Music Playlists for the Best Hikes In Los Angeles

Songs curated especially for your outdoor treks

Photo courtesy of Jared Schoenemann, Flickr
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Our sun-soaked, eternally health-obsessed metropolis has always had trails-on-trails-on-trails. Griffith Park is one of the largest municipal urban parks in the country, with more than 50 miles of paths lacing across its 4,310 acres. Lately, those paths feel more crowded than ever - that growth will continue with the success of La La Land, which features the park more prominently and lovingly than any film since Rebel Without a Cause.

Beyond Griffith Park, Los Angeles in all its sprawling glory features an abundance of opportunities to get in touch with nature. Following is a list of 10 great L.A. hikes - some will be familiar, others probably new to you.

After your requisite drive to reach each of these trails, you’ll naturally need an audio companion. Toward that end, we’ve created L.A.-centric playlists to power you along, specially crafted and trail-tested for each journey. Bonus points if you can pick up on the hike-related lyrics and titles sprinkled throughout.

So fire up the Spotify and sync up these playlists. Don’t forget your earbuds. And in the name of all that is decent, leave the Bluetooth speakers at home. The hiking gods do not abide that nonsense.

Elysian Park - Cali hip hop legends mix

Downtown L.A. viewed from Elysian Park
Downtown L.A. viewed from Elysian Park | Photo courtesy of Matt Hovland, Discover Los Angeles Flickr Pool

Elysian Park (aka “That Thing Dodger Stadium Is In”) is L.A.’s second largest park. Spanning a lush 600 acres, the park offers up a surprising mix of natural quietude (true to the definition of Elysian: “relating to or characteristic of heaven or paradise”) and urban edge. It’s a perfect quick trek for Downtowners looking for a pre- or post-work boost. Enter via the east side, near Chinatown. Trails ring the park, one that traverses above the Golden State Freeway with views of Eagle Rock and Highland Park beyond. There’s even a creepy rock in the shape of a giant alligator (it’s been art-bombed to heighten the effect). As you wind your way around the park, take in iconic views of Downtown L.A. and Dodger Stadium. This all-L.A. mix highlights a heavenly assortment of our city’s past and present hip hop heroes. It ain’t nothin’ but a G-thing, baby.

  • L.A. artists: Run the Jewels, Ice Cube, ScHoolboy Q
  • Key track: N.W.A. “If It Ain’t Ruff”
  • Spotify Playlist: Elysian Park

Bronson Canyon - Hollywood hike mix

Bronson Caves in Griffith Park
Bronson Caves in Griffith Park | Photo by Lindsay Blake

Of Griffith Park’s many trails, Bronson Canyon is arguably the best. From the parking area, walk around to the east and you’ll see the Batcave from the 1960s Batman TV series, starring Adam West. Take one of the two steep trails up and around the cave to reach the summit of Mount Hollywood, with great angles on the Hollywood sign as you go (head west if you want to get closer views from atop Mount Lee; the one with the radio towers). On the way back down, amble along the same fire road on which the La La Land lovers share their first dance in “A Lovely Night.” This playlist is heavy on Hollywood rock favorites, from the legendary to the new batch. You may even see some of these musicians on this trail.

  • L.A. artists: Jenny Lewis, Childish Gambino, Beck, X
  • Key track: The Go-Go’s “This Town”
  • Spotify List: Bronson Canyon

Runyon Canyon - Pop basics mix

Runyon Canyon at sunset
Runyon Canyon at sunset | Photo courtesy of artem.aleksenko, Flickr

There are great scenic hikes, and then there is this: a “scene” in itself. The most glitzy of L.A. trails, Runyon Canyon holds great appeal for locals and tourists alike due to its proximity to the hearts of Hollywood and West Hollywood. An abundance of “the beautiful people” pack the paths from sunrise to sunset. The only thing missing is a red velvet rope at the gate with a surly bouncer checking to see if you’re on the list. Don’t worry: you are. Lyft or bike your way there if you can, as parking can be a major bummer at the trailheads. The park offers killer cardio workouts, particularly if you're game enough to make the lung-busting clamber up Inspiration Point and Indian Rock (you should). Get into the spirit of the see-and-be-seen with this up-to-the-moment pop mix suitable for the afterparty scene. And hey, no dress code!

  • L.A. artists: Big Data, Lana Del Rey, Diplo
  • Key track: Børns “Electric Love”
  • Spotify Playlist: Runyon Canyon

Sturtevant Falls - Soothing ambient explorer mix

Sturtevant Falls in Sierra Madre
Sturtevant Falls | Photo courtesy of HC's Foodventure, Flickr

A few miles above Sierra Madre, this gentle trail ambles down from Chantry Flats in the Angeles National Forest through Roberts Camp - a classic collection of old resort cabins - and culminates at a 50-foot waterfall and pond. Push yourself back up the top, and enjoy panoramic views of the San Gabriel Valley below. Parking can be a bit tricky here on the weekends, and you’ll need a parking pass (which you can grab at the nature center at Chantry Flats or at the REI store at the base of the mountain). This ambient mix is a soothing soundtrack to a mellow walk in the woods.

