Runyon Canyon Park is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Los Angeles, and often shows up on publishers’ lists of best hikes in LA. This 130-acre dog park is located in Hollywood on the east end of the Santa Monica Mountains, providing hikers with two overlapping loops. There is a 1.65-mile hike with 500 feet of elevation gain, and a larger 2.65-mile loop with 700 feet of elevation gain. If you are a trail snob expecting peace and quiet, Runyon Canyon probably isn’t for you (check out these other hikes in Los Angeles). If you are just looking for a bit of outdoor exercise with added people watching, Runyon Canyon is perfect.
The majority of both loops cover wide dirt and paved fire roads, but there are a couple steep single-tracks on less maintained ridges. Runyon Canyon is officially a dog park and has off-leash areas where canines run free. Plenty of hikers and joggers hit the trail without dogs, and Runyon Canyon clearly receives more foot (and paw) traffic that any other park in Los Angeles. The landscape is well trodden and the trails can easily feel congested.
The trail up the bottom of Runyon Canyon
The following hike description begins from the main entrance at the top of Fuller Avenue, two blocks north of Hollywood Boulevard, but the directions can be modified to pick up the loop from either of the park’s two other entrances. Take a look at the map below to help visualize Runyon Canyon.
Pass through the large gate at the top of North Fuller Avenue and begin hiking up the canyon. To the left you will see an open lawn where outdoor yoga classes are often held. Just ahead is an intersection that marks the beginning of the loops. A wide dirt road heads to the left, west toward the nearby Vista Street gate where it joins Runyon Canyon Fire Road, the gradual half of the smaller loop in the park. For a steeper more scenic climb, continue straight through the intersection and hike the loop in a counter-clockwise direction.
Runyon Canyon Fire Road
The trail progresses gradually up the bottom of the canyon through an off-leash area, before turning sharply to the right up the east side of the canyon. Just 0.45 miles from the start, the fire road arrives at Inspiration Point. There is a bench here, so relax and take in the scenic view over Hollywood. The hike is about to become more challenging.
From Inspiration Point, the road is reduced to a wide single-track that makes a steep ascent up the ridgeline. Wooden steps assist in the climb as you gain 340 feet over a third of a mile. East Ridge Trail levels out, and provides eastern views toward Griffith Park and the Hollywood Sign. Continue up the ridge to a second viewpoint, Clouds Rest, which overlooks Los Angeles from an elevation of 1,040 feet.
Not far past this perch, the trail unites with Runyon Canyon Fire Road. With 0.95 miles in the bag, you may either turn left and take the gradual trail down the other side of Runyon Canyon for a 1.65-mile circle with 500 feet of elevation gain, or turn right and climb to a higher trail that travels up, over, and down the ridge on the west side of Runyon Canyon (above the fire road) for a 2.65-mile trek with 700 feet of elevation change.
If you select the shorter outing, simply take the fire road down into the canyon toward the Vista Street gate. Turn left on the road just before the gate to return to the original trail down the center of Runyon Canyon. Then turn right to exit through the Fuller Ave. gate.
If you opt for the longer loop, keep in mind that the trail on the opposite ridge is less maintained with several steep sections and no wooden steps. Turn right on Runyon Canyon Fire Road and head up the mountain toward Mulholland Drive. After 0.4 miles, just past a house with a goat pen, turn left on an unmarked fire road, heading uphill across the top of Runyon Canyon. The dirt road reaches the ridge on the west side of the canyon, and narrows to a southbound single track, Western High Way Trail. A short steep spurt brings you up a distinct rock outcropping near the 1,200-foot highpoint of the ridge. To the west there is a nice view over Trebek Open Space and Nichols Canyon.
Looking down the west ridge of Runyon Canyon
From this lofty vantage, the congestion of hikers below look like ants marching up the mountainside. Most trails around Los Angeles offer the opportunity to escape city life. At Runyon Canyon, hikers trade solitude for community.
West High Way Trail
Take in the towering view of the cityscape to the south before making a steep decent into the canyon. Be careful coming down off the ridge. The dirt is loose in places and the precipitous trail drops 600 feet in just half a mile.
The rough trail ends just above the Vista Street entrance, meeting up with Runyon Canyon Fire Road. A short distance up the road from the gate, take an immediate right and drop down to the original trail in the center of Runyon Canyon. The loop is complete. Turn right to exit the park through the Fuller Ave. gate.
There are additional short trails within the park, but both the 1.65-mile hike and the 2.65-mile trek offer great overviews of Runyon Canyon. There is no fee or permit required to hike in Runyon Canyon, so get out and enjoy.
To get to the trailhead: From Hollywood Boulevard, travel 0.2 miles west of La Brea Ave. and head north on North Fuller Ave. Head north across Franklin Ave. and begin searching for street parking. The entrance to Runyon Canyon Park is at the top of Fuller Ave. Street parking can be scarce.
Trailhead address: 1854 North Fuller Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046
Trailhead coordinates: 34.105259, -118.348933
Use the map below to create your own directions:
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