One positive aspect of Los Angeles' urban sprawl is the presence of numerous wilderness areas within or close to the city. For example, about half a mile northeast of the bustling intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue lies the rustic Ferndell section of Griffith Park. Just off Sunset Boulevard west of Beverly Hills is Will Rogers State Historic Park.
The You pages of View asked Milt McAuley, hike leader and author of books on hiking in the nearby Santa Monica Mountains, to select and comment on a sampling of free hikes ranging from "very easy" to "quite difficult."
When information is not provided here, it is advisable before going out for the day to inquire about parking and whether pets are welcome on the hikes.
Otherwise, McAuley says that the only requirements to participate are a willingness to cooperate with the hike leader and to be in physical condition appropriate for the hike you choose. In ascending order of difficulty, they are:
Nature Trail at Trippet Ranch--"The Nature Trail at Topanga State Park at Trippet Ranch is a good place for easy-paced photo hikes and self-guided tours." Turn east on Entrada Road off Topanga Canyon Boulevard to reach the parking lot. Brochures describing the surroundings are in a box near the pond, which is visible from the parking lot. "About 60 kinds of wildflowers bloom here throughout the year. The best time to view these flowers is between March and May." Bring at least $2 to pay for parking in the state park (no parking outside the park gate). Remember, no dogs allowed. For information, call (213) 455-2465. (One mile; one to three hours.)
Winging It Walk--"On the first Sunday of every month, a member of the Audubon Society and a Sierra Club hike leader team up
for a bird-watching walk in Topanga State Park." Turn east on Entrada Road off Topanga Canyon Boulevard to reach the parking lot. "You don't have to join either group. Remember that they leave at 8 a.m.--sharp. The owls don't wait." Bring binoculars and at least $2 to cover the cost of parking in the state park (no parking outside the park gate). Call the Sierra Club at (213) 387-4287 for further details; no dogs. (It's 1 1/2 miles; three hours.)
Chicken George Hike--"This easy hike is for people who want to go a mile or two in an hour or two. Depart from the Visitors' Center at Malibu Creek State Park and follow the Gorge Trail to Rock Pool at the mouth of the gorge. Both the pool and the gorge contain large volcanic boulders. Volcanic cliffs rise from both sides of the pool, forming a spectacular setting." Not part of this hike, but along Backbone Trail, about 1 1/2 miles from Rock Pool, are the TV graves of "Roots' " Chicken George and his wife. (It's 2 1/2 miles round trip; one to two hours.)
I Love L.A. Hike--This hike offers a spectacular city view. Leave from the Griffith Observatory parking lot. Go north to the top of Mt. Hollywood, where you can see Hollywood, West Los Angeles, the ocean on most days, Catalina on clear days, the San Fernando Valley, Burbank, Glendale and Downtown Los Angeles. Night hikers often come here to admire the city lights. "A good side trip is to continue a quarter of a mile east from the top of Mt. Hollywood to Dante's View, where you'll find a cool grove of trees with benches and water--a beautiful lunch stop." (It's 2 1/2 miles round trip; 1-two hours.)
Will Rogers Hike--"This hike combines exercise with a bit of nostalgia. Reach the trail head by driving north on Will Rogers State Park Road from Sunset Boulevard, 4.6 miles from Pacific Coast Highway. Will Rogers bought the ranch in 1922; it became a state park in 1944. The house and grounds are preserved as they were. Hike north along the trail near the tennis courts west of park headquarters." Bring $2 for parking. (A 5 1/2-mile loop; two to three hours.)
Water, Water Everywhere Hike--"This is not a strenuous trip . . . unless you elect to climb the waterfalls in the canyon. This may not be a good hike for new hikers because the trail is hard to find, there are poison-oak plants, and the trail goes through a culvert, and in high water this could be dangerous." The trail head is reached from Sunset Boulevard. Turn north on Palisades Drive and proceed 1 3/4 miles to the entrance of Santa Ynez State Park. Walk upstream, initially staying on a trail that follows along the east bank. Later on, the trail crosses and recrosses the stream many times and loses its identity as a trail on occasion. When in doubt