pacific Palisades with a furry friend to honor his nature preservation efforts on a hike with some of the most divine views on the Westside. You’ll start with a glimpse of the past at Rogers’ ranch house and polo grounds (Los Angeles’ only regulation polo field). As you and your pup begin a short burst of ascending switchbacks, start looking for the upcoming coastal vistas. The panoramas of Santa Monica Bay and the Pacific are continuous and expansive along the ridge, but are most awe-inspiring at Inspiration Point (look for Catalina Island). The hike’s summit offers picnic tables to pause and enjoy the marine breeze. On the way down, head past the tempting trail that borders the horse stables and instead descend through an impressively dense grove of towering eucalyptus trees for an aromatic finish. Thanks Will — may you rest in peace ... with dogs. Parking lot is open 8 a.m. to sunset; $12 to park for the day. Dogs must be on leash. Trail starts next to the historic ranch house.
1501 Will Rogers State Park Road, Pacific Palisades, California 90272
Amir's Garden and the Old Zoo in Griffith Park
Griffith Park- Urban Trail
Griffith Park is one of the largest urban green spaces in North America, at more than 4,000 acres, and is home to a variety of trails and dog-friendly hidden gems. Check out an awesome recreational highlight reel with your pup that begins at the Merry-Go-Round parking lot on the Mineral Wells Trail. The nearby Old Griffith Park Zoo and Picnic Area is the ideal starting or ending point, as you and your four-legged friend explore the remains of the granite enclosures. After passing the Mineral Wells Picnic Area, find the steep fire road ascending to Amir’s Garden. The quaint botanical destination was planted in 1970 by hiking enthusiastic (and now beloved local legend) Amir Dialameh after receiving permission from the city to pursue his mantra “in the land of the free, plant a tree.” This 5-acre treasure offers more than 60 species of native flora and incredible views of the San Gabriel Valley and Verdugo Mountains — and it even has a doggie water bowl. If you and your hiking partner want more mileage, continue on the trail 1.7 miles to Mt. Hollywood. Park in paved lots or street parking next to the Merry-Go-Round. Dogs must be on leash with one exception: a 1.6-acre off-leash space at the north end of the park. Trail starts near the Merry-Go-Round Lot 2.
Altadena- Mountain Trail
It’s Millard time! Lace up the waterproof boots and bring a doggie towel for this short hike to one sweet waterfall. This 50-footer is an iconic feature of the Angeles National Forest and is especially mesmerizing after generous precipitation. The trek also makes a splash, offering a stunning canyon setting with six charming campsites, towering live oaks and a flowing stream that parallels the trail. You can also enjoy plenty of stream-hopping opportunities across boulders and logs while your dog revels in trotting through the rushing water. I recommend both human and canine take a dip in the rock pool under the roaring falls after your exploration. Tip: You can extend your trip with a five-mile loop along the Sunset Ridge Trail to the ruins of Dawn Mine, if you (and your companion) are up for the 1,500 feet elevation gain. Park in paved lot and start in the Millard Day-Use Area off Chaney Trail in Altadena. Dogs must be on leash.
Malibu- Mountain Trail
Hike, beach, seafood: the recipe for a Malibu-tiful day and a fabulous coastal adventure with your dog. Find your primary ingredient on a leg-busting workout along the Sara Wan Trail through Corral Canyon Park, where the trailhead sits behind the local beach joint, Malibu Seafood. Before you begin your ascent, you’ll pass through coastal riparian features and remnants of an old stone chimney. As you climb the ridge, you are rewarded with pristine views of the Malibu shoreline and Santa Monica Bay, as well as rolling hills of the canyon to the north. Enjoy the seascapes with a pair of binoculars during whale-watching season; you can also spy gulls and hawks year-round. If you yearn for more playtime, drive up Pacific Coast Highway to Leo Carrillo State Beach, where you can find a rare dog beach in the sandy stretch between lifeguard towers 3 and 4. Free street parking; paved lot costs $12. Dogs must remain on leash.
Start at 25623 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.
Granada Hills- Urban Trail
The hardest climbs should reward with the best views ... and that’s certainly true at O’Melveny Park in Granada Hills. The namesake loop trail reaches the park’s apex (2,730 feet) after a challenging but scenic ascent above the 672-acre green space (second in size only to Griffith Park). It’s also home to a grapefruit grove and a sprawling picnic area under the oaks, sycamores and eucalyptus. Land donor Henry O’Melveny also grazed cattle and bred bulldogs, making it an ideal spot to workout with your pooch. Besides the panoramic vistas that stretch from the downtown skyline to the San Gabriel Mountains, prominent scenery includes giant sandstone walls, sprawling meadows and the beautiful juxtaposition of rolling hills and rocky outcroppings. Consider stopping by dog-friendly brewery San Fernando Brewing Co. for a post-adventure reward, such as the O’Melveny Red Ale. Just don’t forget a treat for your pup. Paved lot and street parking available. Dogs must be on leash.
