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Los Angeles is blessed with great weather all year-round. That being said, there is no reason to waste these beautiful days by sitting inside. Instead, try canoeing and kayaking in Los Angeles! With inexpensive rentals and minimal coordination required, this is the perfect activity for anyone looking for an outdoor adventure. With sandy shorelines, crystal clear waters, and breathtaking cliffs, Los Angeles is the perfect place to try kayaking for the first time or hone your skills.

Below is a list of the best spots to canoe and kayak in Los Angeles. The scenic spots are a hot-spot for wildlife, especially fish and birds. Whether you want calm waters for a relaxing paddle or Class IV rapids, LA has it all.

Red canoes paddle across choppy blue waves along the coast of LA.
Kayaking in Los Angeles is a great way to explore the outdoors!

Best Spots to Go Canoeing and Kayaking in Los Angeles

Castaic Lake State Recreational Area

  • Location: Castaic, CA
  • Rentals Available: Yes

A principle part of California’s State Water Project, Castaic Lake State Recreational Area features 29 miles of beautiful shoreline, and contains two bodies of water. For canoeing and kayaking, head to Lower Lake for a scenic escape from the city and loud power-boats. Kayaking also is allowed on the upper reservoir, which includes more than 2,200 acres and 29 miles of shoreline and coves to explore.

If visiting, paddling to the 425-foot tall Castaic Dam is one major attraction in this beautiful reservoir. The park also lies next to Angeles National Forest- a great spot for an afternoon hike and lunch!

Just 40 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, Castaic Lake is a must for canoe and kayakers of all abilities. Kayaks, paddleboards and pedal-driven hydra bikes ($25 an hour; $75 for five hours on Saturdays and Sundays) are available for rent on weekends.

How to Get There: Take US-101 N towards Sacramento, then I-5 N towards Castaic to Castaic Road.

Lake Balboa

  • Location: Van Nuys, CA
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at Wheel Fun( $6 to $11/hour)

Located just north of the 101 freeway in the San Fernando Valley, Lake Balboa’s still waters provide the perfect environment for novice paddlers to improve their skills! A peaceful 27-acre oasis, Lake Balboa resides in Beilenson Park which is open everyday until sunset. Because this lake is on the smaller side, it is perfect for a novice paddler to get some practice under their belt.

These “flat waters” are wonderful for birdwatching and fishing- and for newcomers L.A. City Parks offers a learn-to-kayak program! Whether you’re looking for an easy nature paddle or trying to improve your skills, Lake Balboa is a great place to explore.

The park rents hand-cranked boats and pedal boats shaped like giant swans through Wheel Fun ($6 to $11 an hour). Paddling is free, but kayaks must be inspected by lifeguards before they are allowed on the lake to make sure they don’t carry invasive species.

How to Get There: Take the US-101 N exit toward Ventura/Ventura Fwy, then take exit 21 for Balboa Blvd to get to Lake Balboa.

A stack of canoes is ready for rent at many of Los Angeles' marinas!
Bring your own boat or rent from one of Los Angeles’ many marinas start your water adventure!

Puddingstone Reservoir

  • Location: San Dimas
  • Cost: $7
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at Wheel Fun ($12/hour)

There’s no better place to cool off from the California sunshine than Puddingstone Reservoir in Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park. With five miles of shoreline to paddle down and beaches to swim around, there is plenty for all ability levels to explore in this park.

With over 250 species of birds spotted around the reservoir, this lake is guaranteed to have abundant wildlife and is clean, as motorized boats are not allowed on the reservoir- go check it out!

Kayaking near Los Angeles is easy with Wheel Fun Rentals (kayaks start at $12 an hour, pedal boats at $20 and stand-up paddleboards, $12) at the swim beach and east shore. Visitors can bring their own kayaks and boats, but they must be inspected before entering the water.

How to Get There: Start on 101-S to San Bernardino Freeway towards E Via Verde St., then to Raging Waters Dr. and Puddingstone Dr.

Huntington Harbor

  • Location: Huntington Beach, CA
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at OEX ($10/hour)

A hot-spot for beginners, Huntington Harbor’s protected waters have a smooth and subtle current that will have your cruising around the beach! With tons of canals to discover, Huntington Harbor is perfect for thrill-seekers who want to experience something new (especially in the northwest corner of the beach).

Single kayaks and stand-up paddleboards are available for rent at OEX– $20 for up to two hours; a double kayak costs $30 for two hours. Typically, guided tours around the harbor last about 90 minutes.

If tired of canoeing and kayaking, feel free to test out the pedal boats also available for rent at the beach, $30 for two hours for singles, and $55 for doubles. If launching your own boats, head to Seabridge Park or Trinidad Island Park for a free launch into the water.

How to Get There: Start on 101-S, toward San Diego, then take exit 20 for Bolsa Chica Road to Wanderer Ln.

Boats, houeboats, and houses peek through bushes and tress around beautiful Huntington Harbor- the perfect place for beginners to kayak in Los Angeles!
Views of boats and luxury homes border the sprawling waters of Huntington Harbor. Photo Credit: Gregg L Cooper (Flickr CC)

Newport Back Bay

Located in the heart of Orange County, Newport Back Bay is the largest estuary in Southern California, and a huge destination for kayakers of all levels.

Newport’s coastline offers views of million dollar homes and tiny islands near the Balboa peninsula. Paddling south of the harbor you will find the scenic rock cliffs of Corona Del Mar. Here, you can paddle through Arch Rock, a naturally formed rock bridge coming out of the water. Although it can get a little windy, exploring rock cliffs and caves is definitely a must only list!

