Runyon Canyon is one of the most accessible and most frequented hikes in the LA area for visitors, residents and even more notably, their dogs. Drew and I have hiked Runyon too many times to count, the reason being is that it’s a completely unique and awesome experience every time we go. There are about 4 different paths you can take and depending on the time of day and the time of year, the weather, skyline, sun, ocean and city paint a different picture every time. An important piece of info, there are no restrooms, so make sure to go beforehand and pace those water bottles.
Path 1 (Most difficult): The first time we went to hike Runyon Canyon we parked along Fuller Avenue (map here), which, when you take this road north, dead ends right into the grassy gates of Runyon Canyon. This is the most popular mode of entry, so parking is very scarce. You may have to troll the streets and find parking along Franklin or another nearby street, it will probably take a few minutes. At this entrance they have a cooler, run on the honors system, that sells drinks and snacks, they even have some for dogs too!
Once in the park you will notice a field of grass directly to your left, this is where the free Runyon Canyon Yoga takes place, yes FREE! Make sure to check their schedule for dates and times of classes so you can catch one if you’re into it- it is so worth it, I have been a number of times.
Continuing to move forward on the main path you will notice 2 different directions you can take. The one directly to your left will take you up the steepest path all the way to the top, where you will find an awesome, painted bird house and sweeping views of the city, as well as the HOLLYWOOD Sign. In order to get to the bird house you must resist the urge to stay on the paved path. What you will do after you make the initial left is follow that path where it meets the pavement and hike up the hill right in front of you. Yes, I mean it. You will see the footprints of others who have gone before, follow them. Do not turn right and follow the pavement, unless you want to forgo the birdhouse… it’s kind of like going to Everest and not going to the flag at the very top. It is so worth the extra jaunt.
You can either choose to go back down from the birdhouse (the same way you came up) or, depending on the level of intensity you are going for, you can continue moving forward for a bit more adventure. From the peak you will have to climb down a rocky patch, just make room for the pups passing. Soon you will see a mansion on your left, continue on the winding path which veers right, and just before reaching the large power line tower, look to your left, you will see a little dirt pathway that leads up. Take this, you will not regret it. At the top of this path you will find an even more spectacular view of the city, as well as a number of benches to rest on as you take it all in.
Once you have enjoyed the view at the top, come back down to the main path and continue in same direction you were going before. You will pass a ranch house with horses and eventually, a bit after you begin to descend, you will find the biggest bench you have ever seen. This is the Runyon Canyon Bench of Champions. Take a seat and enjoy the view, along with some much-needed rest at this point. Continuing along the descent you will encounter large steps, just keep on going and you will be back to the bottom in no time.
Path 2 (Most recommended for 1st timers): If you take the route to the right once you enter Runyon Canyon, you will have a bit more steady of an ascent, starting with the stairs and getting to enjoy the bench. A lot of people, including me and Drew a number of times, will just do this leg of the journey. It is especially fantastic at sunset. If you are looking for more, you can continue up this path and essentially just to the trail I described above, backwards.
Path 3 (Least crowded): This is the path that no one knows about, except for us and maybe a couple of locals. Are you looking to get away from the crowds, find parking easily and take the road less traveled? If you have answered yes to all 3 questions, this is the path for you (and us). Instead of parking on Fuller Avenue, take Nichols Canyon Road North off of Hollywood. Here is a map to get you to the trail head. You will park in a little dirt parking lot, we have always found a spot here and there are no parking restrictions. From there you will walk through the little black gates and begin to hike up. Enjoy this path, it’s private and clean (a lot less dog poo). When you get all the way to the top (15 minutes) you will encounter a road called Astral, turn left and walk along the road for about 5 minutes until you reach the next stop sign for Solar. Make a right here where you will see beautiful homes with amazing views, humming birds and flowers. Before you know it, you will find yourself at Runyon Canyon, just enter the gates to the left of the mansion on the cliff. What I love about starting the hike here is that you can choose if you want to go to the bird house, the Runyon Canyon Bench of Champions or the benches at the highest peak without having the crowd you usually would because you are starting at the top!
I hope our little insights help you in deciding which route to take when you go to hike Runyon. It really is beautiful at any time of day, although our favorite is to end just in time to enjoy the sunset.
And if you are interested in hiking to the HOLLYWOOD Sign, check out our post on Hiking to the HOLLYWOOD Sign as well :)