From L.A.’s ancient source of life, to mountain trails and one of the most romantic beaches in California, here are ten of the most popular Los Angeles outdoor locations.
BRONSON CANYON - GRIFFITH PARK
Located in the southwest section of Griffith Park and easily accessible from Hollywood, Bronson Canyon has been a popular location for generations of filmmakers who make good use of its somewhat alien setting. From Franklin Avenue in Hollywood, go north on Canyon Drive until the road ends, at the "Camp Hollywoodland" parking lot. Cross the small, red concrete bridge on the right (east) side of the road. Walk around the vehicle barrier, keep left and follow the unpaved road for the short walk into Bronson Canyon. You can capture cinematic Instagrams throughout Bronson Canyon, featured in classics like The Searchers and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, as well as more recent films like Star Trek VI and Army of Darkness. “Bronson Cave” is actually a 50-foot long tunnel, the remains of a quarry that was founded in 1903 and originally called Brush Canyon. Be sure to Instagram the tunnel entrance, best known as the mouth of the Batcave from the 1960s Batman TV series.
RUNYON CANYON PARK
Runyon Canyon Park is a 130-acre park located just two blocks from world-famous Hollywood Boulevard, west of the Hollywood Freeway (US 101) extending north to Mulholland Drive. The park is well-known for its off-leash dog policy and frequent celebrity sightings. From the Fuller Avenue entrance at the bottom of the canyon, you can hike the path clockwise or counter-clockwise. Going clockwise involves a gradual climb up the back of the canyon, heading around the east ridge to Clouds Rest and then coming down the steep slope and steps to Inspiration Point, before taking the fire road back down to the entrance. Going counter-clockwise is a much more energetic climb up the steps and steep slopes between Inspiration Point and Clouds Rest, before the gentle road back down. Whichever route you choose, your Instagrams will capture breathtaking panoramic views of Los Angeles - on clear days, you can see all the way to Catalina Island.
FRANKLIN CANYON PARK
Located near Benedict Canyon at the geographical center of Los Angeles, Franklin Canyon Park spans 605 acres and features over five miles of hiking trails. The park’s history dates to 1914, when William Mulholland built the Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir. In the 1930s, the family of oil baron Edward Doheny used the canyon as a summer retreat. The easy stroll around the reservoir offers plentiful views of birds and wildlife, as well as access to other, more difficult trails such as the Hastain Trail, which rises to offer views from West L.A. to the Pacific.
Pop culture fans will have a field day Instagramming Franklin Canyon Park, which is frequently used as a TV and film location, including the famous hitchhiking scene from It Happened One Night with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. The three-acre Franklin Lake was the “fishing hole” in the opening credits of The Andy Griffith Show, as well as the lagoon in the Universal Studios horror classic Creature from the Black Lagoon. The park was also the background for the cover photo of Simon & Garfunkel’s album Sounds of Silence.
LOS ANGELES RIVER - LAKE BALBOA
The Los Angeles River is the original source of life for the City of Los Angeles, where the Native Tongva tribe and later, the Spanish built the city’s first settlements. Today, the L.A. River flows through 14 cities and countless multicultural neighborhoods. The 51-mile river flows from the San Fernando Valley, through the nation’s second-largest urban region, into two of the world’s busiest port regions, and finally the Pacific Ocean, the world’s largest body of water. The Army Corps of Engineers began a flood control project in the late 1930s, paving 80% of the river and creating the world’s largest storm drain. In the decades that followed, the river was practically forgotten.
Dedicated residents, environmental and conservation groups are working to restore the Los Angeles River to its natural splendor. Their ongoing efforts have resulted in bike paths, hiking trails, parks and public art installations. For a glimpse of the L.A. River as it was, and is gradually becoming once again, head to Lake Balboa in the Valley. At Balboa Boulevard, you can stroll north along the soft-bottom section of the river and Instagram the scenery, fish, birds, and other wildlife.
EATON CANYON NATURAL AREA
Eaton Canyon waterfall
The Eaton Canyon Natural Area is a 190-acre zoological, botanical, and geological nature preserve situated at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. In addition to hiking, visitors can enjoy equestrian trails with a staging area, picnic areas, a seasonal stream, and native flora and fauna in their natural habitats. The Eaton Canyon Nature Center features a variety of live animals on display, fascinating exhibits and useful visitor information.