Start at 17300 Sesnon Blvd.
Limekiln Canyon Park
Porter Ranch- Urban Trail
Head to Porter Ranch in the San Fernando Valley to find Limekiln Canyon, ideal for a sunrise or sunset (or any time) stroll with the pooch. The secluded park’s wide dirt trail has gentle up and downs and multiple stream crossings. The welcome babble makes for a peaceful setting and two small community-painted rock gardens and a rope swing over the water accentuates its charm. You and your furry friend will also experience multiple expansive canyon vistas, and spur trails offer a plethora of panoramas and a little extra workout. But perhaps the trail’s most incredible feature are the arboreal wonders: Look for towering sycamores, willows, oaks, pines, fan palms, and, wait for it, redwoods! It truly is amazing to see these hulking specimensa stone’s throw from SoCal suburbia. Now that’s barking up the right tree. Park on the street and start at the north side of Rinaldi Street just east of Corbin Avenue. Dogs must be on leash.
South Hills Park and Wilderness Area
Glendora- Urban Trail
Viewtiful valley vistas? Check. Hidden historic house? Yep. A dog’s daydream? You betcha! South Hills Park and Wilderness Area in Glendora makes for an action-packed adventure, especially when you are greeted with a pristine off-leash dog park. Behind it, you’ll find trails that are far less used. Revel in them with your mutt as you look for interpretive signs that detail the toyon, coast live oak and coastal sage scrub. On the north end of the park, bordering Big Dalton Wash, is a trail along Centennial Heritage Park featuring the late 1800s home of Glendora’s founder and a small citrus grove, an ode to the area’s once prevalent agriculture. If you and your pooch are up for a bit more adventure, a short ¾-mile walk west gets you to Big Tree Park, where a 140-year-old Moreton bay fig stands just shy of 100 feet tall and 50 feet in diameter. Park on the street or in a paved lot. The trail starts at the end of Mauna Loa Avenue behind South Hills Park. Note the off-leash area at the trailhead.
Vital Link Trail
What better way to refer to that unbreakable bond with your four-legged best friend than a vital link? Explore the aptly named trail in Wildwood Canyon Park Burbank to strengthen your human/canine relationship ... and your legs. The 1,500 feet of gain in 1.5 miles will get your heart pumping (hiking poles are beneficial), but the awe-inspiring views of the city — look for the Hollywood Hills and Griffith Park — and the surrounding Verdugo and San Gabriel mountain ranges are more than worth the switchback slog. At the top, find a radio tower and the Willie Mann memorial chair for a much-needed rest. Make sure your pup gets a good rest (and water) at the top too before carefully heading down the steep trail, enjoying the sweeping views throughout your descent. Find a hoppy reward at nearby watering hole Brewyard Beer Co., which welcomes dogs and serves tasty craft ales. Cheers! Park on the street or in a paved lot; the trailhead begins at the end of Wildwood Canyon Road. Dogs must remain on leash.
Cherry Canyon Park
La Cañada Flintridge- Mountain Trail
Looking for the ultimate destination? Find it nestled neatly in La Canada Flintridge, where a rigorous route through Cherry Canyon Park leads you to epic views at an old fire tower and a panoramic point called — yep, you guessed it — the Ultimate Destination. You and your pooch can venture into the canyon through shaded, narrow single-track trails and journey up exposed, wide fire roads to the Cherry Canyon Motorway and the 360-degree vistas. At the Cerro Negro fire tower, check out the views of nearby Glendale and the Verdugo Mountains that stretch into the San Gabriel Valley to the east. The spur trail leads you through dense fields of mustard plants under gnarly oaks to the self-proclaimed Ultimate Destination, where a picnic table awaits for you and your companion to savor the scenery. Try to locate the peaks of the San Gabriels, the easiest of which is prominent Mt. Wilson. The trailhead starts along Forest Hill Drive in La Canada Flintridge. Dogs must remain on leash.
Debs Park to Hermon Dog Park to South Pasadena
Montecito Heights- Urban Trail
Get lost in the peaceful setting of Ernest E. Debs Regional Park, and reward your pup with two local dog parks along the L.A. River. The green space is home to incredible city views and the eco-friendly Audubon Center, as well as more than 140 species of birds, including kestrels, owls and flickers. However, the Audubon segment is off-limits for pups, so head to the south parking lot and take the on-limits Wild Mustard Loop that visits quaint Debs Lake, a.k.a. Peanut Lake. At the northeastern edge of the trail, press on, exit the park and cross Via Marisol to Hermon Park, the southernmost section of historic Arroyo Seco. Here, you and Sparky can enjoy a favorite pooch point before continuing on the L.A. River Bike Path. You’ll have to hop on Arroyo Drive briefly, but the South Pasadena Dog Park is a possible terminus. Alternatively, continue for as long as you can through the Arroyo, perhaps as far as the famous Colorado Street Bridge. Start at the southern entrance to the park, on Debs Park Road off Monterey Road.