Los Angeles provides the setting for much of America’s media and pop culture—naturally, considering the industries born here. Many know that Malibu’s Point Dume is an iconic Planet of the Apes location; or recognize the surreal-looking Vasquez Rocks from Star Trek and Westworld, the Bronson Caves made famous by the 1960s Batman series, and of course the Griffith Observatory's top billing in La La Land and Rebel Without a Cause.
Here are some ideas for stretching the legs on the way to film and television locations that are a little more “off the beaten path.”
Westworld is partially shot in Los Angeles, and even though the only way to get to the fictional town of Sweetwater is by booking a tour at Melody Ranch in Santa Clarita Valley, the badlands pictured in Episode Four are part of the aforementioned Vasquez Rocks—free and open to the public. Head to Leo Carrillo State Park to traipse through where they shot the beach scenes.
Santa Clarita is also home to the historic Pico Canyon trails. Buildings from Mentryville’s 1930s oil boom welcome you to the Santa Susana Mountains. After hiking a few miles there, you could walk a few blocks north on Pico Canyon Road, then make a right onto Stevenson Ranch Parkway and take the nice big sidewalks up about a mile to snap a photo of the fountain that was featured in the opening of Weeds. (“Agrestic Towship” was actually Stevenson Ranch.) It’s also worth checking out nearby Placerita Canyon, home to many historic movie ranches.
Spanning 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada, the Pacific Crest Trail is the main attraction in the movie Wild, based on Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling memoir of the same name. Strayed (played by Reese Witherspoon) began her journey just west of the Mojave Desert, but other sections of the PCT are easily accessed for day hikes in L.A., via intersecting trails at San Gabriel Mountains National Monument as well as Cooper Canyon Falls in the Angeles National Forest. See the Pacific Crest Trail Association website for trail conditions and closures.
Echo Park Lake is more of a walk than a hike, but it’s an easy loop just under one mile, seen in everything from the Netflix series, Love to countless music videos (including parts of Madonna’s "Borderline"), as well as the movies Chinatown, L.A. Confidential, Echo Park (1985 and 2014 versions), and many more.
The Los Angeles River basin featured prominently in the first season of Fear of the Walking Dead, continuing its long tradition as an eye-popping backdrop. It's appeared in many movies, including Drive, The Dark Knight Rises, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and more, going all the way back to All Quiet on the Western Front. Visitors can get a front-row look at the location by walking or biking its beautiful new seven-mile Greenway/Bike Path. Guided tours can be arranged through Friends of the Los Angeles River.
Saddlerock Ranch, the sprawling private property that's home to Malibu Wine Safaris, has appeared in The Bachelor, Millionaire Matchmaker, The Biggest Loser and more. Guided hikes—with wine-tasting and breathtaking vistas—are available to the public. Book through the Malibu Wine Hikes website.