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Go off the Beaten Path: LA’s Best Undiscovered Hikes for Kids

Even with LA’s latest stay at home (as much as possible) order, hiking trails are open. If you could use some fresh air and a healthy dose of nature, but worry about crowded paths and keeping six feet apart, we’ve got you covered. Read on for 9 family-friendly hikes that will take you off the beaten path.

Charmlee Wilderness Park - Malibu

This once lush, popular park in Malibu was devastated by the Woolsey Fire in 2018. Now, more than two years later and after months of repair and rebuilding, it has quietly reopened. The damage from the fire is still visible, but there are also signs of growth and rebirth along the 2.3-mile Ocean Overlook Trail Loop. And once you get to the halfway point, you'll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the Pacific. 

2577 Encinal Canyon Rd. 
Malibu 
Online: malibucity.org/561/Charmlee-Wilderness-Park

Dixie Canyon Park - Sherman Oaks

If you're looking for a place to get lost in (without having to stray too far), Dixie Canyon fits the bill. The 0.4-mile trail can be overgrown, so don't worry so much about staying on it. Instead, wander and explore the shaded, woodsy fairyland with your kiddos. You'll discover bridges, a stream, shady oak trees and more.

Good to know: Look for street parking along Dixie Canyon Ave., as you make your way up to Dixie Canyon Place. 

Dixie Canyon Place
Sherman Oaks
Online: mrca.ca.gov/parks/park-listing/dixie-canyon-park

Cave of Munits - West Hills

Craving some adventure and a change of scenery? Head to El Escorpion Park in the western part of the San Fernando Valley. If you've got little ones, you can enjoy the relatively easy, just-under-a-mile trek from Vanowen St. to the magical and mysterious-looking Cave of Munits. If your kids are older (at least 8) and they're up for a little rock scrambling, you can make your way into the caves for some serious exploring. If you're going to venture into the caves, wear shoes with plenty of traction and go slow, as it can get slippery. 

24501 W Vanowen St.
West Hills
Online: hikespeak.com/trails/cave-of-munits-castle-peak-hike/

Eaton Canyon Natural Area - Pasadena

With timed-entry reservations required for entrance to Eaton Canyon, the trails won't ever get too crowded. (Note: Reservations are free and must be made the day before your visit.) This nature center is surrounded by a rugged mountainside with hiking trails of all levels, including some advanced hikes, but you don’t have to stray far from the center itself to experience wildlife on the trail. There are three small nature trails that are flat and short, one is even designed specifically for young kids. This is a great place for a first hiking experience where you’re guaranteed to see some beautiful sights without having to work too hard, which will ultimately make for a fun experience for little ones.

1750 N. Altadena Dr.
Pasadena
Online: ecnca.org

White Point Preserve and Nature Center - San Pedro

The White Point Nature Preserve features 102 acres of restored coastal sage scrub habitat, hiking and handicap accessible trails overlooking the ocean and Catalina Island. Not only are the trails safe and easy for the stroller, but it is also a great first hike for young kids. With seagulls overhead and the smell of the ocean, this hike will inspire a love of nature sure to last a lifetime.

1600 W. Paseo del Mar
San Pedro
Online: rpvca.gov

Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook

Part neighborhood secret, part workout circuit, this 58-acre park offers three options to get to the top for some of the most enviable views of Los Angeles you may find. If you and the kids are ready to keep that New Years resolution going, take the 282 stairs straight to the top. Got a stroller? Hit the road—just watch out for bikers, daredevil skateboards and the like careening down. And if those little legs are up for the challenge, take the half-mile hike from the park entrance to the top where you'll be able to from DTLA to the ocean on a clear day. Look for seasonal displays of native wildflowers, bird and wildlife like lizards. There are also restrooms, water fountains, picnicking and fun activities at the visitor's center all located at the top.

Insider Tip: If you just want to take in the view, you can park at the top of the hill near the visitor center for $2/hour or $6/day. This hill gets busier throughout the day so we recommend hitting this one early. There also isn't any shade so pack a hat, sunscreen, and lots of water.

6300 Hetzler Rd.
Culver City
Online: parks.ca.gov

Fern Dell Nature Trail - Griffith Park

If you've got little ones who are too big for a stroller, but not yet ready for a full-on hike, head to Griffith Park's Fern Dell Trail. While other hikers head further into the park towards the more popular trails, you'll start your trek right just beyond the Fern Dell Dr. entrance to the park (off Los Feliz Blvd.) The shady (and short) path takes you over bridges and under tunnels, pass more than 50 fern species and select tropical plants. The trek ends at the West Observatory Trail, near the closed playground. But not to fear. There's a dry creek with plenty of large rocks and tree stumps where kids can climb and jump to their hearts' content. 

Fern Dell Dr.
Griffith Park
Online: laparks.org

Franklin Canyon - Beverly Hills

Accessible from both the Valley and the Westside, this little hideaway offers a nice quiet spot to explore. There are five miles of hiking trails, including a nice short .3-mile loop through the shady trees along the canyon basin. For young, hiking newbies you can have even have plenty of fun just traversing the one-mile fire road that loops around the reservoir.

2600 Franklin Canyon Dr.
Beverly Hills
Online: lamountains.com/planning_franklin.html

Solstice Canyon - Malibu

This peaceful hike gives you a glimpse of some LA history as you stroll past a waterfall and the remains of the oldest stone structure in the city. A picturesque hike along a shaded trail is a great way to explore, especially during the less busy weekdays with young tots that aren’t quite school-aged yet. The ocean air off of PCH and shaded path make it a perfect spot to hike even on warmer days. The eponymous trail is a fairly easy and flat clocking in at 2.1-miles round trip.

Corral Canyon Rd. and Solstice Canyon Rd.
Malibu
Online: nps.gov/samo/planyourvisit/solsticecanyon.htm

—Shahrzad Warkentin & Shannan Rouss

featured photo: Pexels

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