The seemingly ridiculous concept of hiking in Los Angeles is belied by the availability of many fine trails not necessarily in the city itself, but rather within city limits and just beyond the edge of the urban plain. Many of these trails ascend into the Santa Monica Mountains, or rather the "Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area," which encompasses various state parks and other public lands. The following 2.8-mile route, a favorite of west-side L.A. hikers, includes expansive views from high places and a shady passage through riparian and oak woodland.
Park north of Sunset Boulevard on Temescal Canyon Road, short of the Conference Grounds that are now a part of the new Temescal Gateway Park. On foot, find and follow the narrow trail that starts climbing the scrubby canyon wall to the west. After eight short switchbacks, the trail sticks to an open ridge with a 180-degree view of distant horizons. Pause often so you can admire the coastline curving from Santa Monica Bay to Malibu.
At 1.3 miles, the trail meets the Temescal Ridge Trail, a fire road that follows a viewful but shadeless ridge north all the way to Mulholland Drive. At this point you have the option of making a side trip north 0.5 mile to a wind-carved, sandstone outcrop known as Skull Rock that lies within Topanga State Park.
Staying on the loop route, turn right and start down the eroded bed of the former Temescal Fire Road. When you hit the shady canyon bottom (1.7 miles), you'll cross over a creek and pick up a better section of the old fire road on the far side. Above and below this crossing may be (depending on the season) small, trickling waterfalls and shallow, limpid pools.
The final stretch follows the canyon bottom, then contours along a slope to the right of the conference buildings. Lots of live oak, sycamore, willow, and bay trees, their woodsy scents commingling on the ocean breeze, highlight your return.