The Trek Less Traveled

Hit the road for an off-the-beaten path,
scenic hike.

Get away from the hustle and bustle of the Valley’s most populated treks and touch base with nature in a serene way. Instead of Fryman and Runyon canyons, explore one of these routes—all of which uncover sweeping views and captivating terrains.

Paradise Falls

For a truly magical hike, head to Paradise Falls in Wildwood Park, Thousand Oaks. Sure, it’s a bit of a drive out the 101, but this hidden gem offers many rewards. Well-maintained, the site features wide paths of soft, dark soil with a mild grade for easy strolling (perfect for kids).

Several more adventurous options are available for cyclists. Enjoy scenic vistas of hilly terrain as you saunter down along Mesa Trail, taking a left on North Teepee Trail and then a right, heading down to the picturesque waterfall for which the area is named (it’s well marked with signs).

There is a picnic table under the trees, right by the modest falls—a great spot to stop for a rest or lunch. The water is impure, so swimming is prohibited.
Carry on up the steps, with the falls and creek on your right, returning to the slightly steep trail that leads past the teepee and back to your original path. Signs indicating Lynnmere Trail, Indian Cave Trail, Stagecoach Bluff Trail and Moonridge Trail entice further exploration.

Striking out for Lizard Rock will extend the hike to more than four miles. Dogs are permitted.

Upper Canyonback Trail

Peaceful and panoramic, this trek has an easy fire road route with a slightly tougher, single-track trail that criss-crosses it, following the undulating ridge. Commence your journey directly behind the sign you see (just off Mulholland), taking the narrow track up the hill rather than the fire road that heads off to the left.

You’ll climb to the highest point on Canyonback Ridge—1,700 feet—and be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views. Almost the entire Valley stretches out to the left. Downtown LA never looked so close. A glimpse of the 405 shimmers below. On a clear day you can see the ocean and even Catalina Island beyond. It’s jaw-droppingly stunning.

Slide down the ridge top trail back to the fire road and take your pick of paths as you proceed past Mountain Gate Country Club and its lush golf course. There’s little shade, but breezes keep you relatively comfortable.  

Hikers up for more of a workout can make this more challenging by climbing the mounded hills encountered along the way.

Brand Park

By far the most challenging of the three hikes, Brand Park is pretty and verdant, nestled in the foothills of Glendale near Burbank. This park has picnic areas, a baseball field and is also the site of a handsome library and museum (closed Sunday and Monday) plus a tea pavilion. Parking is free, plentiful and mercifully shady.

The park is home to the Brand Motorway—a vertiginous, narrow path that leads up into the Verdugo Mountains. This hilly wilderness trail grants excellent views of the city, including a distant view of downtown skyscrapers. Commence your hike behind the Miss American Green Cross monument and then make your steep ascent past the low, round water tower.

Unlike many hikes up the mountain, this one does not involve switchbacks; it’s a straightforward circuit. Be advised: There is zero shade. Water, a hat and sunscreen are musts. The trail also has many areas of loose gravel, so make sure you wear the right footwear and tread very carefully, especially on the way down. A final caution—if you squat under a bush to catch your breath, beware of red fire ants.

This is the perfect outing on a cooler day, when you can enjoy the superb views at a casual pace.