The Back Bay is a salt marsh that is home to many birds and several endangered species. You can take a two-hour guided kayak tour ($25) through the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve with a naturalist every Saturday and Sunday morning year-round. Newport Bay Conservancy also offers tours that are great for novice paddlers and has rentals for $15 an hour.

How to Get There: Take US 101- S to CA-73 S towards San Diego, then take Jamboree Rd to Back Bay Rd.

Alamitos Bay

  • Location: Long Beach
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at Kayak Rentals ($12/hour)

Located in Long Beach, Alamitos Bay is a family-friendly protected harbor with still waters great for novice paddlers. Whether you enjoy looking at luxury homes on the shoreline or finding peace in nature, Alamitos Bay is one of the most popular places to kayak near Los Angeles.

The northern part of the bay is home to The Los Cerritos wetlands, a popular spot for birds and other wildlife. The canals running through Naples Islands also offer boat-free relaxation.

Kayaks and SUPs are available from Kayak Rentals; kayaks cost $12 an hour per person for singles and doubles; SUPs cost $25 per hour, with instruction included. A typical tour of the canals takes about 45 minutes, and you can even paddle to six restaurants. If launching your own boat, head to Naples Landing, Mothers Beach, or Marine Stadium launch spots.

How to Get There: Take US 101-S towards San Diego, then onto Studebaker Rd. toE Marina Dr.

A single kayaker marvels at the gigantic mountains and trees of Pyramid Lake in Los Angeles.
Kayakers can enjoy gigantic mountain views while paddling on Pyramid Lake. Photo Credit: NW Boating (Flickr CC)

Pyramid Lake

  • Location: Castaic, CA
  • Rentals Available: No

Hidden among interstate I-5 in the Angeles National Forest, Pyramid Lake is known for its fishing and peaceful paddle conditions. Pyramid Lake is known for being windy, especially in the afternoon, so be careful and hold onto your hats!

Novice paddlers should definitely explore the first four coves on the eastern side of the lake, a perfect hideaway from the wind, and conveniently located by the Tin Cup picnic area (food is fuel!). If you’re an early riser, get out on the water- deer are usually spotted grazing on the Priest and Glory Hole Coves.

If launching your own boat, head over to  Emigrant Landing Launch for free entry. Trust me, you won’t want to miss the vivid hues of green and blue that appear on Pyramid Lake.

How to Get There: Take I-5 N towards Sacramento, then take exit  191 for Vista Del Lago Rd.

Santa Cruz Island

  • Location: Santa Cruz
  • Rentals Available: Yes

Arguably the most popular island for sea kayaking near Los Angeles, Santa Cruz Island has hundreds of sea caves to explore- most notably Santa Cruz Island’s Painted Cave, one of the largest sea caves in the world.

Tons of companies offer tours of the island and its caves. Santa Barbara Adventure Company offers a deluxe all-inclusive Painted Cave day trip that departs from Santa Barbara harbor on a charter vessel equipped with hot showers and all the gear you’ll need. You’ll enjoy breakfast and hopefully some whale-watching en route to Santa Cruz Island, where you’ll then hit the water in kayaks for a day of exploring. Remember to pack a good headlamp to light up the multi-hued cave walls, with colors caused by lichen and minerals. 

Besides kayaking, the Island is known for awesome snorkeling and adventures to kelp forests and radical rock formations. Scorpion Anchorage is another well-known spot to paddle around the island.

Sea kayaking is a new level of paddling- novices beware! These tours are for all levels, but you might be sore the next day!

How to Get There: Visitor centers in Ventura and Santa Barbara are readily accessible by car or public transportation, but getting straight to Santa Cruz Island requires taking a ferry run by Island Packers (offered 5-7 days a week, hour-long ride).

Jagged cliffs and countless coves litter the coast of the Santa Cruz Islands, which makes kayaking in Los Angeles so thrilling to explore!
Explore the numerous coves along Santa Cruz Island!

Lake Hughes

  • Location: Palmdale, CA
  • Rentals Available: No

A rustic, small getaway, Lake Hughes is the perfect spot for a relaxing paddle and lunch on the water. Don’t be like the others and overlook this gem! Because of its small size, Lake Hughes is never too crowded and great for beginners.

Lake Hughes is located right across from the Rock Inn- a must-see historical landmark. Known for its kayaking, fishing, and hiking, Lake Hughes is a little slice of heaven. An afternoon of paddling around an area with a rich history is just what you need to have a stress-free weekend.

How to Get There: Start on US 101-N towards Sacramento, then I-5 N towards Castaic to Lake Hughes Rd.

Marina Del Ray Harbor

Bursting with life, Marina Del Ray Harbor is an awesome place to explore all LA has to offer! Paddlers can peruse Fisherman’s Village along the coast, a strip of cute shops and restaurants. Marina Del Ray offers eight protected canals for smooth and ideal paddling.

Kayaking through Marina Del Ray is always an exhilarating experience; wildlife, including leopard sharks, can be spotted all around. This popular spot can get crowded, so it is recommended to get out on the water as soon as possible.

The Pro SUP Shop at Mother’s Beach offers stand-up paddleboards and kayak rentals ($25 an hour for a single, $35 for a double). Standard paddleboard rentals cost $25 an hour, and lessons are also offered. Marina Del Ray Boat Rentals also has tons of rental options ready to go right on the beach!

If launching your own boat, head to Mother’s Beach or Marina Del Ray Launch Ramp for free entry to the water.

How to Get There: Start on I-10 W towards Long Beach, then CA-1 S to Playa Vista onto Via Marina Rd.

