LA's Beach Cities: Hiking to Cruising to Body Surfing
Come to Los Angeles at the right time of year, and it's possible to surf in the morning and snowboard in the afternoon. LA's gorgeous year-round weather means easy access to mountain hiking and beach swimming all in one day.
Twenty-five miles northwest from Downtown LA in Calabasas is Malibu Creek State Park. Within this 4,000-acre park are hiking trails fit for families and high-adventurers alike. The park also has its fair share of Hollywood movie and TV locations.
For the rugged hiker willing to scramble over rocks, dip into the creek and experience beautiful views, Rock Pool is a must. Hikers can easily spend half a day going only a half-mile navigating over rocks and exploring small caves while feeling as if they’ve traveled for miles. On the way to Rock Pool, hikers can walk past the Planet of the Apes wall, up to the more rigorous rock-climbing route before turning back to Crags Road, which leads to other trailheads and the former M*A*S*H set. The Nature Trail near the parking lot has been designed for visitors who are visually impaired.
The park is open from dawn ‘til dusk and costs $12 per car. The visitor center is open only during certain hours on weekends, so make sure to ask for tips at the parking booth before settling.
From the park’s entrance on Malibu Canyon Road, drive west (that’s a right turn) into the mountains. This windy, scenic road through the Santa Monica Mountains will take you to Pacific Coast Highway (commonly referred to as “PCH”).
Once at the ocean and on PCH, head north (right) toward Malibu's Zuma Beach for more rugged beach land and fewer crowds. Or, turn left for the classic beaches of LA: Malibu Surfrider for surfing and swimming, Santa Monica for bicycle rentals and shopping, and Venice for people watching and atmosphere.
Food is abundant along PCH, from beachside sit-down restaurants in Malibu to pizza and gelato stands in Venice. Street parking is at a premium in all these areas, but there are plenty of public parking lots that dot the route along the coast ($5–$12). In Santa Monica, renting a bike or inline skates can take you down the 19-mile bicycle path into LA’s beach cities of Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach, among others.
Up and down the coast you’ll find activities from professional volleyball (Manhattan Beach) to listening to drum circles (Venice Beach). Depending on the day, the waves might be big or small, but there are usually waves strong enough for at least boogie boarding or body surfing.
In winter, for those who want to say they surfed and snowboarded in one day, start at the beach with surf lessons or rentals in the morning, and take a drive to Big Bear a few hours east to snowboard into the night.