This week’s post comes from guest post writer Paul McCormin from Active Authorities, a website built by people passionate about outdoor activities, who believe that experiencing the outdoors is one of the many joys of life.
Nestled between the San Gabriel Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Los Angeles is an exciting area to explore the outdoors. For those seeking adventure, stepping foot outside the city’s boundaries promises thrilling experiences. If you are taking a trip to Los Angeles, I highly encourage considering adding hikes to your itinerary; southern California is home to some beautiful trails. Since there are so many to choose from, it can be hard to find the best ones. To save you some time, let me present to you three of my favorite hiking trails near the Los Angeles area.
Ladder Canyon and Big Painted Canyon
If your route in California happens to go through Palm Springs between October – April, then this hike covering Ladder Canyon and Big Painted Canyon is definitely a place to see. The mild 4.5 mile route explores two slot canyons with a panoramic desert, caves, narrow passages, spectacular geology, as well as an unexpectedly broad range of local plant life. One could even argue that this hike loop provides the largest number of different sites per mile in the entirety of southern California.
This hiking trail is a bit less friendly in terms of difficulty than the Trail of 100 Giants, which I have listed next. Aside from the considerable 950 foot elevation gain, the area is susceptible to flash flooding after rains, as is the case with any slot canyon. Fortunately, the park closes during and after rainfall for safety reasons. Your hike here thereby requires a bit of planning to make sure that the routes are open after a recent rain. When I went with family, I used AllTrails to check out the weather, as well as recent reviews to see if there were any worthwhile tips from others before we headed out.
Another crucial point to bear in mind is that the ladders giving Ladder Canyon its name are maintained by volunteers, meaning that there is no guarantee that they will be completely safe and working. If you aren’t really comfortable with hiking in such conditions, you can either hike with others (it’s never a good idea to hike alone!) or hike two miles round trip to avoid these ladders.
The last point that you should keep in mind is that the trails here can be a bit unclear, though the footprints of other hikers and trail cairns located along the route will direct you through the canyons. The positive in this is it gives you the feeling of freedom to explore. There are a decent amount of other hikers visiting these canyons, so I wouldn’t worry about getting lost.
Nonetheless, the hiking route of Ladder Canyon and Big Painted Canyon has a number of breathtaking canyon scenes and striking mountain ranges for you to delight upon. Although this hiking trail probably isn’t the most convenient route to go through if you aren’t as adventurous, it will certainly leave you with thrilling memories that are hard to get anywhere else near California.
Trail of 100 Giants
Located in Giant Sequoia National Monument, the Trail of 100 Giants lies at a considerable distance from Los Angeles. However, if you are doing a road trip from a northern city such as San Jose, San Francisco, or Sacramento going south toward Los Angeles, the Trail of 100 Giants is worth a stop, especially for hiking enthusiasts. On a long Cali road trip driving from Sacramento to LA, I specifically stopped at the Trail of 100 Giants. I had heard great things about its scenery so I decided, why not?
Spanning a mere 1.4 miles, this hiking trail may seem too short to be worth driving to. However, if you are someone who prefers and appreciates an amazing setting instead of a challenging hike, it could very well be worth the views alone. I am in my mid-50’s, so hike difficulty is definitely something I consider for each trail. This is not a challenging trail.
When you do finally get to the Trail of 100 Giants, you will certainly appreciate its landscape and foliage. Thanks to its short length, you will have the opportunity to behold the most notable species of giant sequoias. All of this nature is available to you, of course, without having to exert your body too much.
The average age of these local giant sequoias is said to be between 500 and 1,500 years! Most remarkably, Giant Sequoia National Monument houses the Boole Tree, one of the ten largest giant sequoias on the planet. The mere sight of these trees is incredible; after all, the giant sequoia is widely considered to be one of the largest living organisms on Earth!
This hike actually consists of two short routes: the Trail of 100 Giants itself, as well as the Trail of the Fallen Giants named in honor of two adjoined sequoias that fell in 2011.
The unnoticeable 100 foot elevation gain of the hiking trail makes it an excellent location for relaxed strolling. The paved trail is wheelchair accessible and child-friendly so family trips to this site would be more than appropriate. As a bonus, dogs on leashes are also allowed here.
Even though this hiking trail is highly popular with hikers, it still delivers a strong vibe of remoteness, mostly due to the dense woodland terrain. This solitude is beneficial, allowing hikers to fully appreciate the grandeur of the giant inhabitants of this beautiful US National Monument.
Odds are that you have seen Mount Baldy on one of your previous trips to Los Angeles. Its peak is visible on even the smoggiest of days, so the mountain-top has probably been at the center of your attention on multiple occasions. After all, Mount Baldy is the highest peak in all of Los Angeles County.
Technically, Mount Baldy’s name is Mount San Antonio, but the former has been used much more commonly by California locals for decades. The name Mt. Baldy is so common that some of the locals don’t even recognize the name Mt. San Antonio!
Nevertheless, Mt. Baldy is a hiker’s dream for those looking for a challenge. The most commonly used Ski Hut trail does not joke around with its 3,900 foot altitude gain. Steep climbs are a common occurrence on this route, so a pair of hiking poles will certainly come in handy even for the most experienced and seasoned of hikers. Water is absolutely necessary in any of these hikes, but seemingly more so when it comes to Mt. Baldy. Hiking a mountain at a high elevation puts a huge strain on your body and while it won’t be hot at the summit, your body still needs hydration. For this, I carry around a Lifestraw Go bottle, which I have reviewed on my blog.
A slightly less extreme route starts from Manker Flats. Initially, it shares the unpromising views of a maintenance road with the Ski Hut, but soon proceeds to a fairly steady 3 mile climb.
One of the noteworthy points of this hiking route is the infamous Devil’s Backbone, boasting excellent views of Lytle Canyon to the right and San Antonio Canyon to the left. The Backbone is also just a couple of hundred feet away from the summit of Mt. Baldy, though the climb will be much harder at this point.
After reaching the peak and enjoying the spectacular views of Los Angeles County, the Angeles National Forest, and the San Gabriel Mountains, you can pose by the big metal plaque inscribed with the mountain’s name and altitude (10,064 feet), immortalizing your moment with a photo. Then begins the beautiful and equally challenging descent from the mountain. This is where you will be really glad that you have hiking poles and tough hiking boots with you. In the end, tired and sore, you will have all the rights to brag that you conquered Mount Baldy.
All of these trails are within a simple road trip from the Los Angeles area. Just like with most exciting experiences in California, you might have to travel a bit to reach them. But in the end, it is all worth it. I had an amazing time traveling and challenging myself alongside my family. Whether you live in California or are just there to visit, hiking and exploring the depths of California is one of the most fun and memorable things you can do.
Many thanks again to Paul McCormin from ActiveAuthorities.com for contributing to this guest post!