Hiking in Los Angeles with Kids: The Best Hiking Trails for Families

Hiking in LA means stunning vistas, hidden trails, babbling brooks, and wonderful wildlife all year.
Hiking in LA means stunning vistas, hidden trails, babbling brooks, and wonderful wildlife all year.

Some days, you just need everyone to take a hike. Long weekends, weekday afternoons, random days off from school—if the kids are starting to climb the walls, the answer is almost always to head for the trails and go hiking in Los Angeles. We've compiled a list of some of the best hiking trails in Los Angeles for you and your little ones (though if you're pushing someone up that mountain, you may want the stroller-friendly hikes). Each of the self-led hikes below is an LA classic, not too hard, and boasting spectacular views or interesting finds for the whole family.

Find all the best hikes in Los Angeles for kids, like our hikes to waterfalls or our favorite wildlife hikes for kids, in our Hiking and Camping Guide for Los Angeles Families.

Remember the sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, snacks, and lots of water!

1. Griffith Park — Los Angeles

Park Hours: 5:30am- 10:30pm; trails close at sunset.
Parking: Free
Dogs on leashes are allowed on trails.

Certainly one of LA's jewels, Griffith Park might very well have it all: a merry-go-round, an observatory, and an old train park. What's more, there are trails – and lots of them.

One of the most iconic LA trails is the Charlie Turner Trail. Park at the Observatory and begin your climb up Mt. Hollywood. On a clear day, you'll be rewarded with views of the San Fernando Valley, Glendale, and the Westside, as well as a closer peek at the Hollywood Sign. The round-trip is less than three miles, with an elevation of roughly 1,000 feet. Grab lunch at Wolfgang Puck's Cafe at the End of the Universe located in the Observatory when you're done with the hike. Beware of crowds on the weekends (the trail is a popular destination), the sun on a hot day (hydrate and wear sunscreen), and horse poop. The Charlie Turner Trail (also frequently called the Mt. Hollywood Trail) is stroller-friendly.

Hiking in Griffith Park gives viasta from downtown to the sea.
A view of the Charlie Turner Trail in Griffith Park. Photo by Alexander Bermudez, courtesy of hikingproject.com

Or, hike to the Observatory from another direction. Start the two-mile loop at Ferndell Gardens, breezing by a shady fern and succulent-lined brook, past stone retaining walls, and over footbridges. Continue along a dusty road through chaparral to the Observatory. Grab some pre- or post-hike grub at The Trails Cafe. The trail is well-traveled on the weekend, so beware of crowds. Morning or late afternoon hiking is best on hot days. This loop is also stroller-friendly.

For an easier Griffith Park hike, try the Fern Canyon Trail. Park at the first Merry-Go-Round parking lot and head beyond the T-bar gate. The trail goes uphill and passes the Old Zoo. Trail length varies depending on which way you choose to walk. Enjoy views of Glendale and Pasadena at the top of the full 400-foot elevation trail. Fern Canyon Trail is not stroller-friendly.

2. Franklin Canyon Park — Beverly Hills

Park Hours: Open daily from sunrise to sunset
Parking: Free
Dogs on leashes are allowed.

Why is this area such a favorite? The Sooky Goldman Nature Center, duck pond, reservoir, and traditional kish (Tongva hut) might have something to do with it. Add the fact that it's 605 acres and has five miles of trails to explore, and you get the idea. Trails vary from simple to moderately strenuous. Favorites include the roughly two-mile Hastain Trail with elevations that often offer an ocean view on a clear day. The trailhead can be reached by entering the park from either Beverly Hills or the Valley, and heading south on Lake Drive. Two trailheads and parking are available on the left side. Or meander around Franklin Canyon Lake (the opening sequence of the Andy Griffith Show was filmed here). Kids of all ages can also enjoy an easy stroll around Heavenly Pond with its ducks and sometimes noisy bullfrogs. This trail map might help orient you, as will an initial visit to the Nature Center. Many of the trails in Franklin Canyon are stroller-friendly, though Hastain Trail isn't.

