When I planned my trip to L.A., I was most excited about Runyon Canyon. Always talked about by celebrities and mentioned in magazines, I was so curious to check it out. Compared to the Hollywood hike, I was kind of disappointed. This was my best picture on the hike because otherwise I found the scenery not to be as interesting (since I did this two days after the Hollywood one). However, I would say it's still worth checking out and getting a good workout in.
After being scarred by the amount of people at Griffith Park, I resolved to get here as early as possible which paid off! I came here on a Tuesday morning, arriving around 7:15 am. I had read that there is a small parking lot (fits about 20 cars) at the intersection of Mulholland Drive and Pyramid Place so that is where I came and I easily pulled into an empty parking spot. By the time I left at 8:30 am, there was quite a line of cars waiting for a spot in the lot. There is street parking available too (somewhere below this area) but I didn't want to worry about figuring out the street signs/rules.
If you start from this parking lot, you should allot about an hour or less to do the loop from the top. Also, there are NO bathroom facilities here so take care of business before coming! When you park, you'll walk over to the entrance to the park and see two entrances--the left one goes into the park and will bring you to a mid-level area of trails overlooking L.A. The right one (which is a steep trail) goes all the way to the top and probably is the best views of the city from this park. I would recommend starting from the left side.
I didn't take as many pics (since the views were not as nice) but as you walk into the park from the left entrance, you will walk around the canyon (stay to the right up the trail path) and come upon a big house. It's like the only huge mansion in the area so you'll know. Anyway, next to/behind the house are stairs/trails to an overlook. You will have to walk down the trails/steps to get to the overlook. I initially thought this was highest point of the canyon but it is not! I also thought that if I passed by the house, I would be come back to the other side to the trail that leads back to the lot on the right side but it does not! If you pass this house, you'll just end up on a residential street. Anyway, I took the trail/steps down towards the overlook but didn't make it all the way to the overlook. I just wasn't as interested. On the way back to the lot from the direction I came, I saw another trail go up the canyon and realized that must be the trail into the loop at the very top and it was. It's very steep but this trail leads you up to the view in the pic above. I liked the trail/overlook up here much better than at the mid-level range. I only stayed briefly and then figured out the path that takes you back to the lot, where the entrance starts on the right side. All in all I spent exactly an hour at Runyon Canyon but compared to the Hollywood Hike, I wasn't as impressed but was glad to get another workout in.
Culver City Steps/Baldwin Scenic Overlook
The other park I liked better than Runyon Canyon was the Culver City Steps! Another name for this area is the Baldwin Scenic Overlook. I think I liked this one a lot because climbing up the stairs (282!) was challenging, and the people here were soooo into fitness! I honestly thought I was pretty fit/active until I came to L.A. Here at the steps, people were trekking it up/down multiple times. In addition, once they got to top platform/overlook, they were doing more exercises, like crunches, squats, etc.! Various people! I also saw a few people jogging up and down the hill multiple times as well. If you decide not to climb the steps, you can also take the slopey trails.
I am only 5'2" and there were some parts of the stairs that, if I was any shorter, I don't know how I would've gotten up! It only took me 15 minutes to get to the top but I definitely needed to stop, pant, and breathe a few times.
The view at the top was nicer than Runyon Canyon, in my opinion. But I just also loved the energy of all the people here. I forgot to mention that I came here on a Wednesday morning around 7:30 am and there was plenty of (free) street parking near the entrance on Hetzler Road (when I went, the road to the lot was closed for construction). The signs say you can park max two hours and you will probably spend an hour here.
After a bit of people watching, I took the trail back down to the street level and just enjoyed the views along the way. My legs were very sore but another good workout to get in!
The last thing I'll mention in this post is Zuma Beach. I didn't do any hiking here but it was a nice place to kill time in Malibu. It's a popular beach and when I pulled into the area, I parked at the parking meters (to the left when you enter) since I was staying for a short time. Otherwise it's $6 to park in the lot.I love that in LA all the parking meters take credit card! Very convenient. It was like $1 for an hour or something.
Anyway, I took a stroll on the beach and just enjoyed the serenity of it all since no one else was around on a Tuesday morning. I can imagine in the summer it must be packed and even more gorgeous!
So right before I left, I took one last look at the ocean and I could not believe my eyes. A huge whale head popped out of the water right near the shoreline! I was stunned! Then I saw a few dolphins pop up too! It was so cool. I hung out a few more minutes to watch the animals swim along. I couldn't get any pics but it was so cool. I had read that this is a good place to spot whales/dolphins in Dec-Jan. but I really did not expect to see anything! So, I really recommend checking this spot out since you never know what you might come across! I was here for just 45 minutes (10:15-11 am).