It’s that time again – to look back at 2019 and recall some of the best hikes from the year. Long-time followers of this site know that it is a tradition to list the top hikes of each year and for the second year, we are spotlighting the hikes whose write-ups received the most traffic.
As with last year’s list, what follows is not a definitive list of Los Angeles’s most popular hikes, which would be subjective anyways, but a sampling based on the approximately 125,000 unique visitors who came to Nobody Hikes in L.A. in 2019 (thank you all!) There is a lot of carryover; 12 of the 19 hikes are returnees from the 2018 list. Among the new entries are Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park, Griffith Park’s Suicide Trail and the Bowen Ranch approach to Deep Creek Hot Springs, one of two routes to that site to make the list.
The hikes on this year’s list include historic destinations, unusual geological formations, rivers, summits, landmarks and more. The difficulty ranges from easy family walks to challenging San Gabriel Mountain summits. Areas represented include the western San Fernando Valley, Griffith Park, the South Bay, the Inland Empire and the San Bernardino and Angeles National Forests. These hikes are proof positive that Los Angeles has an incredibly diverse array of natural areas to explore.
#19) The Road to Nowhere
Though it dropped from #13 on last year’s list, the Road to Nowhere remained a well-visited post in 2019. Whether it’s the history, the views of the Sheep Mountain Wilderness or the mysterious tunnels, the Road to Nowhere is a popular hike, enjoyable for newcomers and veterans, offering an escape into the Angeles National Forest just a short distance from the San Gabriel Valley. (Originally published: 2011; #13 on the 2018 reader’s choice list)
#18) Big Dalton Canyon
Like the Road to Nowhere, Big Dalton Canyon offers an escape into nature, conveniently located to millions of San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire residents. The park features several steep trails – Mystic Canyon, Wren Meacham and the notorious Poopout and Punkout routes, but this gentle walk up the canyon is the one that made the list. (Originally published: 2012)
#17) Strawberry Peak
Though it dropped seven spots from last year, the write-up of Strawberry Peak continued to get a lot of traffic in 2019. The peak’s popularity is no surprise, considering its prime location in the Angeles Forest front country. Only a short drive from civilization, Strawberry Peak offers excellent views from its steep slopes. (Originally published: 2015 – #4 on the Top 15 of 15; #11 on the 2018 reader’s choice list)
#16) Two Harbors to Little Harbor (Catalina Island)
This hike on one of the more strenuous portions of the Trans-Catalina Trail also finished at #16 on last year’s list. Whether you hike it as a long day trip from Two Harbors or spend the night at the scenic Little Harbor Campground, it is sure to be a challenging and scenically rewarding adventure. (Originally published: 2012; #16 on the 2018 reader’s choice list)
#15) Hummingbird Trail
With its oddly shaped rocks, panoramic views of the San Fernando Valley and steep drop-offs, it’s no wonder the Hummingbird Trail is a popular hike. (Originally published: 2013)
#14) Deep Creek Hot Springs via Bowen Ranch
Deep Creek runs from the north slopes of the San Bernardino Mountains to the Mojave Desert. Along the way, the creek passes some naturally occurring hot springs that are a popular destination for So Cal hikers. The approach from Bowen Ranch is the shortest and arguably easiest, although it does present the challenge of an exposed up-hill climb when it’s time to head back to the car. (Originally published: 2015)
#13) Suicide Trail (Griffith Park)
It seems fitting that unlucky #13 would be this ominously named trail in Griffith Park. The short but steep Suicide Trail is one of Griffith’s more sparsely visited routes, providing more solitude than one typically finds in the park. Attractive views of Mt. Chapel, the San Fernando Valley and the Verdugo Mountains are part of the appeal. (Originally published: 2017)
#12) Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park
From a search engine optimization perspective, this post got a boost by being updated and expanded in October of 2018, but it has several intrinsic strengths: like the Hummingbird Trail, it offers a good workout conveniently located to the San Fernando Valley while still feeling fairly remote and it also has a historic flavor, following the route of the Old Stagecoach Road. The plaque marker on the steep Devil’s Slide Trail commemorating the road is a commonly photographed and recognizable site on this hike. (Originally published: 2014; revised and expanded, 2018)
#11) Lower Bear Creek
Another newcomer to the year end list, this hike provides a taste of some of the most remote terrain in the San Gabriel Mountains. The route written up on this site is a moderate, 4-plus mile round trip trek with some light boulder hopping in the creek, with the destination being a campsite with some interesting cabin ruins. Adventurous hikers can continue upstream, bushwhacking and boulder-hopping their way up to Smith Saddle. (Originally published: 2017)
