Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast who enjoys pushing yourself to the limit or someone who loves peaceful reflection in the great outdoors, hiking is the perfect summer activity that has something for everyone. Luckily for Toluca Lake residents, there are unique trails all around us that offer the right amount of challenge, glimpses of wildlife and, thanks to the powerful storms earlier this year, views of lush greenery and shimmering waters. Check out this handful of local hiking destinations to add to your summer adventure list.
Distance: ~2.5-mile loop
Paradise Falls is a scenic waterfall in Thousand Oaks that plunges into a 40-foot pool along the Arroyo Conejo. The trailhead is easily accessible from the Wildwood Regional Park parking lot and starts with a flat, wide path. Along the way to the waterfall, you’ll see lush greenery, cactuses, oak trees and even a modern-style teepee with cement benches inside (perfect if you’re looking for a quick break). As you near the end of the trail, you’ll hear the sound of water flowing and come across the sight of the stunning falls. Visitors can dip their feet or take a swim in the small pool of water at the bottom. There are also picnic tables and benches in the area for those looking to relax and enjoy a bite to eat. Continuing to walk the loop will give you even better views of the falls from above.
Distance: ~3.7-mile out and back
The Escondido Falls hike in the Santa Monica Mountains near Malibu is a great way to see one of the most unique and remarkable waterfalls in Southern California. Unlike most local falls, this 150-foot waterfall is covered in moss, which gives it a more “bearded” look. The trail is easy to follow, perfect for beginners and very family-friendly. To reach the falls, park in the lot just off of the Pacific Coast Highway. About a mile into the trail, you’ll reach the base of the waterfall, which is the lower tier of the huge limestone falls. There are some stream crossings on the hike, so be sure to wear shoes you are OK with getting wet.
Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve
Distance: ~2.5-mile loop
Nature and wildlife lovers are sure to be drawn to the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve in Van Nuys, a 225-acre site that’s home to over 200 bird species and hundreds of native and non-native flora and fauna, with signage throughout to help hikers identify birds and plants. Offering a peaceful, green refuge from the bustle of its urban surroundings, the reserve features a lake with a bird refuge island and accessible bird-watching opportunities. The interconnected trail system can provide hours of exploration, but for the best bird-watching, stick near the lake, where you can spot Canada geese, ospreys, egrets, herons, blackbirds, sparrows and more. The hiking is an easy stroll, with wood bridges across the creek making a charming addition. Visitors can park on Woodley Avenue via the access road.
Extending south from the Sepulveda Basin is the L.A. River Greenway, a continuous recreational path spanning 51 miles where people can walk, bike, ride horses, engage with public art and much more. The Greenway offers an easy urban trail with multiple entries to parks and points of interest along the river.
Trail Canyon Falls
Distance: ~4.5-mile out and back
Located in Tujunga, this four-mile round-trip hike, which tackles 700 feet of elevation gain, may be the longest on our list, but the views you’ll see of the 30-foot Trail Canyon Falls are well worth it. To reach it, take the Trail Canyon Trail, which will cross Golden Creek a few times before climbing the wall of Big Tujunga Canyon. The trail makes its way around the side of the canyon, rising to an elevation of close to 2,500 feet before leveling out when you approach a big granite landing above the falls — which is a great place to grab a snack and enjoy the scenery. The trail reaches pools in the creek above Trail Canyon Falls, and if you make it down to the canyon floor, you get an outstanding view of the waterfall spilling over a smooth wall into a shallow pool. Parking is available at the trailhead at 19600 North Trail Canyon Road; a $5 National Forest Adventure Pass is required.
Franklin Canyon Reservoir
Distance: ~1.5-mile loop
The Franklin Canyon Reservoir can be seen in the opening credits of The Andy Griffith Show, as well as scenes from Bonanza, Star Trek and The Brady Brunch. But TV lore isn’t the only reason why this iconic lake, located at the 605-acre Franklin Canyon Park nestled between Beverly Hills and the Valley, is still well-known today. The 1.5-mile Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir loop is a short and easy trail that may feel like a trip down memory lane for some and a brand-new and exciting adventure for others. While swimming and fishing are not permitted, hikers can still get close to the water — and see plenty of ducks and turtles along the way — by taking a path to the north side of the lake that leaves the shore on the west bank to rejoin the road. From here, you can cross the street and walk a very short loop around Heavenly Pond, another popular hangout spot for ducks and a variety of birds.
Distance: ~1.0-mile loop
The only natural lake in the San Gabriel Mountains, Crystal Lake is fed by snowmelt, rain and underground springs and sits perched above 5,500 feet in the heart of the Angeles National Forest. To reach the Crystal Lake Trail, which takes hikers on a peaceful and relaxing loop around the lake, park at the Crystal Lake Recreation Area (a $5 National Forest Adventure Pass is required) before heading down the road, following the signs along the way. The lake is sometimes stocked with rainbow and brook trout — especially after a wet winter season — so don’t forget your fishing rod. If you work up an appetite after your hike or are looking for more supplies, the Crystal Lake Café offers food, firewood and other necessities.