For those times when you can’t get out of LA to go for a hike, the city offers several urban trails. Those who live around Loyola Marymount University (in Culver City, Ladera Heights, Marina Del Rey, Playa Vista, Westchester, West LA, etc.) may enjoy getting a taste of the outdoors along with some exercise on the LMU Trail, also know as Westchester Fire Road. This partially paved road crosses the bluff below Loyola Marymount University (and the white LMU lettering) and is a level 2.15 miles from point to point. There is a side trail along the way that climbs to the top of the bluff, which can be used to add a short hill workout to the hike for an all-in distance of 4.7 miles round trip with 125 feet of elevation gain.
LMU Trail crosses the Westchester Bluffs on the north side of the Loyola Marymount University Campus. The trail starts near Court Park at the corner of Bluff Creek Drive and Centinela Avenue and goes southwest all the way to Lincoln Boulevard. Since there is no parking at the end of the trail at Lincoln Boulevard, it is best to access the trail from the east side (unless you are within walking or biking distance of the trail’s west end). Start from Court Park in Playa Vista and take the sidewalk path southwest along Bluff Creek Drive. After a tenth of a mile, the walkway hits the start of LMU Trail across from the intersection between Bluff Creek Drive and Artisans Way.
Bear left up LMU Trail and stay to the left through a junction with another dirt road on the right, which is closed to the public to protect a fragile habitat for birds and other animals (otherwise, you could use the nice lower trail to convert this hike into a loop). A short distance farther up the LMU Trail, the pavement begins and the trail is mostly paved from this point on.
Toyon and other brush line the trail as it crosses this narrow strip of nature on the bluffs. A line of houses forms a rim at the top, and there is a wooded stream below the trail. Two panels along the trail depict the wildlife on the bluffs, including snakes, lizards, rabbits, butterflies, and a variety of birds. You may also find white paint on the road, marking out every quarter mile of the trail to keep you updated on your progress.
The LMU Trail ascends partway up the side of the bluff to open up views over the city below. To your right, below the trail, you’ll pass large hangers that were part of the historic Hughes Airport. The hangar was built to hold Howard Hugh’s famous and enormous plane, the Spruce Goose, or Hercules. The hanger has been converted into a film studio, and much of Avatar was filmed at the Raleigh Studios in the Howard Hughes – Hercules Complex. You’ll also pass the YouTube Space LA, where many smaller works are being created.
At 0.7 miles, you will come to a junction with a paved trail ascending to the left. This side trail can be used to ascend 100 feet in 0.2 miles to the top of the bluffs. The trail climbs to broader views over the west side of LA County, looking north toward the Santa Monica Mountains. At the end of this side trail, you will reach Altamor Drive in the neighborhood above the bluffs.
Return to the LMU Trail where it another level 0.7 miles to the LMU sign and 1.45 miles to Lincoln Boulevard. If you keep an eye on the bluff above the trail, you’ll spot the clock tower at Sacred Heart Chapel on LMU’s campus, which resembles a lighthouse. The trail will then pass just below the large white L-M-U letters laid out on the bluff to mark the campus.
Another 0.75 miles past the LMU Sign, you will reach the end of the trail at Lincoln Boulevard. Across Lincoln Boulevard, a trail continues along the bluff, descending into the Ballona Freshwater Marsh to the west. There is no crosswalk connecting the two trails, so if you wish to continue you’ll have to walk up to the intersection with LMU Drive to get across Lincoln Boulevard. If you’re not pushing on, turn around at Lincoln Boulevard and walk, jog, or bike back to the start. It is 2.15 miles (without the side trail up the bluff) back to Court Park. No fee or permit is required to hike the LMU Trail. Bikes and dogs are welcome (dogs must be on a leash), so get out and enjoy!
To get to the trailhead: The hike begins from Court Park, located on the southwest side of the corner of Bluff Creek Drive and Centinela Avenue. The entrance to the parking lot is off Bluff Creek Drive. The park is located near (southwest of) the intersection between the 405 freeway and the 90 freeway).
Trailhead address: 12100 West Bluff Creek Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90094
Trailhead coordinates: 33.982744, -118.40128 (33° 58′ 57.87″N 118° 24′ 04.60″W)
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