A group of kayakers huddle uo near the sandy shores of Marina Del Ray. With beaches and wildlife, Marina Del Ray is one of the most accessible places to kayak in Los Angeles.
Kayak along the sandy beaches of beautiful Marina Del Ray. Photo Credit: Alex Chong (Flickr CC)

Kern River Rafting

  • Location: Bakersfield
  • Rentals Available: No

Kern River Rafting offers a multitude of crazy white water rafting tours the whole family can enjoy! The river rafting tours explore the Upper, Lower, and Forks of the Kern River. Tours range from one day, to overnight, to two day rafting adventures.

Cruising through Class IV rapids, this adventure is not for the weak-hearted. Miles of rapids, waves, and rockfall scenery provide a beautiful backdrop for this epic journey.

All tours are led by certified river rafting guides, and there are special discounts on some tours too. Check out the outfitter’s website here for more information.

How to Get There: Start on US-101 N towards Sacramento, then CA-99 N to Bakersfield to Wolford Heights Blvd.

L.A. River

Kayaking near Los Angeles doesn’t get more convenient than the L.A. River. Once the weather warms up, the L.A. River becomes open to the public for a summer of amazing paddles. There are two zones open for kayaking. First is The Elysian Valley zone in the the Glendale Narrows. The only part of the river without a concrete base, you will find grassy lands all around. This part of the river is swift-moving, with Class I and II rapids along the way.

The other zone open to the public is The Sepulveda Basin zone near Lake Balboa. This area of the river has calmer waters and tree-lined banks. For this new to paddling, this is a great place to start.

If looking to kayak in the Elysian Valley zone, you must launch you boat from Rattlesnake Park, a sandbar before the currents. If looking to launch near The Sepulveda Basin zone, there are many spots along the coast to enter and exit the river. Rental kayaks and boats are available at L.A. River Kayaks.

How to Get There: Start on E Olympic Blvd to S Santa Fe Ave. From there, head to E 26th St. to bring you to the river.

White water rafting down the intense rapids of Kern River is one of the most challenging places to kayak in Los Angeles.
Experience the crazy rapids of the Kern River by whitewater rafting. Photo Credit: Dave & Anna Douglass (Flickr CC)

Catalina Island

  • Location: Catalina Island
  • Cost: $75 roundtrip ferry ride to the island
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at DBOS

Located just 22 miles off the coast of Southern California, Catalina Island boasts coves and clear waters that make it ideal for spotting wildlife while kayaking. Observant paddlers can catch a glimpse of California’s state marine fish, golden orange garibaldis, in addition to leopard sharks, dolphins, and other marine life.

Catalina Island’s 52 miles of coastline can be explored on a solo journey or through the tons of guided tours on the island. Kayak and SUP rentals are available from DBOS, and are priced by the hour, giving you total control over how much time you want to spend exploring this beautiful place.

Although it takes a little planning to get to Catalina Island, the shorelines are accessible to all levels, making it a great island-getaway. This paddle offers a truly unique experience kayaking near the Los Angeles area without having to spend big bucks on a vacation.

How to Get There: You can get to Catalina Island by boat or helicopter. There are daily ferry departures from San Pedro, Long Beach and Dana Point to Avalon and Two Harbors, and helicopters from Newport Beach.

Bright blue waters crash against the rocky cliffs of Catalina Island, a ferry ride away from Los Angeles.
There’s never a better time to explore the beautiful coastline of Catalina Island! Photo Credit: Matt Swiller (Flickr CC)

Additional Resources for Kayaking in Los Angeles

What to Pack for Kayaking and Canoeing in Los Angeles

  • Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare men’s and women’s styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
  • Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses and croakies to keep them from falling off.
  • Hat: It’s best to keep the sun off of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
  • Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles.
  • Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with you to ward off any pests and sunburns.

For a more complete packing list, check out our ultimate kayaking packing list to help you prepare for all of your outdoor kayak adventures. These essentials will make your time kayaking and canoeing an unforgettable experience!

Related Links to Canoeing and Kayaking in Los Angeles

While Los Angeles is known typically for is sparkling beaches and celebrity sighting spots, there’s a vibrant set of outdoor activities in LA, too. Hitting the trails is one of the easiest things to do in the city, as there are so many beautiful places to go hiking in Los Angeles. We’ve put together this list of the best hikes in Los Angeles to help you plan your next outdoor adventure! Whether you’re looking for canyons and deserts or forests and waterfalls, our list definitely has at least one trail that will be up your alley.

Looking for the perfect gift for your favorite hiker? Here’s a comprehensive list of our
35 favorite (practical) gifts for hikers, updated for 2020!

Top Hikes In Los Angeles

Mount Hollywood Trail

  • Distance: 5.3 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
  • How to Get There: You can drive or take the Observatory/Los Feliz bus to the West Observatory Rd & Mt. Hollywood Dr. stop, then begin your hike from there.

As one of the most iconic hikes in Los Angeles, the Mount Hollywood Trail is a popular 5.3-mile route through the wildflower-laden hills of the LA area. From here, you’ll catch panoramic views of Los Angeles, as well as some of the most photo-worthy spots to see the famed Hollywood sign. Since it’s an incredibly popular hike for locals and tourists alike, we’d strongly recommend getting there early, even on weekdays. You’ll avoid massive bottlenecks and escape the mid-day sun. Plus, if you arrive before 8 AM, the parking at the Observatory is free!

Cahuenga Park to Wisdom Tree

  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • How to Get There: Park on Lake Hollywood drive and head east on Wonder View drive until the road turns into a dirt path. 

