An intro to hiking in L.A.
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.
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.
#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.
#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.