Note: Be sure to stop at all stop signs in the park, to avoid unpleasant surprises (tickets) in the mail a few weeks later!

RELATED: Waterfall Hikes in Los Angeles Every Family Should Know

Escondido Canyon Trail is a hike that includes a waterfall.
This gentle trail goes past fields and creeks to a waterfall. Photo by Mommy Poppins

3. Escondido Canyon Trail — Malibu

Park Hours: Open daily from sunrise to sunset
Parking: $12
Dogs on leashes are allowed.

The Edward Albert Escondido Canyon Trail leads families on a fairly gentle 3.8-mile loop, past climbing trees, wildflowers, and babbling creeks to a satisfying waterfall (in season). After a good rain, the water is generally gushing at Escondido Falls, the highest waterfall in the Santa Monica Mountains. The first .75 mile is along a paved road in front of expensive Malibu homes, but the trail turns more rustic once you join the dirt road marked Edward Albert Escondido Canyon Trail and Waterfall. Be prepared to get your feet wet crossing streams along the way, and then take a plunge in the inviting lower falls. 

To get to the trailhead: Take PCH to Winding Way in Malibu. Winding Way is a minor street 4.5 miles west of Malibu Canyon Road and 1.4 miles east of Kanan Dume Road, on the north side of PCH. Turn up Winding Way and into a parking lot for the trail on the left at the bottom of Winding Way. Overflow parking along PCH is free, but read the signs carefully. Escondido Canyon Trail is not stroller-friendly.

RELATED: Toddler-Friendly Nature Walks and Hikes in Los Angeles

Temescal Gateway Park has green fields, waterfalls, ocean views, and great trees to climb. 
Temescal Gateway Park, photo courtesy of LA Mountains, via Facebook

4. Temescal Gateway Park — Pacific Palisades

Park Hours: Open daily from sunrise to sunset
Parking: $12
Dogs on leashes are allowed.

Easy to get to and bursting with things to see and do, Temescal Gateway Park is a simple and satisfying destination. Popular trails include the four-mile Temescal Canyon Loop, complete with ocean views, a seasonal waterfall, and rock "climbing." Or park in the first lot as you enter the park (closest to Sunset Blvd.) and chart your own route along the creek. Have lunch or a snack at the big tree with a platform for seating. Temescal Canyon Loop is not stroller-friendly.

RELATED: Spring Wildflower Hikes: Don't Miss This Season's Bloom!
Topanga is a great places to hike!
Topanga is a great place for a hike. Photo courtesy of National Park Service

5. Topanga Canyon State Park — Topanga

Park Hours: Open daily from 8am - sunset
Parking: $4
Dogs are not allowed on the trails.

Considered "the largest wildland within the boundaries of a major city," Topanga Canyon State Park offers acres to explore (14,000, to be exact). Park at Trippet Ranch (map) and begin one of several fascinating trails. For the adventurous, try the four- to five-mile (depending on how you go) loop around Eagle Rock. The trailhead is at the southeast corner of the Trippet Ranch parking lot. Or meander through lush meadows (especially after the rainy season) on the shorter Musch Trail. Or choose how long a hike you want in Santa Ynez Canyon. While there are several ways to access Topanga Canyon trails, Trippet Ranch is a favorite starting point as it provides picnic tables, information, and restrooms (phew).

6. LA96C NIKE Missile Control Site - Mulholland

Park Hours: 8am-6pm
Parking: Free parking
Dogs on leashes are allowed.

Over 1,950 feet above sea level, San Vicente Peak was a NIKE missile control site during the Cold War. The site was closed in 1968, and in 1996 it became a nationally recognized park. The old tower (with its amazing views) was refurbished, and access to the tower and observation deck was added. Though most installations have been removed, signs provide a fun history lesson that comes with a moderately challenging hike. Bike trails extend past the missile control site, and limited parking is available at the base. Definitely don't bring a stroller here, though, as the rocky trail up to the site is jagged and can also get too hot for your canine companions. 

