Best Nature Spots
in Los Angeles
Feeling drained from the relentless hustle and bustle of LA city life? You're not alone - multiple scientific studies have proven that an overwhelm of stimuli and lack of time spent in nature negatively impact mental health. However, there is hope - studies have also shown that nature is so powerfully healing that even access to green spaces within the city can help reduce stress significantly.
Whether you’re looking for somewhere to get some cardio in, ground your energy, or simply diffuse on your lunch break - we’ve got you covered. Whether you're going on a solo adventure or looking to make some friends, grab some water and sunscreen and check out these top 10 nature spots - as well as best hiking groups - below.
Best Nature Trails in Los Angeles
1. South Bay Bike Path - Dockweiler Beach
With a stunning view of both the Pacific ocean and the Santa Monica mountains, this 8.8 mile path is open to runners, bikers, walkers, and rollerbladers of all skill levels. There is a moderate amount of traffic on this trail, but the Manhattan-Dockweiler beach section is incredibly peaceful if you’re looking for a break - and usually much less crowded than Venice, Marina Del Rey, or Santa Monica.
Parking: Dockweiler Beach Parking lots ($7-$13 depending on the season/day of week or The Strand Parking Lot in El Porto
2. Griffith Park - Old Zoo
Head on up to the renowned Griffith Park for a breathtaking hike full of wildlife, greenery, and history where the Old Zoo used to be located. This heavily trafficked (but still peaceful) 2.5 mile loop is in a beautiful forest setting, and is great for all skill levels. The trail is also dog friendly.
3. Skull Rock Loop - Topanga State Park
This 4 mile loop trail is located near the Pacific Palisades in the Santa Monica Mountains, and boasts of stunning panoramic views of the ocean and city, as well as a waterfall. The heavily trafficked (but again - still peaceful) dynamic trail is rated as moderate. Be prepared to trek uphill - but also be prepared for the totally worth it views.
Parking: free at Split Rock Trailhead
4. Golden Cove Trail - Rancho Palos Verdes
This soothing, flat, and relatively short trail is perfect if you’re in the mood for a relaxing hike with unparalleled scenic views of grass-covered cliffs colliding with the sparkling Pacific. The trail also includes a view of the Point Vincent Lighthouse - as well as the possibility of seeing Pacific Gray Whales migrate December-April. Golden Cove Trail is also dog-friendly, has benches scattered throughout, and is a great place for grounding, walking, relaxing, or running for all skill levels.
Parking: free at the Point Vincent Interpretive Center
5. Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook + Culver City Steps
This scenic overlook located just south of Culver City is known for its beautiful wildflowers and panoramic views of northern LA - including downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, the Pacific Ocean, the Santa Monica Mountains, and the San Gabriel mountains off to the East. The steep hill features both a 1.25 mile winding dirt path to the top, or the more intense option of taking the Culver Steps ⅔ miles up and down. This moderately rated trail is perfect for a multitude of activities - including after work hikes (the sunset is incredible), morning cardio, or park at the top and simply relax on one of the many benches or steps. There are even little nature alcoves off the beaten path that are perfect for decompressing.
Parking: Metered Parking on Jefferson. Park near Hetzler Road intersection. Top of hill - turn onto Hetzler Road and drive up to parking lot
6. Bluffs Creek Trail
Bluffs Creek Trail is a flat, 3.8 mile in and out trail located between Playa Vista and LMU’s campus. It’s known for its stunning views of both LA and the Ballona Wetlands - as well as offering glimpses of the ocean from time to time. The path itself is shrouded in greenery and wildflowers, and dogs are allowed. While the trail is pretty heavily trafficked, it still offers a peaceful and relaxing energy.
Parking: Free across street from LMU’s main entrance on South Bluff Trail Road. Cross Intersection, walk 100 feet to left & entrance is around a wired gate
Best Parks for a Nature Break
1. Ballona Discovery Park - Playa Vista
This gem of a park is located right next to Bluff Creek Trail, and is known for not only providing beautiful nature views - but also for providing a unique and immersive, "museum without walls" experience. A number of artistic buildings and statues line the park, and there is even a medicinal garden. This park is the perfect spot for shaking off the stress of the day.
Parking: free on street near Playa Vista Elementary School
2. Carlson Park - Culver City
Craving trees? Look no further than this quaint, grassy, and tree-lined park located mere blocks from downtown Culver City in a peaceful neighborhood. The broad, beautiful trees give the feeling of a southern park nestled in the midst of LA - and the serene, magical atmosphere the trees provide is unparalleled. Perfect for a midday lunch break to relieve stress, a picnic, or to simply relax at any point in the day.
Parking: free on streets surrounding park
3. Descanso Gardens - La Cañada Flintridge
Craving something completely different? Perhaps a complete immersive experience in a botanical oasis of nature? Look no further than Descanso Gardens. Located just outside of Glendale in La Cañada Flintridge, this garden is just as incredible as it sounds, and has flowers blooming all year round. Perfect for an intentional weekend nature trip, or an impromptu weekday trip to rebalance.
Parking: Free lot, but $15 general, $11 student/senior, $5 child tickets for entry
4. Palisades Park - Santa Monica
Last but not least - the stunning and varied Palisades Park in Santa Monica. This park offers walking trails, as well as ample benches/places to sit and unwind in the salty air. Enjoy a killer view of the Santa Monica mountains, as well as the tranquil Pacific. This park is definitely popular, but still incredibly peaceful and a great place to take in some of nature’s healing energy.
Parking: metered parking is available on the street beside park on Ocean Avenue, or park in the Santa Monica Pier parking lot starting at $3
LA Hiking Groups
Looking for people to heal in nature with you? Here’s a great list of hiking groups for anyone and everyone, plus our personal favorite the LA Hike Club - a dynamic, energy-focused, and fun group that meets every Wednesday at 7am for hikes all over LA.
Spending time in nature is proven to make us happier, kinder, and more creative. We hope the 10 beautiful natural spots in LA above help you reach your highest potential - no matter what kind of day you’re having.
Please share this with anyone you care about - and come back in two weeks for our next blog!
Be within Nature with Nature Beyond Threads. 💙
- Dockweiler State Beach: Beaches and Parks. Visit Marina Del Rey. (n.d.). Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://www.visitmarinadelrey.com/things-to-do/beaches-and-parks/dockweiler-state-beach
- Lurie, J. (2019, December 30). Step up to the best intermediate hikes in Los Angeles. Discover Los Angeles. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://www.discoverlosangeles.com/things-to-do/step-up-to-the-best-intermediate-hikes-in-los-angeles
- Skull rock loop - california - alltrails.com. AllTrails. (n.d.). Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/skull-rock-loop
- Point Vicente Interpretive Center. Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. (n.d.). Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://www.rpvca.gov/facilities/facility/details/point-vicente-interpretive-center-13
- Smigelski, S. (2011, November 14). Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook Trail in Los Angeles. Hikespeak. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://www.hikespeak.com/trails/baldwin-hills-scenic-overlook-hike/
- Bluffs Creek Trail - California | AllTrails. AllTrails. (n.d.). Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/bluffs-creek-trail
- How urban design can impact mental health. Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health. (n.d.). Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://www.urbandesignmentalhealth.com/how-urban-design-can-impact-mental-health.html
- Suttie, J. S. J. (2016, March 2). How nature can make you kinder, happier, and more creative. Greater Good Magazine: Science Based Insights for a Meaningful Life. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_nature_makes_you_kinder_happier_more_creative