In Venice, it is easy to feel so drawn to the beach that you forget about the other natural (and manmade) beauty that this area has to offer. It is always a good idea to switch things up from time to time, so why not leave the beach behind for a day or two, and explore a more terrestrial environment? It is well-known that there are some great hiking spots in coastal California, but far fewer folks pay attention to hiking closer to home. The hiking trails in and around Venice are amazing, and not enough people even know they exist. Here is a list of my favorites.
Los Liones Trailhead: This hike has it all – lush vegetation, canyons, and chaparral (desert-like terrain) at the top. It even has trail lengths available to meet anyone’s ability level. The longest trail is a four-hour loop, but there are elevation changes so your back will try to convince you it was more like a six-hour loop. You can even still catch a bit of the beach since the top has fantastic views of the shoreline and the Pacific Ocean.
Santa Ynez Canyon Trailhead: What is probably the most unique hike on this list is also amongst the more difficult. If you are a woman, be sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes, and even tough guys might want to bring comfortable shoes for men. The trail winds through relatively narrow rock formations, and the ground is often uneven or strewn with rocks. The real difficulty, though, is in the elevation change: the trail goes up about 800 feet even though it is only two miles long. The trek itself is made easier by the ample shade from trees and rock formations. If you are feeling especially adventurous, you can continue on to Santa Ynez Waterfall Trail.
Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook Hike Trailhead: There are really two paths to this trail: the first is a long slightly sloped path; the second is a stone staircase leading directly to the top. If you really want to test your mettle, feel free to try the stairs, but if you came for the amazing view at the top, the longer trail might be the better option. From the top, you can see the San Gabriel Mountains, Santa Monica Bay, and the entire Los Angeles Basin.
Ballona Wetlands: The Ballona Wetlands can be found east of Playa del Rey and just south of Marina del Rey. It is the last real freshwater wetland landscape in coastal Los Angeles County. The hike through this fairly small sanctuary is not long, but you will have a great chance to see some unusual wildlife like egrets, lizards, and herons. One other cool aspect of this location is that the periphery of the wetland landscape slowly changes into different habitat types: meadow grassland, coastal prairie, coastal dunes, coastal woodland, and salt pannes.
Venice Canals: The Venice Canals have a great three-mile loop that is a great choice for a family walk. The walk has some wonderful views and is very easy to navigate. The path is paved, over four feet wide, and has almost no elevation change – quite accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. If all that does not sound family-friendly enough, leashed dogs are also allowed on the path (clean up!).
The Topanga State Park: Topanga is the easiest way to get in touch with nature without even leaving the city. In fact, it is the largest wildlife park located entirely within a city’s borders. And it is not a small park. It encompasses almost 12,000 acres of the Santa Monica mountain range, and from certain spots, you can find outstanding ocean views.
Clover Park Loop: Let’s end the list with a nice and easy hike for all skill levels. Clover Park Loop is just under a mile long and does not have very steep grades in any areas, so it is wheelchair and stroller accessible. For those of you who want to make the hike more challenging, there are tons of free workout equipment set up all along the trail. It is a hike that can be as hard or as easy as you want it to be. One of my personal favorite reasons for liking this simple little trail is just how many people you meet along the way. The trail is well-trafficked, and if you show up regularly, you are bound to make a few friends.
Now is a great time to try some of these hikes out for yourself. The weather is cool enough for the hikes to be comfortable, and you will not be missing out on peak beach time this early in the year. And even when it is prime beach time, sometimes taking a break to switch things up with a good hike helps to give the week-end texture and make it feel longer. Whenever, wherever, and however you choose to hike, be safe and have fun!