Cahuenga Park to Wisdom Tree is one of the most beloved urban hikes in Los Angeles. This trail takes you up through LA’s highest peak to a lone tree with views overlooking the entire city. The trail is relatively new as this part of the park was recently opened up after some private donations bought out the previously privately owned land.

There are some moderately tough climbs along the rugged trail. In the summertime, this hike can be challenging as there is virtually no shade along the entire path. At the end of the trail is a beautiful, solitary tree (famous in the LA area) that doubles as a geocaching location.

Los Angeles, California, USA downtown skyline from Griffith Park.

Griffith Observatory Trail 

  • Distance: 2-4 miles (varies depending on trailhead)
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate (depending on weather)
  • How to Get There: From Hollywood, head up Fern Dell Dr from Los Feliz Blvd. Pick a parking location along that road. There are multiple trailheads here.

One of Los Angeles’ most popular hikes, the Griffith Observatory Trail will offer you incredible views of the city (especially at nighttime). There are multiple trails in this area but most lead up to the observatory. Pick the easiest location to park along the main road and walk the hour long trails up to the observatory. The nice thing about this trail is that you will avoid the parking nightmare at the observatory and will have some relative peace and quiet on the trail.

At the end of the trail, you’ll have the option to branch off and take several other longer hikes including one to the Hollywood sign. 

Brush Canyon Trail

  • Distance: 2.8 miles out and back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • How to Get There: Head up Fern Dell Dr from Los Feliz Dr until it takes a sharp left turn. The trailhead is here.

Brush Canyon Trail is a wonderful hike for those on a time crush, as it boasts breathtaking views of LA, Griffith Observatory, and the Hollywood sign.  You’ll head uphill for the first half of the trail. In the middle, the trail levels out and turns into a loop that offers you views of all three attractions. This part of the trail is usually never crowded and it’s common to have the whole trail to yourself during the weekday. Bring your fur babies as this trail is dog friendly. Be careful during summer as there is little shade on the trail and the heat can get unbearable. 

Photo Credit: James Tapparo II (Flickr CC)

Runyon Canyon

  • Distance: 2.7 miles
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • How to Get There: Drive on 101 to Exit 11A (Barham Boulevard), then drive to the top of Fuller Avenue from there.

As one of the more challenging spots for hiking near LA, Runyon Canyon is a quite popular trail for more experienced hikers in the city. Along the steep inclines and descents and gravel paths, you’ll see striking views of the entire Los Angeles area. On clear days, you can even catch sparkles of the Pacific Ocean behind the towering skyline! Note that the gravel paths on this hike can pose additional challenges/safety hazards, so if you choose to tackle it, proceed with caution. Hikers that want a bit less strenuous of a hike can tackle the Runyon Park to Indian Rock trail instead.

Pro tip: The park can get quite crowded every day, so we’d recommend going extra early to secure parking and see beautiful early morning views of LA out to the ocean.

Fryman Canyon Loop at Wilacre Park

  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
  • How to Get There: The easiest way to get here is by car, but you can also take an MTA bus directly to the park.

Located in the Hollywood Hills near Wilacre Park, the Fryman Canyon Trail is a quick, relatively easy trail for catching some beautiful sunset views and a bit of serenity in chaotic LA. The loop is dog-friendly and passes by the Tree People headquarters, where you can catch some beautiful views of the valley and the city below (especially at sunrise and sunset). While some of the trails here do follow paved roads, you’ll find options for dirt/gravel paths as well – choose your own adventure! Given that this is a popular spot for hiking in Los Angeles, you can simply ask others on the trail if you’re unsure of where to go next.

Eaton Canyon Natural Area is a 190-acre zoological, botanical, and geological nature preserve situated at the base of the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains

Eaton Canyon

  • Distance: 3.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
  • How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Eaton Canyon is by car

If you’re looking for something a little different than sweeping city views, Eaton Canyon is one of the best hikes in Los Angeles for you. Located in Pasadena, the trail has more of a forest and waterfall atmosphere than a purely urban one, featuring a 40-foot cascade and views of the surrounding mountains.

During summertime, the trail area gets very popular because it’s mostly shaded – however, if you get there early, you’ll probably be able to beat the crowds. There’s also a Nature Center near the entrance to the trail, perfect for cooling off or for a family-friendly afternoon.

Inspiration Point Loop

  • Distance: 9 miles
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Inspiration Point Loop is by car

Looking for a longer adventure in the mountains? Inspiration Point Loop is one of the most beloved hikes in LA for more experienced hikers, as it’s a half-day excursion (5-7 hours) through the hills to a stunning vista called Inspiration Point. The trail boasts a variety of terrain and is especially beautiful at sunrise. However, it’s quite exposed with little shade, so be sure to wear sunscreen and bring sunglasses and a hat to protect yourself from the sun, especially if you’re hiking during mid-day.

Photo Credit: Megan Rosenbloom (Flickr CC)

Los Liones Trail to Parker Mesa Overlook

  • Distance: 4.4-7.3 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
  • How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Los Liones Trail is by car

The Los Liones Trail to Parker Mesa Overlook is arguably one of the prettiest places to go hiking in Los Angeles, with its views of both the city skyline and the coast. On clear days, you’ll be able to see the entire panorama, from mountains to city to sea – one of the most beautiful representations of Los Angeles, if you ask us. Depending on the route you take, the hike can be quite easy or pretty difficult with rock scrambles. They all end at the beautiful Parker Mesa Overlook, which is absolutely stunning.

Pro tip: There’s poison oak along the trail, so be sure to cover your legs and arms and wear long socks.

