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Exploring LA's best hidden hikes and trails with 'Secret Walks' author Charles Fleming

A hiker at Runyon Canyon in July, 2003.
A hiker at Runyon Canyon in July, 2003.

Those who think no one walks in L.A. probably just needs to know where to look.

Those who think no one walks in L.A. probably just need to know where to look.

From the author of the popular guide “Secret Stairs” comes “Secret Walks,” a follow-up that introduces adventurous hikers to the best hidden walks and trails of the city, which lead to such historical landmarks as the original Bat Cave from the “Batman” TV show, the lake where Opie learned to fish on “The Andy Griffith Show,” and the storage barn for one of the city’s oldest wineries.

“Most of the walks in this book came from places that I had heard about but I had not explored," Fleming says. "They were stories that I knew about hikes or trails or waterfalls or lakes or places that I had never had any particular reason to go, and I never had anybody tell me in a really simple way where to park, where to walk, how long it will take, and how difficult it will be. I’m hoping that this will give people a way to explore places they’re curious about but have never had the time or the energy to go and explore themselves."

Fleming covers 44 walks in his new book, but here are a few of his hand-picked favorites to get you started:

Legg Lake and the Whittier Narrows (Whittier Narrows Recreational Area in El Monte)

(Photo: John Liu via Flickr)

"This is a great example of something I knew about and heard about for decades, but I never had any particular reason to go there, and I never had any particular reason to discover how delightful it is," says Fleming. "It’s three linking lakes, the walk that goes around them is sort of a figure eight loop that covers all of the coastline of all three of the lakes, and takes you to an area where there are these extremely old Sycamore and Elm trees and all kinds of wildlife and bird life that makes you feel, you know, only a 15 minute drive from anywhere, like you’re way out in the country."

Peanut Lake in Deb’s Park (Just above the Pasadena Freeway)

"A very small, hidden gem," says Fleming. "Very few people know about it. You can almost see it from the Pasadena Freeway as you go up through the Arroyo, but it’s hidden. It’s actually a remnant of an old hotel that was there as long ago as the turn of the century, perhaps. There are some foundation stones and walkway left, and then there’s this tiny body of water that affords an unusual thing. You can sit by the lake and get this remarkable view of downtown Los Angeles and the skyline. You can take people there and they’ll say to you, 'I’ve lived here my whole life and had no idea it was five minutes from my house.'"

La Tuna Canyon Walk (La Tuna Canyon Park, Sun Valley)

(Photo: Candid via Flickr)

"You’ve probably driven by and seen cars parked here. Maybe you wondered what everyone is doing there. It’s a strenuous hike with some elevation, but there are two ways to do this hike: You can either go up around the winding fire road, which is a lot of elevation change but over a slower slope, or you can be very bold and go straight up the face."

The Crescenta View Trail (Deukmejian Wilderness, La Crescenta)

(Photo: Suzanne - neusuz5 via Flickr )

This suggestion came in from AirTalk listener David. “It’s about three miles straight up to the top of Mt. Lukens, which is the highest point in the city of Los Angeles," he said. Fleming adds, "You get a great view of this walk from the La Tuna Canyon Walk. It also starts at one of the oldest, still-functioning winery buildings in the Los Angeles County area. It’s leftover from the 1800s and it’s now being used as an event space."

Sandstone Peak (Yerba Buena Rd., Malibu)

"Maybe the longest and most challenging of the 44 circular walks in “Secret Walks,” says Fleming. "It’s off of Mulholland as it gets near its terminus down near the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu/Calabasas. It’s a walk with a lot of elevation change, magnificent views, some water features, and some very magnificent large, balancing rocks that you've probably seen pictures of, even if you haven’t been there yourself. They’ve been photographed many times. It’s one of those unusual walks where you can see all of the ocean and then all of the valley, sometimes just by stepping from one side of the trail to the other."

What’s your favorite trail and walk in Los Angeles? 


Charles Fleming, author of “Secret Walks: A Walking Guide to the Hidden Trails of Los Angeles” (Santa Monica Press, 2015) and “Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles” (Santa Monica Press, 2010). He is a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times.

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