If you like the view from Runyon Canyon, but would like to skip the crowds. Take a stroll through the neighboring Trebek Open Space, a 62-acre park donated to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservency by Jeopardy host Alex Trebek. Two half-mile long fire roads cross the open space, providing short hikes on the south face of the Hollywood Hills. Bantam Trail begins from Nichols Canyon Road and climbs to a ridge running down the east side of the park. Castair Trail begins from a trailhead lower down the ridge and drops into Nichols Canyon, coming to a dead-end above the road. A rugged single track descends the ridge between the two trails, offering broad views over Hollywood.
Beginning from Nichols Canyon Road, 1.3 miles north of Hollywood Boulevard, step through the black gate and start up Bantam Trail. The dirt fire road heads southeast gradually ascending out of the canyon. Views over Hollywood expand as the trail crosses the east side of Nichols Canyon, passing through low brush and grasses. Stay to the right through the junction 0.45 miles (and 150 vertical feet) from the start. Just ahead, the road reaches the ridgeline and comes to an end at an overlook with views to the east across a small canyon toward the ridge on the west side of Runyon Canyon Park. Hikers may be visible making their way along West High Way Trail on the backbone of the ridge.
From the end of Bantam Trail, the trailhead for Castair Trail is a quarter mile down the ridge, 175 feet lower. Before heading back down Bantam Trail, venture a short distance down the ridge to a lower landing. On a clear day, Santa Monica Bay is visible to the west, and Griffith Observatory peaks out behind the ridges to the east. Turn around here for a 1.15-mile hike, or drop down the ridge to Castair Trail.
A rugged path descends precipitously to the top of Wattles Drive and the start of Castair Trail. The fire road heads northwest into Nichols Canyon, losing elevation as it charts a parallel course below Bantam Trail.
There are nice views up and down the canyon, similar to the trail above. Half a mile in, Castair Trail comes to a sudden stop at an imposing black gate marked “No Trespassing” and does not connect to Nichols Canyon Road. Turn around, and hike 125 feet back up to the trailhead, and then make the steep climb up the ridge to return to Bantam Trail. Both trails combined (a.k.a. the Daily Double) make a 2.5-mile out-and-back trebek, I mean trek. There is 325 feet of elevation between the high and low points of the hike. The unmaintained single track up the ridge is quite steep, but the fire roads are gradual otherwise.
Dogs are welcome in Trebek Open Space, and this is a popular dog-walking destination. Overall, there is far less foot and paw traffic than nearby Runyon Canyon Park, with similar scenery. No fee or permit is required to visit Trebek Open Space, so get out and enjoy.
To get to Bantam Trailhead: From Hollywood Boulevard, three block east of Fairfax Ave, head north on Nichols Canyon Road. The road ascends the canyon, makes a sweeping turn to the left and arriving at the trailhead after 1.3 miles. The trail starts on the outside of a grand turn to the left behind a black gate. Ample roadside parking is available.
To get to Castair Trailhead: From Hollywood Boulevard, six blocks west of Fairfax, head north on Curson Ave for 0.6 miles. At road’s end take the sharp left, and continue up Wattle’s Drive for 0.3 miles to the trailhead. Limited roadside parking is available.