  • L.A. artists: The Album Leaf, Alessandro Cortini
  • Key track: Carbon Based Life Forms “Interloper”
  • Spotify Playlist: Sturtevant Falls

Fryman Canyon - California soul mix

Fryman Canyon hiking trail
Fryman Canyon | Photo by Joshua Lurie

You can’t beat the Fryman Canyon trail for accessibility. Pop up quickly from West Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley, or Hollywood by way of the 101 Freeway and enjoy an easy stroll or push yourself harder up its steep inclines. Great views along the three-mile loop. This wide trail is always busy, but never feels overcrowded. There is parking in the valley below, and free spots at the TreePeople parking lot at the top. This sun-splashed park calls for a sunny mix of upbeat soul classics. Ain’t no mountain high enough, indeed. NOTE: Wilacre Park is currently closed for renovations until Jan. 5, 2018.

  • L.A. artists: Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan
  • Key track: Marlena Shaw “California Soul”
  • Spotify Playlist: Fryman Canyon

Stough Canyon - Crunchy granola mix

View from Stough Canyon in Burbank
View from Stough Canyon | Photo courtesy of chrisreg2014, Discover Los Angeles Flickr Pool

Just above the bustling Burbank Media Center district, this moderately trafficked seven-mile loop rises into the Verdugo Mountains with views of the city below, Downtown L.A., Montrose and beyond. Along the cresting ridgeline, find peaceful rest stops with comfortable wooden chairs and wind chimes. Perfect for kicking back with a snack, or a book. This crunchy-granola set of songs is just right for letting your hair down, and stretching out. Take a bath, hippie!

  • L.A. artists: Ryan Adams, Jesca Hoop, John Mayer, Ariel Pink
  • Key track: Baskery “Cruel Companion”
  • Spotify Playlist: Stough Canyon

Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area - Pacific jazz and more

Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area
Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area | Photo by Joshua Lurie

For many Angelenos, this gem nestled in Baldwin Hills is little more than a green blur they zip past on the way to or from LAX. Slow down and check it out. Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area is a big, gorgeous park with three miles of groomed walkways that offer dazzling vistas of Downtown L.A., the San Gabriel Mountains beyond, the coast and Catalina to the west - really, all of the L.A. basin. This isn’t a particularly challenging hike, so kick it with this selection of Pacific jazz classics and more.

  • L.A. artists: Kamasi Washington, Chet Baker, Chico Hamilton
  • Key track: Gerry Mulligan “Walkin’ Shoes”
  • Spotify Playlist: Kenneth Hahn

Malibu Creek State Park - Spaced out neo-soul mix

Malibu Creek State Park
Malibu Creek State Park | Photo courtesy of 45SURF, Flickr

Beautiful rock formations and stunning vistas make you feel like you’re miles from civilization, a mere 25 miles from Downtown L.A. It’s no wonder that Malibu Creek State Park has been a go-to for location scouts over the years (projects like M*A*S*H and Planet of the Apes were filmed here). Fifteen miles of trails and a babbling creek make this is a truly transportive experience. This neo soul playlist offers plenty of spaced out sounds to score your stroll, mixed with just enough energy to carry you along the way.

  • L.A. artists: Flying Lotus, Anderson .Paak, Moses Sumney, Tinashe
  • Key track: Frank Ocean “Pink + White”
  • Spotify Playlist: Malibu Canyon

Temescal Canyon Loop - L.A. classic rock mix

View from atop Temescal Canyon
View from atop Temescal Canyon | Photo by Joshua Lurie

A quick ascent to genuinely stunning ocean and canyon views, Temescal Canyon is a great hike for westsiders or anyone looking to show off the beautiful Pacific to out-of-town visitors. It’s a simple 2.5-mile loop, but can be expanded to four miles with sidetracks. Much of it is sheltered by trees, making it perfect for the hottest days. This is an especially busy trail on the weekends, so plan ahead for parking. This sun-soaked batch of Southern California classic rock - heavy on the 70's hits - will provide a lift. We may never pass this way again!

  • L.A. artists: Fleetwood Mac, The Doobie Brothers, Randy Newman
  • Key track: Cass Elliot “Make Your Own Kind of Music”
  • Spotify Playlist: Temescal Canyon

Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area - dark cinematic mix

Devil's Punchbowl in Pearblossom, California
Devil's Punchbowl | Photo courtesy of Jeff Turner, Flickr

Located in Pearblossom, Devil's Punchbowl is a trek to reach - it's over an hour from Downtown L.A. - it's but more than worth the time and gas money. The Punchbowl itself boasts geologic features that give it its name, a cauldron of gigantic rock formations ringed by rising and falling paths. Traverse above and hike to the Devil’s Chair, a natural parapet that offers staggering views of Lancaster, Edwards Air Force Base and the spectre of Death Valley in the far distance. This could be the very edge of the world, and the vibe here is very spooky...maybe it’s that “Devil” moniker. Or the fact that the park is located right on the actual San Andreas Fault. This dark and lovely cinematic mix plays to all that. Don’t fall in... or do?

  • L.A. artists: The Doors, Love, Chelsea Wolfe, Flying Lotus
  • Key track: Sharon Van Etten “The End of the World”
  • Spotify Playlist: Devil's Punchbowl