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An intro to hiking in L.A.

Photo by Rex Hoskinson

Of all the activities available in L.A. County, there is a surprising number of people that don’t view hiking as one of them. Many see hiking as a difficult, costly, and inaccessible hobby, but Los Angeles is one of the best places for easy, affordable hiking. Depending on traffic conditions, the Angeles Crest National Forest is under an hour's drive away, with over 200 trails and over 650,000 acres of beautiful mountain forest. With only a Forest Adventure Pass and the Ten Hiking Essentials, almost anyone can go on a beautiful day hike in the mountains.

The Benefits

Aside from the obvious exercise benefits, there are also mental health benefits to hiking. According to the National Park Service, “Spending quality time in the great outdoors reduces stress, calms anxiety, and can lead to a lower risk of depression, according to to a study done by researchers at Stanford University.” And if you don’t like the idea of trekking through the wilderness alone, hiking in a group is a great way to strengthen your friendships and improve your relationships (assuming everyone is excited to be outdoors).

Things to Know

Before going on a hike, it is important to have all the supplies and knowledge you need. Always bring extra water and food, a first aid kit, map, compass, emergency whistle, sun protection, and wear good hiking shoes. It is also important to use proper hiking etiquette. Staying on the trail, not disturbing wildlife, and following all of the rules written on the signs is crucial to maintaining a peaceful hiking environment for you and those around you. Finally, it is important to know how to locate new trails. The U.S. Forest Service has a great list of all day-hikes in the Angeles Crest, but it can still be hard for new hikers to determine which hikes are worth their time, so I’ve compiled a list of my top trails in the Angeles Crest that are worth a visit.

Photo of Milliard Falls by Rex Hoskinson

#1: Millard Falls

The shortest hike of the bunch, Millard Falls can be easily completed in a few hours and is a great picnic spot. The short walk along the creek is shady, cool, and beautiful, with a picturesque waterfall and pool at the trail’s end. The trail is also well-maintained and easy to navigate, with very few steep slopes, making it perfect for beginners. The trail crosses the creek a few times along the way though, so wearing waterproof shoes and clothes is recommended.

It is also important to note that this hike is very popular and has minimal parking, so it’s best to arrive in the early morning or late afternoon to secure a parking spot close to the trailhead. Overall, I think this hike is great for anyone that enjoys hiking, but with its easy terrain and short length, I’d especially recommend it to novice hikers.

Photo of Switzer Falls by Rex Hoskinson

#2: Switzer Falls

Significantly longer and more challenging than the previous hike, Switzer Falls is one of the most popular hikes in the Angeles Crest. Once again, the parking lot isn’t big enough to accommodate everyone on an average weekend, so heading out early is crucial to getting a good parking spot in the shade and skipping the long walk into the canyon from the highway. Getting there early is definitely worth it though. Of all the hikes on this list, this one has the most stunning views of the surrounding mountains and forest. Similarly to Millard Falls, this hike leads to a beautiful waterfall and shallow pool.

Photo by Rex Hoskinson

The hike starts off relatively easy but gets way harder right before reaching the falls. Sun protection is a must; the hardest part of the hike is an exposed and rocky mountain path with no shade and a steep dropoff on one side. Thankfully, the heat is made more tolerable by the gorgeous mountainous views surrounding you. I’d recommend this hike for hikers with a little more experience as it has moderately difficult terrain and a much longer trek to the end destination.

Photo of the Dawn Mine Trail by Rex Hoskinson

#3: Dawn Mine Trail

The final hike and my favorite one on this list is the Dawn Mine Trail. Of all of the trails, this is the most difficult, an endurance and navigation challenge that I’d only recommend to well-equipped and somewhat experienced hikers. The terrain is difficult and the trail isn’t very well maintained, so it is possible to get lost if you aren’t paying close attention to the trail markers.

Located just above Millard Falls, the trailhead and parking for this trail are much more difficult to find than the previous two. The parking lot has about 6 parking spaces and the trailhead is a little under a mile away from the lot. To find it, hikers need to hike along a fire road and look closely for the Dawn Mine Trailhead sign on the left-hand side of the trail. The trail begins easy and downhill, overlooking the valley where Millard Falls is.

The trail then takes you past the top of the falls and down into the shady valley where the creek is. From there, the hike travels uphill along the creek and eventually reaches the remnants of the Dawn Mine, an actual copper mine that operated from 1895 to 1954. All that’s left of it now is a closed-off mineshaft and some rusting equipment, but it’s still worth seeing. Overall, I’d say that this is a difficult hike for beginner hikers and I highly recommend it for those with a bit more experience. The scenery is beautiful and the trail is usually completely silent and devoid of other hikers, making it the perfect place to go if you’re looking for a place to relax.

Whether you’re looking for a fun activity to enjoy with friends and family or a relaxing and quiet pastime to kill time on your weekends, hiking is a wonderful and varied way to be active, boost your health, and spend time in nature all at the same time. So go out, buy a Forest Adventure Pass, and start exploring!

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