7. Eaton Canyon Natural Area — Pasadena

Park Hours: Open daily from sunrise to sunset
Parking: Free
Parking Dogs on leashes are allowed.

The trail begins between the pond and the public parking area. The Junior Nature Trail is quite short (about a quarter of a mile) and well suited for little ones in or out of a stroller. Keep your eyes and ears open for lizards, birds, rabbits, and native plants. The climb to Henninger Flats is also doable, though much more strenuous. You'll pass a waterfall, cross over the Mt. Wilson Toll Bridge, and might even see Catalina Island on a clear day when you reach the top. All of the nature trail maps are available on the nature center's website.

8. Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area — Culver City

Park Hours: Open daily from 6am-Sunset
Parking: $6 on weekends and holidays, free on weekdays
Dogs on leashes are allowed.

Another multi-activity destination, Kenneth Hahn not only has trails to explore but also delights with playgrounds, a duck pond, playing fields, and lots of open green space. This is a great hiking or walking spot if you have young kids. Trails are more like walking paths, and you can walk for as little or as much as you like, with a place to picnic and run around once you're done. Trail maps can be found in the park office, located in the second parking lot on the right (after passing the entrance kiosk). The office is open daily from 8:30am-5:00pm. The Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area Loop is stroller-friendly.

RELATED: Hike to the Hollywood Sign with Kids

On the way to the Bat Caves in Bronson Canyon. 
Head to the Bronson Caves or the Hollywood Sign—both hikes start at Bronson Canyon.

9.  Hike to the Hollywood Sign — Hollywood

Trail Hours: Open daily from sunrise to sunset
Parking: Limited free street parking
Dogs on leashes are allowed.

One of the most iconic symbols of Los Angeles, the Hollywood Sign is easily viewable from all over the LA basin. While most locals won't think twice about the old tourist attraction up on Mt. Lowe, one way to be a tourist in your own city is by hiking up to the mountaintop and taking it in close-up. You won't get so close that you can climb onto the big wooden letters, but you can get some pretty incredible photo ops. Start your hike from Canyon Drive in Bronson Canyon, where the trailhead for the Brush Canyon Trail begins. Unfortunately as of 2017 the easiest hike along the Hollyridge Trail has been closed, so your main option is the Brush Canyon Trail. The good news is that it's stroller-friendly because it winds its way up the mountain ridge on dirt fire roads. Want a shorter hike? Peel off to the Bronson Caves (AKA the Bat Caves, where the 1960s Batman TV show was filmed), which is a very easy 1/3 mile round trip hike that little kids adore.

10. Dixie Canyon Park — Sherman Oaks

Park Hours: Open daily from 8am-6pm
Parking: Free street parking on Dixie Canyon Place
Dogs on leashes are allowed.

Want a shady, relaxed hike next to a stream? This is your place. Located in a California black walnut and oak woodland above the San Fernando Valley in Sherman Oaks, Dixie Canyon Park is a shaded twenty-acre open-space preserve donated to the Conservancy by actor Warren Beatty (yes, that Warren Beatty) in 1986. A hiking-only trail runs up the center of the canyon alongside a perennial stream. Street parking can be found on Dixie Canyon Place. Because the trail is narrow and can be muddy, Dixie Canyon Park is not stroller-friendly.

11. White Point Nature Preserve — San Pedro

Park Hours: Open daily from sunrise to sunset
Parking: Free Parking
Dogs on leashes are allowed.

