Text and photography copyright 2010 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.
Signal Hill Loop
- Location: Discovery Well Park in Signal Hill, corner of Temple and Hill. From Santa Monica and Los Angeles, take the 405 freeway south to Cherry Ave. Go right on Cherry and in 1.3 miles, go left on Skyline Drive. Turn right on Hill St. and go 0.4 miles to Temple. Take a left on Temple and then an immediate right into the park. From Orange County, take I-405 to the Cherry Ave. South exit. Go left on Temple, which becomes Obispo, and turn right on Hill St. Go 0.3 miles, up a steep hill, and take a right on Temple and a quick right into the pak.
- Agency: City of Signal Hill
- Distance: 2 miles
- Elevation gain: 150 feet
- Difficulty Rating: G
- Suggested time: 1 hour
- Best season: All year
- USGS topo map: “Long Beach”
- More information: here (slightly different route)
- Rating: 1
Can a trail rated “1” really be worth visiting? If you live or work in the Long Beach/Signal Hill area, absolutely. This trail is certainly not the place to get out into nature or to find solitude, but it is an easy walk that can be an enjoyable way to spend an hour before or after work, or perhaps even during your lunch break. On a clear day, you can get views of Catalina Island, Orange County, the San Gabriels, downtown L.A. and more. It’s also a great place to watch the sunset.
There are actually quite a few hiking paths on Signal Hill (calling them “trails” may be pushing it), so the route described here has quite a few variations. This particular loop visits Signal Hill’s most scenic parks, starting in Discovery Well Park on the corner of Hill and Temple and climbing to Hilltop Park. The route includes city streets, paved pedestrian-only paths, dirt roads and even a little bit of single-track. With a few adjustments, the entire route could be wheelchair accessible.
From Discovery Well Park, look for a gravel road leaving from the northwest corner. Soon, you come to a split. To take a slightly more scenic route, head right and look for an obscure single-track trail branching off to the left, by some benches. The trail switchbacks up a hill to join the other path. On the way, you will have to step over a few pipelines, but other than that, for a few seconds, it actually feels a little like wilderness. (Back at the intersection, you could take the left fork instead and come up to the same spot.)
On rejoining the path, head right and make your way to the end of Dawson Avenue at Hilltop Park, where you get some nice views. There are also some interpretive exhibits describing Signal Hill’s history.
You can return how you came, or if you want to make a loop, look for the Skyline Trail across the street. This paved walkway descends into a residential neighborhood. After switchbacking your way downward, take a hairpin left turn onto the dirt Ridge Trail, which brings you into a gated housing community. Head left toward the gates and take a left onto 21st St. You follow 21st about half a mile, uphill slightly to its terminus at Temple. Then take a left on Temple and head back to the park to complete the loop.
If you want more of a challenge, consider parking east on Hill St. at Obispo Avenue and walking up to Discovery Well Park. This will add a steep 100 feet or so to your climb.