It sounds counter-intuitive. Why would you want to go out into nature and take a hike…just to look at a city skyline? Because, from a distance, or in some cases from up close, a city’s architecture can be an impressive sight. With many hills and mountains surrounding Los Angeles, Orange County and the Inland Empire, there are plenty of hiking trips in Southern California where the most memorable scenery is man-made.
LOS ANGELES SKYLINE
When pint-sized (10-acre) Vista Hermosa Park opened in 2008, it was the first newly dedicated outdoor space in L.A.’s downtown core in a century. If you’ve never seen L.A.’s skyline from up close, this park gives you as good a look of it as you will get anywhere. The half-mile walking trail, while certainly not much of a workout, is enjoyable and good for families; it’s also a nice place to spend a lunch break if you work in the area. The Baldwin Hills rise only 500 feet above sea level, but their strategic location means that the views from the top are truly great. Conveniently located to both downtown and the West Side, the hills feature a variety of trails, including a staircase that heads straight up the slope.
WEST SIDE SKYLINE
The skyline of Santa Monica, West Los Angeles and Century City is showed off nicely on the popular Temescal Gateway Loop. On clear days, the views of the ocean are great; this hike also has a few natural highlights, including a small seasonal waterfall and Skull Rock. Nice views of the West Side can also be seen from Franklin Canyon, a pleasantly secluded park deep in the Hollywood Hills. A ridge that rises above the canyon provides wide vistas—and a good workout.
SAN FERNANDO VALLEY SKYLINE
With studios, office buildings and endless rows of houses and businesses, a lot is going on in the San Fernando Valley. The Fryman Canyon Loop in the Hollywood Hills provides great views of it all, particularly from the Nancy Pohl Overlook. In the western end of the Valley, the short but steep Serrania Ridge Trail features nice, wide-ranging views on the descent.
The O.C. might not be known for its architecture, but from the El Modena Open Space east of the city of Orange, one gets a nice view. With good visibility, you can see not only the ocean but as far as the Palos Verdes Peninsula. From the western end of Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, the views go clear across the county, all the way to the Santa Ana Mountains. The hike to Dripping Cave, featuring the West Ridge Trail, is both challenging and scenic.
Like Orange County, Riverside isn’t necessarily an architecture mecca, but the historic city does feature a nice mix of old and new. The downtown area, and the surrounding mountains of both Riverside and Orange County can be seen from Mt. Rubidoux. For those who want more of a challenging hike, the steep trails in Box Springs Mountain Park rise nearly 3,000 feet, taking views of almost the entire Inland Empire. The Two Trees Trail climbs the west side, while the “M” Trail offers nice views to the east.
So there you have it: nature and civilization don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, as these hikes prove, they can go together quite nicely.