Devils Backbone Mt. Baldy - Hikes Near Los Angeles
Photo Credit: James (Flickr CC)

Scenic Hikes Near Los Angeles

Devil’s Backbone

  • Distance: 6.6 miles
  • Difficulty: Strenuous

Recommended to us by several locals, Devil’s Backbone is not for the faint of heart. This 6.6 mile out-and-back trail has challenging, steep inclines and descents, and offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains nearby. Because of its length and difficulty, we wouldn’t recommend Devil’s Backbone for beginners, but if you’ve got several hikes under your belt and want a real challenge, this is a great trail to tackle. Be sure to pack some layers, plenty of water, snacks, and sun protective gear – the trail is fairly exposed and can get chilly at times!

Pro tip: You can combine Devil’s Backbone with Mount Baldy Loop (below) for a full-day hiking adventure in the Mount Baldy area.

Mount Baldy Loop

  • Distance: 11.3 miles
  • Difficulty: Strenuous

One of the most beloved places to go hiking near Los Angeles is around Mount Baldy. The quintessential hike there is the Mount Baldy Loop, which brings you to the summit of the mountain and over stunning ridges, with some challenging terrain to boot. Experienced hikers will love the variety of the trail and the steep ups and downs. However, it’s important to bring sun protection gear and some layers, as it does get windy at the top and the trails are very exposed.

An important safety note: Mount Baldy is a hike for experienced hikers only and it’s especially important to be careful when hiking Baldy in the winter. There have been many hiking deaths reported on Mount Baldy. Be prepared, vigilant, and experienced enough before attempting this hike, and do not go alone.

Photo Credit: Brian (Flickr CC)

Bridge to Nowhere

  • Distance: 9.3 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate (with a few river crossings)

If you’re into history and abandoned structures, the eerie but scenic Bridge to Nowhere Trail is one of the most interesting hikes near Los Angeles. A gravel trail winds through the mountains and ends at a 130-foot long abandoned bridge, left over from an attempt to build a road in the area in the 1930s. Located in the San Gabriel Mountains, you’ll catch some stunning views of the countryside, as well as a few river crossings and abandoned structures. This is definitely a fun and interesting hike for those looking for a challenge!

Escondido Canyon and Falls

  • Distance: 3.7 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

For a family-friendly waterfall hike that’s not too challenging, Escondido Canyon and Falls is a fantastic option. As one of the easier waterfall hikes near Los Angeles, this trail is usually lined by colorful wildflowers, rocky outcroppings, and beautiful views into the canyon itself. Depending on the rain levels, the waterfall can be a tiny trickle or a larger cascade, but we’d like to think that this trail is more about the journey than the destination, anyway.

Sandstone Peak - Hiking Near Los Angeles
Photo Credit: Erin Johnson (Flickr CC)

Sandstone Peak

  • Distance: 5.7 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Want to hike to the tallest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains? Lace up those boots and head up to Sandstone Peak. Although it’s a summit hike, it’s not too strenuous, so it’s great for folks who want an easier climb to a stunning peak view. To get to the peak, you’ll start up Backbone Trail (not to be confused with Devil’s Backbone in Mount Baldy), then hike up a gradual incline to the peak. Note that you’ll need to take a short side trail to get to the actual summit, as the trail passes around it.

Paradise Falls - Best Hikes Near LA
Photo Credit: Alex Mladenovic (Flickr CC)

Paradise Falls in Wildwood Park

  • Distance: 2.7 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The Paradise Falls Trail at Wildwood Park is one of the most popular, family-friendly places to go hiking near LA. This short, moderate trail leads to a stunning emerald green waterfall cascading down a rock face. Along the way, you can catch glimpses of the desert plant and wildlife, as well as views of the surrounding rolling hills. Because this is such a popular hike, we recommend going early in the morning or on weekdays to avoid large crowds.

Solstice Canyon

  • Distance: 3.2 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Located in the Santa Monica Mountains, Solstice Canyon is one of the best family-friendly hikes near LA. With plenty of shade and lots of stunning views of the mountains and the ocean, the trail here is fairly easy and accessible to hikers of all levels. Along the trail, you can find a handful of abandoned buildings, as well as tiny babbling waterways and cascades. You’ll also pass by the Tropical Terrace, a beautiful oasis on the trail with tropical plants and statues housed in an abandoned building.

Photo Credit: Mitch Barrie (Flickr CC)

Santa Anita Canyon Loop

  • Distance: 9.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

As one of the most beautiful hikes near Los Angeles, the Santa Anita Canyon Loop is a half- to full-day hike that boasts waterfalls, canyons, and mountains galore. The views here are varied throughout the loop, providing a diverse set of terrain and visuals for hikers, and the trail is mostly shaded. Keep in mind that you’ll need to cross some creeks, so waterproof hiking boots are recommended! However, for those who take on the challenge, Santa Anita Canyon is one of the hidden gems for hiking near Los Angeles.

Photo Credit: daveynin (Flickr CC)

Point Mugu State Park

  • Distance: Varies
  • Difficulty: Varies

While it’s not a specific trail, there are few parks more magnificent in the LA area than Point Mugu State Park. With breathtaking views of the mountains and the rocky shoreline, you’ll be up for a real spectacle on the hiking trails here. Hit up the Scenic and Overlook Trails Loop for some of the most stunning views on an easy to moderate trail, or tackle the Point Mugu Peak Trail for a bit more of a strenuous challenge to the summit.