For memorable outdoor Instagrams, start at the trailhead at the north end of the parking lot, then hike along the well-marked main path of the Eaton Canyon Trail to the junction marked WATERFALL. Continue to the next junction and follow the trail under the concrete bridge and into Eaton Canyon. From here, the trail is less defined and much more rugged. There’s boulder-hopping and - depending on the season and rainfall - you could be creek-crossing, so be prepared. Continue through the main canyon and you’ll arrive at a 40-foot waterfall, an especially popular destination during the summer, thanks to its cooling mist and the small pool at its base.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY ARBORETUM AND BOTANIC GARDEN
Queen Anne Cottage at the LA County Arboretum
The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden is a unique 127-acre botanical garden and historical site located across the street from Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, northeast of Downtown L.A. The Arboretum’s plant collections include rare and endangered species from all over the world. Wander along quiet paths, or relax by the Mayberg waterfall, fountains, ponds or themed gardens. Besides the flora and fauna, the Arboretum’s historic structures are ideal for Instagrams. The most famous of these buildings is the Queen Anne Cottage, built in 1885-86 and best known for its appearance in the introduction to TV’s Fantasy Island, as well as the Florida home of Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand in Meet the Fockers. The Queen Anne Cottage was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
EL MATADOR STATE BEACH
Sunset at El Matador State Beach
Beaches don’t get much more romantic than El Matador State Beach, located off Pacific Coast Highway about 10 miles northwest of Malibu. This secluded pocket beach is accessed via a steep dirt trail that leads to stairs and the rocky shore. You can sunbathe on the long stretch of sand, explore sea caves, or watch the surfers and body boarders who enjoy the year-round summer and winter swells. The upper cliffs offer incredible Instagrams, with views looking down on large boulders and deep blue water filled with kelp forests.
VENICE OCEAN FRONT WALK
Venice is one of L.A.’s most popular destinations for visitors and locals alike, a vibrant beach community that offers fun in the sun, eclectic shopping, and a wide range of dining options. The world-famous Venice Ocean Front Walk (aka “the boardwalk”) is one of the best places in L.A. for people watching - everyone from colorful locals to visitors from around the globe. Your Instragrams will come to life with a myriad of street performers, artists, fortune tellers, and much more. Nearby Instagram subjects include Muscle Beach, the Venice Beach Skatepark, and the famous outdoor basketball courts from the 1992 film, White Men Can’t Jump.
Manhattan Beach Pier
Built in 1920, the Manhattan Beach Pier is a landmark of Southern California’s coastal landscape. The 928-foot pier is the oldest standing concrete pier on the West Coast and was declared a California State Historic Landmark in 1995. The Mediterranean-style building at the end of the pier houses the Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab & Aquarium. For memorable Instagrams of the endless summer, keep an eye out for surfers weaving skillfully between the pier’s mussel-covered pilings, or watch beach volleyball players dive and spike on the sand just south of the pier. And of course, Instagrams of the beach at sunset are a must.
VASQUEZ ROCKS NATURAL AREA PARK
Vasquez Rocks Natural Area and Nature Center is a 905-acre park located in Agua Dulce, about an hour north of Downtown L.A. The park’s striking, multi-colored rock formations reach heights of 150 feet and are the result of tens of millions of years of seismic activity and erosion. Vasquez Rocks takes its name from the outlaw Tiburcio Vásquez, who used the area as one of his many hideouts. A portion of the famed Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches 2,663 miles from Canada to the Mexico border, passes through Vasquez Rocks. The gentle incline and numerous trails provide plenty of Instagram options while exploring the park, especially from atop the famous rocks. Note that there is very little shade throughout the park, so plan accordingly.
Star Trek fans will instantly recognize Vasquez Rocks from Captain Kirk’s battle with the Gorn in the Season One episode Arena, several other episodes, as well as the film series. Dozens of classic TV shows have filmed at Vasquez Rocks, including Bonanza, The Rifleman, Kung Fu, Mission: Impossible and The Twilight Zone. Vasquez Rocks was also featured in movies such as Dracula (1931), Blazing Saddles (1974) and Little Miss Sunshine (2006). Because of its significance as a prehistoric site for the Shoshone and Tataviam peoples, Vasquez Rocks was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.