5 Tips before hiking Runyon Canyon

When you think of Los Angeles, chances are you don’t think hiking. You probably think of a concrete jungle, the Hollywood sign, celebrities, sunsets, palm trees and the beach.

Well, run away to Runyon Canyon and you get all of that plus a little nibble of the great outdoors. It’s a great space to visit regardless of if you’re visiting and star-scoping, or live in the L.A. area and want to view your entire empire (think “everything the light touches is our kingdom”).

Let me tell you what to do.

Ditch the car

I don’t own a vroom vroom. But I honestly feel I’m better off for it. See, when you stroll in Los Angeles–where, like the song, nobody walks–you get to really experience its true essence, good and bad.

Public transportation is a colorful adventure on its own, but it can also be particularly helpful when dealing with parking–which is next to impossible near the entrance to Runyon (and pretty much anywhere else in L.A.).

But also, if you take the Metro rail to Hollywood and Highland station and walk from there, en route to the trails you’ll literally find yourself among the stars (of the Hollywood Walk of Fame) and many of Hollywood’s most touristy attractions.

Visiting the Hollywood Walk of Fame just moments before taking the “sweat and tears” route of Runyon Canyon allows for feeling the jarring juxtaposition of different Los Angeles vibes. | Marisa Zocco, The Ramble

Take the route less traveled

My relationship with Runyon began as one of substitution. I used to be a bit of a nature snob, having grown up in Colorado near the mountains. I didn’t like the idea of seeing a gigantic metropolis beneath me as I trekked. I wanted to see trees, dirt and water. That’s it.

But not having the balls to explore random trails hours from my home all on my own, Runyon seemed like an okay option.

Long story short, there’s the concrete “easy-up” side of Runyon and the blood, sweat and tears side. At the time I had not discovered the latter. It took a celebrity crush (Dane Cook) to shed some light on the true magic of Runyon via his Instagram.

Entering the park from the Fuller Avenue entrance at the bottom of the canyon, there is an open wood-chipped space on the left. Cutting through that, a short dirt path leads to a sharp up-hill right turn onto Runyon Canyon Road (which serves as a popular moderate incline hiking “trail” to a majority of Runyon’s visitors).

This route isn’t bad for a workout but compared to what I’ll call the ridge trail, it’s honestly a little blah.  After taking the turn onto Runyon Canyon Road a few steps, the view isn’t terrible while stopping for a break.

Downtown Los Angeles as viewed from just feet up the Runyon Canyon Road hiking trail. | Marisa Zocco, The Ramble

Shortly after passing through an open gate on the road, as the concrete stretches straight forward, a sharp left turn onto a dirt path leads to the real expedition.

This trail climbs along the ridge of the canyon in steep bursts with several outcrops ideal for resting points. It’s a lot of work, but the views every step of the way are spectacular and make the sweat and breathlessness worth it.

Ahead: dirt and native California plant life.

The steepest part of the dirt trail at Runyon canyon is admittedly a challenge, but one with great rewards once reaching the top. | Marisa Zocco, The Ramble

Behind: panoramic views of Los Angeles spanning from the Hollywood sign to the Griffith Observatory, Hollywood and Los Angeles, Century City to the coastline.

The Hollywood sign takes center stage in front of snow-dusted mountains. | Marisa Zocco, The Ramble
A cactus sits near a small dirt outcropping of a Runyon Canyon ridge trail overlooking Hollywood Boulevard and downtown Los Angeles. | Marisa Zocco, The Ramble

Go just before sunset

They call it the magic hour for a reason. The great thing about a sunset hike at Runyon is that the golden blanket of light drapes all over the city and the sky is that perfect periwinkle blue.

The gray ocean horizon and dark silhouette of Century City is kissed by the hue of a golden California sunset. | Marisa Zocco, The Ramble

Sunset lends itself well to beautiful photos (and a beautiful experience). There’s just something about the constantly changing quality of light that makes the relationship between colors so much more subtle and romantic.

Way up at the top of a Runyon Canyon ridge trail, the eye starts to explore the relationship between nature and the urban landscape. | Marisa Zocco, The Ramble

And when the sun hits below the horizon, there’s a new painting lurking around every bend in the trail, whether it is a an evolving gradient sky, a tree against the cotton candy clouds, or a silhouette of modern technology intruding upon nature.

Plant life palm trees and power lines provide interesting contrast to the beauty of an L.A. sunset just beyond the major incline of a Runyon Canyon ridge trail. | Marisa Zocco, The Ramble.

At dusk, paint turns to glitter as the city lights begin to glow in a not-yet dark sky. It’s my second favorite time of day for a hike (and the most difficult to capture photographically without a tripod) when the buildings turn to loose star dust, not yet the compact orbs they evolve into when the skies go black.

After hiking up a ridge trail in Runyon Canyon, a loop reconnects the trail to a Runyon Canyon Road descent where at dusk, Los Angeles transforms into stardust and nebulae. | Marisa Zocco, The Ramble

Take a selfie with L.A. (and look good doing it)

With such beautiful surroundings and an awesome backdrop you gotta’ take a selfie. Plus, the lighting adds a natural “filter” to the skin tone. #nofilter

Make yourself look good (but not too good) on the hike. Be yourself and don’t try too hard. Another entertaining element to hiking Runyon is the people watching.

I’ve seen women in designer get-ups with perfectly curled hair and heavy makeup, “stretching” at the base of the hill; athletes bare-foot running up the trails; those commendable red-faced individuals sweating and panting off the visible extra pounds beneath too-big t-shirts. I’ve even passed at least one celebrity.

Just me and my besties, Holly Wood and Angie Less (of course I am the focus).

Be a Minimalist

I like to go for a healthy medium. Workout clothes, plain and simple and (sometimes if I feel like it) a smidge of Bare Minerals. More than that, it’s gonna melt off. Ew. (Yes, I learned the hard way.)

Anything else is going to get in the way of ease with the hike and with the aesthetic. I can count on one hand the number of backpacks I’ve seen. And I think I’m the only one who ever brought a purse. (I said I learned the hard way).

I generally hook and tuck my keys onto my sneaker laces, take my ID and debit card in a zipped clothing pocket and have my phone on hand for photos. For this blog I used my ancient (but loved and appeciated) 10.2 megapixel Sony A200 D-SLR and felt burdened. But if you must, you must.


Now, go forth, I urge! And be ready for your heart to pound not just with the workout but with love for the views and experience that is Runyon.




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