Photo Credit: Barry Mulling (Flickr CC)

Wildwood Canyon

  • Distance: 2.3 miles
  • Difficulty: Strenuous

Wildwood Canyon is a fun and challenging hike near Burbank, perfect if you’re short on time or don’t want to do a half-day hike. Don’t be fooled by the sort length of this hike – it’s actually quite difficult with some very steep inclines. During the hike, you’ll see beautiful views of the canyon, as well as the Los Angeles skyline in the distance. With shaded areas as well as wide open ridges, Wildwood Canyon packs a punch for diversity in terrain and difficulty. Don’t miss this spectacular trail!

Photo Credit: Giuseppe Milo (Flickr CC)

Joshua Tree National Park

  • Distance: Varies
  • Difficulty: Moderate

While it’s not exactly the closest spot for hiking near Los Angeles, we’d be remiss if we left out the stunning trails of Joshua Tree National Park. Known for its incredible bouldering and climbing opportunities, as well as its signature trees, Joshua Tree is a fantastic spot for anyone who likes to hike.

At just 2-2.5 hours from LA, Joshua Tree is do-able in a day trip (though we’d recommend booking a hotel or camping and staying longer!). Hikers in the area especially love the Barker Dam, Ryan Mountain, and Lost Palms Oasis trails for great views of the park and its unique rock formations.

Additional Resources for Hiking Near Los Angeles

  • Hiking boots – You can’t hike without appropriate footwear, period. For most trails, we recommend an all-purpose waterproof boot with ankle support. We recommend Salomon hiking boots or Keen hiking boots for a comfortable hike.
  • Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to stay cool in a sweat-wicking shirt/tank top and breathable pants, like these PrAna hiking pants for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers, an insulated puffer jacket, and a waterproof outer shell. And don’t forget a pair of the best hiking socks in the world!
  • Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we recommend throwing them in your car anyway just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond foldable trekking poles, which are lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To spare disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask bottles because they keep water cold for hours, but a good old Nalgene works very well too.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray – This should be self-explanatory, but sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects.
  • A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
  • Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend Osprey day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes.

Wondering what exactly you should pack for your next hike? Visit our Complete Day Hiking Packing List for our full list and our top gear recommendations.

Related Links for Hiking Near Los Angeles

Did you know that Los Angeles is just one hour away from some pretty amazing snowboarding and skiing spots? Most people don’t! Our LA readers wanted to know where they could trade in their sunglasses for ski goggles and go snowboarding or skiing near Los Angeles. We decided to try and find some epic ski resorts near Los Angeles to help YOU plan a ski vacation this winter…even if it’s 75 and sunny where you are right now.

Believe it or not, there are actually several ski resorts within a few hours’ drive of Los Angeles, making it easy to plan a snow sports day trip or weekend getaway for a change of scenery. Without further ado, here are 12 of the best ski resorts near LA!

A note on transportation: As city dwellers, we know it can often be hard to get to many of the outdoor areas near you without a car. Where possible, we try to include public transportation instructions, but renting a car may be necessary to get to some of these spots. We typically use and recommend Enterprise – they have the widest selection of cars at the best prices – but you can also click here to check reviews & compare rental car prices in your city.

Ski Resorts Near Los Angeles & Southern California

Photo Credit: Conrad Petzsch-Kunze (Flickr CC)

Mt. Baldy

  • Location: Mt. Baldy, CA
  • Distance from Los Angeles: 50 miles (1 hour)
  • Experience levels: All levels

At just 1 hour from Los Angeles, Mt. Baldy is the closest of the ski resorts near Los Angeles. It’s a smaller resort, but one that’s quite beloved since it’s easy to reach in a short day trip from downtown LA. Snowboarders and skiers enjoy the challenging trails, varied terrain, and the gorgeous views from the top of the mountain.

With 26 total trails, Mt. Baldy has a pretty even spread of beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert-level trails, making it one of the more well-rounded ski resorts in Southern California. For beginners, they’ve got ski and snowboard lessons and rentals to help get you started. They’ve also got dining and lounge options for rest in between hitting the slopes.

Where to Stay Near Mt. Baldy

Nearby Hotels: While there isn’t an on-site lodge at Mt. Baldy Ski, there are several hotels and guesthouses in the area that you can book if you want to stay nearby. The DoubleTree by Hilton in Claremont is the closest full-service hotel to Mt. Baldy resort, which is located about 16 miles away.

Vacation Rentals: For larger groups or those who prefer the comforts of home when traveling, a vacation rental near Mt. Baldy is your best bet. There are lots of great options, like this cute, affordable guesthouse or this spacious, family-friendly log cabin.

Mt. Waterman

  • Location: La Canada Fintridge, CA
  • Distance from Los Angeles: 47 miles (1 hour)
  • Accommodation available? Not on site
  • Experience levels: All levels

With its location so close to LA and just 27 trails, you might not think anything of Mt. Waterman compared to some of the larger ski resorts near Los Angeles. However, this resort actually has a wide variety of runs ranging from beginner-friendly slopes to advanced black diamond trails.

As one of the older family-run resorts in the Los Angeles area, Mt. Waterman is beloved by many people in LA and Southern California. Many reviewers call it one of Southern California’s hidden gems for snow sports, saying it’s “so off the beaten path” and “very fun for the whole family.”

Directions: Click here for directions to Mt. Waterman Ski Area. If it’s snowy or icy, don’t forget to bring snow chains to stay safe on the drive!

Where to Stay Near Mt .Waterman

Nearby Hotels: There isn’t any on-site accommodation or cabins near Mt. Waterman, but there are a few hotels and guesthouses in nearby Pearblossom, CA if you’d like to stay nearby. It’s close enough to LA to drive in one day, too!