In addition to an education center, the Preserve offers 102 acres of restored land and miles of hiking areas. Have a look at the trail maps and descriptions to find one that suits your family. Those in the Palos Verdes "hiking know" also recommend the Palos Verdes Views trail. This pleasant 1.6-mile romp offers a stunning look at Catalina Island, and sometimes even San Nicolas Island, 70 miles from shore. Park at Del Cerro Park (where Crenshaw Blvd. ends in Palos Verdes) and head to the gate at the very end of Crenshaw. Beyond the gate, follow the fire road. Dogs are allowed on leashes but beware of ticks. The trails at White Point Nature Preserve are definitely stroller-friendly!

RELATED: Stroller-friendly Hikes in Los Angeles for Parents with Babies and Toddlers

Hike in Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park where the stagecoach robbers used to hide. Photo courtesy of OC Parks

12. Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park — Laguna Niguel

Park Hours: Open daily from 7am - sunset
Parking: $3
Dogs on leashes are allowed.

A favorite fun and doable family walk here is the Dripping Cave. This moderate five-mile loop brings you to a cavernous space where stagecoach robbers actually hid out and stashed their goods years ago; burn marks from their fires are still visible. Park in the main parking area, and the trailhead is just beyond the picnic area. Some, but not all, of the trails are stroller-friendly.

Note: Aliso Creek Trail East is closed for the winter of 2022 due to the SOCWA pipe replacement project.

 
 Crystal Cove is so close to the ocean there are always wildflowers blooming. Photo courtesy of crystalcovestatepark.org

13. Crystal Cove State Park — Laguna Beach

Park Hours: Open daily from 6am-sunset
Parking: $5 an hour (with a maximum of $15 a day) at the Los Trancos parking lot, which is open year-round. Other lots are open Monday-Friday from October 1 to April 30 and charge the same rates.
Dogs on leashes are allowed on multi-use trails, but not on backcountry trails or beaches.

Seventeen miles of hiking trails through 2,400 acres of native wilderness? Yes, please! Choose from a variety of mild to strenuous trails and loops that offer ocean views, riparian woodlands, and the splendor of Morro Creek. Start or end the day (depending on the tides) combing the tide pools. Take a peek at the many historic cottages lining the coast and enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner at the Beachcomber Cafe. The cafe offers shuttle service from the Los Trancos parking lot. Moro Canyon Trail is stroller-friendly. Other trails have stroller-friendly segments but may be too steep to push a stroller with a child in it.

14. Solstice Canyon Loop — Malibu

Park Hours: Open daily from sunrise to sunset
Parking: There is limited free parking at the end of Solstice Canyon Rd. Emphasis on limited. You can park on Corral Canyon Rd., but be sure you're pulled fully off the road. Be very careful walking from the small dirt lot on Corral Canyon to the trailhead. People drive slowly but the road is extremely narrow with lots of blind twists and turns.
Dogs on leashes are allowed.

Get to Solstice Canyon early if you want a good parking spot! It's no surprise this gentle hike is one of the most popular in Southern California. The first part of the hike is along a fire road along a small stream. It's mostly flat and pretty easy for even smaller children to complete—and definitely stroller-friendly! After about a mile you'll reach the Roberts Ranch House ruins, which is fascinating for children to explore and learn about the building's history. The path to the waterfall isn't stroller-friendly, but it's a short distance to the falls. You can either turn back from the waterfall or continue along the Rising Sun Trails for spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica Mountains. The Rising Sun Trail sees some pretty steep elevation and isn't stroller-friendly, nor would I recommend trying to take a kid under five up the hill—it has some pretty steep drop-offs along the narrow trail.

RELATED: Wildlife Hikes in Los Angeles for Animal-loving Kids

 
You can see the Hollywood Sign from Runyon Canyon Park. Photo by @downtowngal, Creative Commons 3.0

15. Runyon Canyon Park — Hollywood

Park Hours: Daily from 7am-5pm
Parking: Free street parking - it's extremely limited on the blocks around the park entrance so you'll probably have to park a couple of blocks away. There's also free parking near the north entrance on Mulholland.
Dogs are allowed to be off-leash in designated areas. 

