The Nature Lover's Guide to LA Pride

Parker Mesa Overlook in Topanga State Park
Parker Mesa Overlook in Topanga State Park  |  Photo:  Yuri Hasegawa

Who said celebrating Pride has to involve a happy hour cocktail or a parade? With its Mediterranean climate, Los Angeles is surrounded by gorgeous wilderness, mountains, ocean—you get the idea. And this year for Pride, we’re determined to make the most of it.

Read on for a Pride-friendly guide to the best of LA’s outdoor spaces.

Downtown LA view from Elysian Park
Downtown LA view from Elysian Park  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Elysian Park

In June, the swarm of blue t-shirt wearing fans is a familiar sight to anyone who lives within a two-mile radius of Dodger Stadium. But there’s more to enjoy in the city’s second largest park than just a ballgame. Founded in 1886, Elysian Park (929 Academy Road, Los Angeles 90012) is an underrated playground for nature lovers. Winding mountain trails, pine-shaded picnic areas, and a mysterious swing that arcs precipitously over the canyon. Elysian Park is so big you can get lost in it—and this month, you should. Tackle the miles of trails, and revel in the surprising lack of pedestrians: Elysian is the easiest (not to mention cheapest) way for Eastsiders to get a taste of green without trekking all the way out to Griffith Park.

While you’re there: Stop in for a meditation class at Everybody (1845 N San Fernando Rd, Los Angeles 90065). The Glassell Park wellness center offers bodybuilding and yoga classes, and a full gym that’s squarely aimed at an LGBTQ audience.

Echo Park Lake Swan Boats
Echo Park Lake Swan Boats | Photo: Wheel Fun Rentals

Echo Park Lake

Echo Park’s gleaming centerpiece has had a long and colorful history since 1895. An ambitious, $45 million renovation in 2013 brought a new water filtration system, and turned the marshy area at the lake’s north end into an important wildlife sanctuary for sunbathing turtles and baby geese. But the most entertaining addition was a new set of swan-shaped pedal boats, which appeared in 2018, and can be rented out by the hour for just $11 at Wheel Fun Rentals (751 Echo Park Ave, Los Angeles 90026). Spend an afternoon gliding across the lake, and you and your pedaling partner will be able to take in the full beauty of the lotus-wreathed park, which is like a little slice of Versailles in the center of the city.

While you’re there: If you’re in the mood to mingle after your sunny spin around the lake, head to Stories (1716 W Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles 90026), an LGBTQ-friendly bookstore and cafe around the corner. Be sure to show up in the evenings, when the back patio transforms into an open-air stage for comedy shows, poetry readings, live music and more.

Exterior of Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House
Hollyhock House | Photo: Joshua White

Barnsdall Art Park

Everyone knows Runyon Canyon, but one of the best sunsets you’ll ever witness in this city happens atop a barely noticeable park at the corner of Vermont and Hollywood Boulevard. Barnsdall Art Park—the name comes from a wealthy heiress named Aline Barnsdall, who owned a 36-acre site here in the 1920s—is an intimate oasis that sits high above the rest of East Hollywood. With free family art classes on Sundays (currently offered via Zoom) and LA's first UNESCO World Heritage Site, Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House, it’s the kind of place that appeals to a wide array of travelers, design lovers, and naturalists.

While you’re there: Located a 15-minute walk away, Akbar remains the go-to after hours spot for Silver Lake’s gay crowd. In May, the bar’s popular Bears in Space party kicks off with DJs, live performances, and a patio packed with cuties.

 Santa Monica Pier | Photo: Melissa Turner
Santa Monica Pier | Photo: Melissa Turner

Santa Monica

Santa Monica State Beach is an inspired, albeit safe, choice for a day out by the ocean. Sure, it’s popular, and yes, parking can be a chore, but who can pass up that endless stretch of shoreline, bookended by the Malibu cliffs at one end, and the lit-up Ferris wheel of Santa Monica Pier on the other? It’s an easy place to make new friends, and ideal for those who like their nature with a side of cotton candy and corn dogs.

While you’re there: Further down the shore, at Lifeguard tower 18, Ginger Rogers Beach is recognized as LA’s only (unofficial) gay beach. It’s not the best water for swimming, but who cares? This is a place to schmooze, lay out, and hopefully run into your speedo-wearing crush.

Parker Mesa Overlook in Topanga State Park
Parker Mesa Overlook in Topanga State Park  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Topanga State Park

Dense, remote wilderness is what you’ll find at the 11,000-acre Topanga State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains. Technically, it’s the largest state park within the limits of any city in the U.S.—though to the natives who once inhabited it, it was simply a refuge from the lower plains, which were prone to flooding in the rainy season. (Topanga is a Shoshone word meaning “above”) Start at Trippet Ranch, a 5.5-mile drive inland from the Pacific Coast Highway, where you can park on the street for free, and take the 5-mile loop known as Musch Trail to find yourself immersed in rolling green meadows and cool forest. More adventurous hikers should tackle the Backbone Trail, which stretches all the way out to Point Mugu.

While you’re there: Shakespeare fans should consider a side trip to the nearby Theatricum Botanicum, whose outdoor amphitheater hosts its signature A Midsummer Night’s Dream from June to October. The otherworldly performance venue was founded by Will Geer, an actor from the 1950s who happened to have a degree in botany, and was the one-time lover of gay rights activist Harry Hay.