Mt. Pinos Nordic Skiing

  • Location: Frazier Park, CA
  • Distance from Los Angeles: 73 miles (1 hour, 15 minutes)
  • Accommodation available? Not on site
  • Experience levels: All levels

Compared to the other more traditional ski resorts on this list, Mt. Pinos is a bit of a different game. It’s not as much of a ski resort as it is a recreational area that’s great for those wanting to try cross-country skiing. Managed by the USDA, Mt. Pinos has a handful of patrolled cross-country ski trails, the most popular being Chula Vista.

To ski here, you’ll need your own skis (you can rent some in LA at Summit Ski and Cycle) and a basic knowledge of how to do Nordic skiing before heading out here on your own.

For more information on the Mt. Pinos ski area, head to the USDA Website or the Mt. Pinos Nordic Ski Base page.

Mountain High

  • Location: Wrightwood, CA
  • Distance from Los Angeles: 81 miles (1.5 hours)
  • Experience levels: All levels

You probably didn’t know that you can find winter sports in sunny Southern California, did you? Known as “Southern California’s closest winter resort,” Mountain High is truly the closest option for snowboarding and skiing near Los Angeles. Clocking in at just a 1.5-hour drive from Los Angeles, Southern Californians can easily visit Mountain High as a day trip from most areas nearby. (Yep, in theory, you could ski and surf on the very same day!)

At the resort, you can snowboard or ski down 59 total trails, the combination of three formerly separate resorts. The resort now consists of a variety of trails from first-time friendly hills to advanced and expert-level runs. While it’s not the largest on our list, Mountain High is one of the best ski resorts near Los Angeles for a quick and thrilling ski trip.

Directions: Click here for directions to Mountain High.

Where to Stay Near Mountain High

Nearby Hotels: There isn’t any on-site accommodation at Mountain High, but there are several convenient hotels and cabins nearby you can book for a multi-day trip. Grand Pine Cabins is the closest hotel to the ski resort and comes highly recommended by travelers.

Vacation Rentals: Mountain High is not far from lots of vacation rentals that can accommodate families and groups at affordable prices. There are lots of great options within 5 miles of the resort, like this cute, affordable guesthouse or this spacious, family-friendly log cabin.

Mountain High Resort is a beautiful spot! Photo Credit: Russ Allison Loar (Flickr CC)

Snow Valley Mountain Resort

  • Location: Running Springs, CA
  • Distance from Los Angeles: 86 miles (1.5 hours)
  • Experience levels: Mostly intermediate and advanced

Snow Valley is yet another resort that’s close to home for Southern California dwellers – of the ski resorts near Los Angeles, this one is the best for intermediate and advanced snowboarders and skiers. Located high in the mountains of San Bernardino, CA, there’s a vertical drop of 4,558 feet from the top of the peak to the base, making for some seriously adrenaline inducing slopes!

There are just 28 trails in Snow Valley, with the majority rated as blue, black diamond, or double black diamond. While beginners can find a handful of solid trails here, the real draw is for skiers and snowboarders with a bit more experience. There are several offers and packages available throughout the season, so be sure to stay on the lookout if you’re planning on heading there soon.

Directions: Click here for directions to Snow Valley Resort.

Where to Stay Near Snow Valley

Nearby Hotels: There isn’t any on-site accommodation at Snow Valley, but there are several convenient hotels and cabins nearby you can book for a multi-day trip. Giant Oaks Lodge is the closest hotel to the resort and offers simple, homey log cabins for rent.

Vacation Rentals: There are plenty of vacation rentals near Snow Valley that can accommodate families and groups at affordable prices. This adorable, rustic cabin in Running Springs, CA is super affordable and sleeps up to 8, plus it’s just a few minutes from the resort.

Rim Nordic Ski Area

  • Location: Running Springs, CA
  • Distance from Los Angeles: 86 miles (1.5 hours)
  • Experience levels: All levels

Looking for a change of pace from the thrill of the ski slopes? Rim Nordic Ski Area offers a different experience – cross-country skiing through forested areas. On a visit here, there are several trails you can ski through for a completely different winter sports experience than many of the other resorts on this list.

Another advantage of Nordic skiing is that it typically tends to be cheaper than traditional downhill skiing due to the lack of lifts and expensive machinery. This means that you can ski for a full day at Rim Nordic for just $20! For beginners to Nordic skiing, there’s also a learn to ski package for just $48, including a 1-hour lesson, rentals, and admission to the park.

Directions: Click here for directions to Rim Nordic Ski Center.

Photo Credit: Ian D. Keating (Flickr CC)

Big Bear Mountain Resort

  • Location: Big Bear Lake, CA
  • Distance from Los Angeles: 99 miles (2 hours)
  • Experience levels: Mostly intermediate, with some trails from beginner to expert

Big Bear is a small but mighty ski area that packs a punch among the places to go snowboarding and skiing near Los Angeles and Southern California. At just a 2-hour drive from Los Angeles, it’s accessible as a day trip or a weekend getaway, making it an appealing choice of ski resorts near LA for those living in Southern California.

At Big Bear, the majority of runs are rated as blue, or intermediate level. However, there are a handful of trails in the beginner, advanced, and expert categories.

Directions: Click here for directions to Big Bear Mountain Resort.

Snow Summit

  • Location: Big Bear Lake, CA
  • Distance from Los Angeles: 99 miles (2 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Not on site; closest hotel is Big Bear Cool Cabins
  • Experience levels: Mostly intermediate, with some from beginner to expert level

As the sister resort to Big Bear, Snow Summit isn’t far from its flagship resort, and has its own unique array of trails and slopes to explore. It, too, caters largely to intermediate-level skiers, with nearly 50% of its trails rated in the blue category. However, it can also be a fantastic place for beginners who want to try out some more intermediate terrain in a friendly and beautiful environment.