Hike like a celebrity (or tourist) at Runyon Canyon Park! A favorite of people trying to "be seen," it's also a really pleasant walk that most kids can accomplish. The paths are paved and the incline is really gradual. If you've got some tiny tots with you, it's very stroller-friendly throughout. If your family has a four-legged friend, this hiking trail essentially doubles as a dog park. Plus, you really can't beat the views of Downtown, Mid-Wilshire, the Westside, and even Long Beach on clear days! 

2022 Note: The East Trail is currently closed to hiking while the West Trail is a one-way loop from south to north.

16. Gabrielino Trail at Millard Canyon — Pasadena

Parking: Free parking in the dirt lot at the trailhead. Street parking is available if the lot is full.
Park Hours: Daily 8am-4:30pm
Dogs on leashes are allowed.

During the winter when Southern California is having one of those incredibly warm days following rainfall, the Gabrielino Trail at Millard Canyon is a nice easy hike. For several miles leading into the San Gabriel Mountains, this path is paved and twists around the Arroyo Seco as it heads towards Pasadena. As you hike along the path you'll get some incredible views of the Jet Propulsion Lab—and about a mile in, there's a great place to splash around in the water. The mostly-paved path is stroller-friendly.

17. Will Rogers State Park — Santa Monica

Parking: $12 per car
Park Hours: Daily 8am-sunset
Dogs on leashes are allowed anywhere that doesn't lead out of the park.

Located on the Westside near Pacific Palisades, Will Rogers State Park is one of the city's most popular parks. Inspiration Point Loop Trail will give you incredible views of the city and ocean and because it's on a fire road, it's all stroller-friendly. Come for (free) polo in the summer, and say hi to the horses at the stables all year-round. The grounds of the Will Rogers house are perfect for picnicking, and on select dates you can take a docent-led tour of the house. With epically clean bathrooms, this is a wonderful place to spend the whole day.

 
Wildwood Regional Park has a tepee overlook for shade. Photo courtesy of Mommy Poppins

18. Wildwood Regional Park — Thousand Oaks

Parking: Free parking lot
Park Hours: 8am-7pm
Dogs on leashes are allowed.

One of the treasures of the Conejo Valley is Wildwood Regional Park in Thousand Oaks. This park has loads of hiking trails, with the most notable and popular being the Paradise Falls trail. The paths take you through a chaparral landscape where you'll see plenty of the valley's namesake rabbits, a tepee overlook, and even a waterfall. Most of the hiking trails are on wide, flat fire roads so Wildwood Park is definitely stroller-friendly!

19. Ernest E. Debs Regional Park — Montecito Hills

Parking: Free Parking Lot
Park Hours: Daily 6:30am-9pm
Dogs on leashes are allowed.

Ernest E. Debs Regional Park is one of LA's more underrated parks, located just about halfway between Downtown LA and Pasadena. From its hilltop perch in the Montecito Hills, you'll get amazing views of the cityscape to the north and west. The park is huge and certainly less crowded than more famous green spaces in the city, like Griffith Park and Kenneth Hahn, so you'll feel even more like you're in a wild oasis in the center of the city. Debs Lake is a peaceful place for relaxation with hiking trails leading in every direction. The trails at Ernest E. Debs Regional Park are wide and flat (and some are paved), making them perfect for strollers.

20. Elysian Park — Echo Park

Parking: Free
Park Hours: Daily sunrise to sunset
Dogs on leashes are allowed.

Elysian Park is another under-the-radar park on the city's Eastside. While more popular than Debs Park due to its proximity to Dodger Stadium, Elysian Park is still pretty tranquil compared with, say, Griffith Park. There are plenty of grassy lawns and BBQ pits; after hitting the Elysian Park Trail you can grill up some hot dogs or carne asada for lunch while the kids frolic. Some of the trails in Elysian Park are stroller-friendly but most are not, so we find it easiest to leave the strollers at home.

Originally published January 14, 2012

Additional reporting by Matt Matasci

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