You may not have realized it yet, but if you look past the models, movie stars and shiny sequins, there are a whole load of outdoor adventure activities in LA, all conveniently located just a short driving distance away. L.A. is bordered by the ocean on one side and mountains on the other – so it makes sense really!
I’ve compiled a list of go-to activities and the best places in and around Los Angeles to experience them.
Outdoor Activities in LA: Hiking
The Hollywood Sign. Yup. I know, I know, everyone is already aware of the Hollywood Sign. And for good reason. It is the most iconic sight in the entire city and no good LA adventure is complete without that photo.
This is the most obvious of the LA outdoor attractions, so let’s just get this out the way shall we?
There are a number of different ways that you can enjoy the Hollywood Sign. You can head there via Canyon Drive, making a 9.2km moderate hike. This is one of the most common approaches and will get you that perfect sign photo for the ‘gram. There’s also the Hollyridge Trail to the Hollywood Sign viewpoint. It’s slightly shorter and less of an elevation gain.
If you want to bulk out your hike by adding in some L.A. must dos, then start your hike from Hollywood Boulevard. You’ll make your way down the Walk of Fame, star spotting as you go (watch out for Elmo) and ending at the Griffith Observatory. Once you get there you’ll be treated with a fantastic view of the city, the Hollywood Sign and can enjoy learning about space and the planets. Time your arrival at the observatory to coincide with sunset and thank me later.
You can also park your rental car at the observatory to skip the tourist mob of the Walk of Fame, if that’s not your thing.
For the more serious hikers, take on Mount San Antonio. Also known as Mount Baldy, due to its lack of foliage at the peak. This 10,000+ft leg burner has two main trails that can be combined to create a loop. This is a serious hike so be sure to know the conditions and what it takes to conquer such a beast. All Trails is a great source for finding routes suited to your own ability, with reviews, recent conditions and photos. Search your location and book a car rental in LA to get to the trailhead. Leaving a vehicle at the trail means you can have it fully stocked with snacks, water and a change of clothes ready for your return – as well as being able to find trails away from the crowds.
Beach Activities in LA: Surfing
There is no shortage of surf spots in L.A., dotted along the city’s beautiful coast. Topanga, Malibu, Venice, Manhattan… each one brings a different crowd of either first timers or hardy locals. It’s L.A. so finding empty waves will always be a challenge. Try going first thing in the morning during sun rise to beat some of the crowds.
All outdoor activities in Los Angeles, or anywhere for that matter, come with inherent risks. The ocean tends to increase that. If you’re new to surfing then consider a lesson with Learn to Surf LA, who have helped thousands upon thousands of people from around the world safely experience surfing in LA for the first time. They’ll also fill you in on the dos and dont’s of surf culture and etiquette, paramount knowledge in helping you get out of the Venice breaks without a black eye.
Surfing is also a spectators sport and if you’d rather stay dry, Venice pier is a great spot to sit with a coffee in the morning and enjoy the show.
Adventure in LA: Climbing
The surrounding mountains of Los Angeles house a number of outdoor climbing opportunities, with coastal routes, sport, traditional climbing and plenty of bouldering. Pine Mountain, Topanga Canyon and Santa Barbara over to the west are worth a trip. The city itself has numerous bouldering gyms, but this isn’t an article about outdoor activities done indoors, so you’re on your own there!
If you’re looking for an intro climbing lesson or just a guide with some gear and know how, then get yourself over to Joshua Tree National Park. This protected area is characterized by its desert aesthetic, seemingly random placed boulders and of course the Joshua Trees. You can then book an experience appropriate for your skill level with Rock Climb Every Day, who also offer intros to rappelling, sport and lead climbing, as well as multi-day adventure programs.
Joshua Tree is such an insanely beautiful place to visit that is worth the drive over no matter what activities you are into. Rent a car in LA and enjoy the scenery, the hiking and try your hand at rock climbing whilst you’re at it.
The (mostly) calm weather days of Los Angeles, and (usually) flat waters make it an ideal spot for paddle boarding. It’s the best way to soak up the rays whilst also enjoying the water, making it one of the most popular and fun activities in LA.
There are rental companies on just about every stretch of beach, but if you want to increase your chances of seeing seals, dolphins and even WHALES then drive your rental over to Marina del Ray.
You can even use your paddle board as a vessel to explore the Venice Canals. The canals are publicly owned, so enjoy your own tour of the quirky, eccentric wonder that is Venice.
If you were looking to spice up your paddle boarding just a little bit, why not try some SUP yoga? A real test of balance. You’ll be able to harness the tranquility of the ocean whilst discovering peace within your body, as you are taken through Vinyasa flow at a comfortable pace. This is a fun activity for adults in LA, and is open to all ability levels. A great test of mind, body and balance, your lesson begins with a 30min float and paddle, a good chance to understand how the board operates. YOGAqua offers private, group and instructor training lessons at a number of different locations.
How could this even be considered a list of outdoor activities in LA without including rollerblading?! Put your headphones in, press play on your favorite 80’s disco track and let the good times roooooooll.
This activity is best enjoyed at Venice Beach, where there are plenty of fantastic people watching opportunities as the world slides by. From Venice you can head all the way to Santa Monica stopping at Muscle beach, the skate park and the board walk stalls to break up the journey. Once in Santa Monica, you can cruise through Dogtown, famed for its key role in skateboarding history. The Zephyr surf shop still exists, although it now homes Dogtown Coffee, which is worth pulling into.
If you are just too damn cool to get your roller skate on, then there are also a number of bike rental options where you can carry out this activity but have approx. 25% less fun than if you were on skates. Leave your car at the Venice pier parking lot and spend the day exploring the beach and boardwalk.
This post has been a sponsored collaboration with Viajemos. As always, all opinions are our own and we would never endorse a product or service we didn’t fully support or use.