According to the Big Bear website, Snow Summit is meant to offer a “traditional alpine atmosphere with a great deal of intermediate terrain and mainstream cruising for skiers and snowboarders.” You may just have to try out both (all lift tickets are good for both resorts) and see for yourself which one you like best!

Directions: Click here for directions to Snow Summit.

Photo Credit: L. K. (Flickr CC)

Mammoth Mountain

  • Location: Mammoth Lakes, CA
  • Distance from Los Angeles: 314 miles (5 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at The Village Lodge
  • Experience levels: All levels

If you’re looking for the full “ski trip” experience, look no further than Mammoth Mountain. This ski resort and ski town combination make for a fabulous family-friendly snowboard and ski combination that’s about a 5 hour drive from Los Angeles. There are a whopping 154 runs in the resort, ranging from bunny hills and learning areas to double black diamond expert terrain.

Here at Mammoth Mountain, there’s an atmosphere that’s totally welcoming and supportive of beginners, which means you’re in luck as a first-timer, with plenty of daily ski lessons and gear rentals available. The vast majority of trails here are beginner to intermediate level, but there are a handful marked as advanced and expert for more experienced skiers.

Directions: Click here to get directions to Mammoth Mountain.

June Mountain

  • Location: June Lake, CA
  • Distance from Los Angeles: 324 miles (5 hours)
  • Experience levels: All levels

Mammoth Mountain’s sister resort is a California favorite: June Mountain. Slightly farther from LA than its sibling, June Mountain caters a bit more to the intermediate and advanced crowds, with the majority of trails falling into these two categories. It’s also much smaller than its Mammoth counterpart, with just 41 runs. While it’s not the closest place to go skiing near Los Angeles, it’s certainly a crowd favorite.

While there are beginner learn to ski programs at June Mountain, the resort definitely attracts a more experienced crowd. According to past visitors, it’s also significantly less crowded than some of the bigger resorts in the area, making for a much calmer and more fun winter getaway experience.

Directions: Click here to get directions to June Mountain.

Other Amazing Ski Resorts Near Southern California

While these ski resorts aren’t as close to LA or Southern California as the first ones on this list, we felt them worth including because they’re both located in Lake Tahoe, which is simply an incredible place to snowboard and ski.

Photo Credit: Ryan Grimm (Flickr CC)

Kirkwood Ski Resort

  • Location: Kirkwood, CA
  • Distance from Los Angeles: 438 miles (7 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at Kirkwood Mountain Resort
  • Experience levels: Mostly intermediate to advanced, with trails for all levels

As a Northern California gem, Kirkwood Ski Resort is a gorgeous, evergreen-laden ski area that has something for every level of skier or snowboarder. Located south of Lake Tahoe, it’s one of many ski resorts in the area that offers a mix of thrilling, challenging terrain and family-friendly ski opportunities. While it’s a somewhat popular spot for California skiers and snowboarders, it’s well worth the trek from Southern California if you’re seeking challenging terrain in a beautiful spot.

Kirkwood’s trails largely consist of intermediate and advanced runs, but there are 86 total runs that span from beginner hills to expert-level terrain parks. As part of the Epic Pass program, passholders can get admission to Kirkwood’s ski areas included in their membership.

Directions: Click here for directions to Kirkwood Ski Resort.

Photo Credit: Udi (Flickr CC)

Northstar California Resort

  • Location: Truckee, CA
  • Distance from Los Angeles: 495 miles (7.5 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at Northstar Resort
  • Experience levels: All levels

With its 100 trails, Northstar California is a large, family-friendly resort on the shores of Lake Tahoe that’s a fabulous winter getaway spot. A whopping 60% of the resort’s trails are rated intermediate, meaning it’s a fantastic place for beginner skiers to start tackling tougher terrain or for more experienced skiers to get more runs under their belt. Northstar is also part of the Epic Pass network, so if you’re a passholder, you’re in luck!

For non-skiers, there’s also tubing, ice skating, and a full set of resort amenities, including a spa and several dining options. We personally enjoyed the dining options around the ski resort – the poutine at the french fry food truck is to die for.

Directions: Click here for directions to Northstar California Resort.

Skiing Near Southern California & Los Angeles: Additional Resources

What to Pack

  • Waterproof outerwear – Possibly the most critical pieces of clothing for your ski trip packing list is durable, waterproof outerwear. Burton and Helly Hansen are famous ski brands for having best-in-class clothing that will keep you warm in the coldest, snowiest conditions. Click here to shop ski jackets and compare prices.
  • Thermal layers – Thermal baselayers are absolutely critical for a smooth skiing experience, as these will keep you warm and dry underneath your outerwear. The best kinds of thermal baselayers are made of Merino wool, which is moisture-wicking and comfortable. Our favorite brand of thermal layers is SmartWool – their tops and leggings are soft, lightweight, but warm and durable for all kinds of outdoor activities, including skiing. Click here to shop thermal tops and leggings and compare prices.
  • Ski goggles – No ski trip packing list would be complete without a pair of fog-resistant ski goggles, especially if you’re going somewhere that makes artificial snow. Ski slopes often have snow blowing into the air several times a day and it can be hard to keep freezing snowflakes out of your eyes, even during clear days. We use and recommend these ski goggles. However, you can shop ski goggles and compare reviews/prices here.

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive list of things to pack, head to our Ultimate Ski Trip Packing List to view our full packing list and gear recommendations for the slopes!

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