This returnee from last year’s list had an even stronger showing this year. Tucked between a golf course and a freeway, Dominguez Gap Wetlands occupies an area that might not seem like an ideal hiking destination, but it provides half a million Long Beach residents and people from other nearby communities a taste of nature in the midst of urban sprawl. Highlights include spring wildflowers, water fowl and sunsets. (Originally published: 2014; #18 on the 2018 reader’s choice list)
Another returnee from last year’s list, the sea caves at Terrenea Beach on the former Marineland site are understandably popular. Easily accessible and fun to explore, they rival the Portuguese Bend Overlook as one of the Palos Verdes Peninsula’s most popular hikes. (Originally published: 2010; #5 on the 2018 reader’s choice list)
#8) “M” Trail
The most popular post on the site in 2018 dropped seven spots this year but still proved to be a favorite among readers. Many hikers drive by it on the way to Palm Springs or Idyllwild and it’s hard to not want to climb up to the “M” and enjoy the views. (Originally published: 2011; #1 on the 2018 reader’s choice list)
#7) Deep Creek Hot Springs via Bradford Ridge Path
This adventurous hike in the northwestern San Bernardino National Forest, where mountains meet desert, moved up several spots from last year. It is popular among hikers who don’t want to navigate the dirt roads necessary for the Bowen Ranch route or the hiking distance required for the P.C.T. option. As with Bowen, however, don’t forget about the steep climb out of the canyon on the return. (Originally published: 2011; #11 on the 2018 reader’s choice list)
#6) Potato Mountain
Last year’s runner up didn’t do as well this year, but Potato Mountain is still a big draw for Inland Empire and San Gabriel Valley hikers. Though it’s views aren’t a substitute for those of the higher peaks of the eastern San Gabriels. (Originally published: 2012; updated 2017; #2 on the 2018 reader’s choice list)
This short but enjoyable hike made another strong appearance on this year’s list. In addition to visiting the distinctive boulder that gives Eagle Rock its name, this trail features panoramic views of downtown Los Angeles. Its convenient location makes it understandably popular and it’s easy enough that it can be done even on hot summer days. (Originally published: 2016; #7 on the 2018 reader’s choice list)
#4) Azusa River Wilderness Park
Here’s another hike that might not be a “bucket list” destination – but for the second year in a row, NHLA readers have made its write-up among the top 5 most visited on the site. Mountain views and history (the trail follows the current-day Highway 39’s predecessor) make this hike an understandably popular one, especially among San Gabriel Valley residents. (Originally published: 2015; #3 on the 2018 reader’s choice list)
With Sturtevant Falls, Trail Canyon, Black Star and Eaton becoming more and more popular, it’s not surprising that hikers are looking for less crowded alternatives. One is the waterfall just below Mt. Baldy Road that is known as Stoddard Canyon Falls (the officially named Stoddard Canyon Falls is on private land). Though some rock scrambling is required to reach it, Stoddard is a fairly accessible waterfall that is at low enough altitude to avoid much snow during the winter but also provides a cool swimming hole in the hot summer months. (Originally published: 2016; #12 on the 2018 reader’s choice list)
#2) Haunted Table 29
We return to Griffith Park for one of L.A.’s most infamous sites: the picnic table where, according to local lore, two young lovers were crushed to death by a falling tree. This hike once again proved to be a favorite among NHLA readers, besting its strong performance in 2018 to earn this year’s silver medal. In fact, Haunted Table 29 might have taken the gold had it not been for heavy spring rains…. (Originally published: 2015; #4 on the 2018 reader’s choice list)
And the number one most viewed hike write-up in 2019 is…
#1) Walker Canyon
(Originally published: 2017)
Heavy spring rains put the quiet Inland Empire community of Lake Elsinore on the map in March, 2019. Suddenly, the hills on the north side of Interstate 15 were bright orange. The sight of millions of California golden poppies drew crowds beyond what the city of Lake Elsinore was equipped to handle and the resulting debacle was dubbed the “Poppy Apocalypse.” When it was all over, there were rattlesnake bites, heat stroke cases, disgraced Instagram influencers who were called out for trampling the flowers and a city of 65,000 that had to absorb up to 150,000 tourists.
Was there a good side to the Poppy Apocalypse? Many restaurants in Lake Elsinore saw business boom in March; many people who might not have otherwise been inspired to explore nature did so, and when reports of out-of-control conditions in Lake Elsinore started circulating, judicious hikers were inspired to explore other areas to observe the poppies, including Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve and Chino Hills State Park.
Only time will tell if hikers learn from the lessons of Poppy Apocalypse, but for better or worse, the episode has become part of So Cal lore. While we are waiting to see how Poppy Apocalypse will be remembered, I want to take this opportunity to thank NHLA readers for another great year of supporting the site. Best wishes for a happy, safe and successful 2020 on and off the trails.
To view the best-of lists from years past, click here.