Ass-Kicking Workout in Los Liones Canyon

— by Caroline on Crack

OK, picture isn’t of Los Liones but didn’t want to risk my camera on this hike. :).

One of my favorite hiking trails in L.A. is Los Liones Canyon in Santa Monica. So easy to get to, no parking fee and a great mix of rugged trails through the woods and fire roads that lead up to this gorgeous view at the overlook, aka Topanga Overlook aka Parker Mesa Overlook, where on a clear day you can see downtown Los Angeles, Rancho Palos Verdes and I think even Catalina. It’s a quick and awesome workout not only for its six miles but for its many ups and downs. You often see cougars (divorcees not mountain lions) fast walking, hard-core mountain bikers powering up the fire roads and Sierra Club members enjoying the scenery. But there’s a little known way to make it even more of a kick-ass workout.

You know how usually at the Los Liones trailhead, you take the path to the right once you walk through the gate? Well, the butt-kicking workout actually begins when you take the often overlooked trail on your left. It dives down across a concrete ditch and ducks into some bushes. This path cuts a more direct route to the overlook, meaning you’re scrambling up steep ascents and always going up, up, up. Once at the top, you just take the fire roads back down. A welcome respite after that intense initial climb but also you don’t want to try going back down the way you came.

I’m not sure how many miles this way is but it had me sweating so hard that I thought it was raining. Plus I had to stop several times to catch my breath. Those hills are a bitch! But at least now my butt cheeks will be able to crush walnuts. Heh.

We used to go on the regular trail in the daytime but since those fire roads are so brutal midday with the sun beating down on us, we found it’s best to go during early evening. Since the sun goes down around 8pm this time of year and the hike takes about two hours round trip, including a 15-minute break at the overlook, we have to start off at 6. Last week we barely made it back to the parking lot before it was completely dark out. I was using the light from my phone to illuminate the tricky sections of the path through the woods while trying to suppress childhood fears of hockey-mask-wearing Jason emerging from the bushes.

My bf and I did this hike last Friday and I’m so excited that we’re going to do it again today after work because it’s such a great way to end the work week after sitting at our desks for hours on end. Woo hoo!

For shoes, trailrunners might be a bit better for this hike since you’ll appreciate something lighter than big hiking boots when you’re securing your place in footholds up the hills. And don’t forget to bring a bottle of water to keep hydrated as well as a snack to reward yourself while sitting on the bench at the overlook.

Trailhead: Take Pacific Coast Highway to Sunset Boulevard, turn right at Sunset, then less than a half mile turn left at Los Liones Drive (no traffic light for this but it’s past the Jack in the Box). Take Los Liones Drive til you reach a church. There’s a parking lot right across from the church (map).