Hike Number 14 & 15, May 1-2, Zion National Park

Note: This weekend’s hike was a little bit different, as we decided to venture a little further than Malibu or the Palisades and into Utah for a weekend getaway in the mountains of Zion.

Abby: On Thursday morning, Sasha picked me up to begin our journey to Zion. After stopping in Larchmont for the best coffee I’ve ever had, we met two friends, packed up the SUV and made our way inland with plans to stop in Las Vegas for lunch. Prior to this weekend, I’d not made the drive to Las Vegas, so I was quite fascinated along the way. Five hours later, we were there. As an east coaster, this felt very reminiscent to when the train goes above ground as you arrive in New York. After a quick lunch at Shake Shack, and a (wasted) $100 bet on the Mayweather Pacquaio fight, we took off on the final leg of the drive.

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The road to Zion (is that a book?) took us from Las Vegas to Arizona and finally to Utah.

Sasha: After a few more delays to pick up a ton of food and booze we didn’t eat or drink, we arrived in Virgin, Utah (true) just as the sun was setting. From Virgin, we had another 30 minute drive to the house, which we knew from pictures was fairly remote. As we drove up the earie and secluded road to the house, we were grateful our friends, who had arrived before us, had dropped us a pin via text to point us to our destination. When we finally arrived, we were thrilled to be greeted by our friends’ craft cocktails, a telescope pointed at a clear sky and waxing gibbous moon, and a fire pit waiting to be lit. After a casual dinner of wine and cheese, and a lot of songs around the fire, we headed to bed, excited to wake up to our first views of Zion.

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The next morning, we woke up early and we were not disappointed. From our patio, we had a view of the incredible red and white sandstone cliffs of Zion against the bluest sky I had ever seen. We spent a few hours exploring the house, trying to find cell phone service and making our plans for the day. After we finished our breakfast (and most importantly, our coffee), we each packed ourselves a sandwich and got ready to hit the road.

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We had decided to spend our first day exploring The Narrows, the (appropriately) narrowest section of Zion Canyon. We didn’t know much about the hike, except that we would be hiking through and along some water and would need to rent appropriate footwear, so we headed into Springdale to the Zion Adventure Company. After watching a short video, we realized that we would really be hiking upstream through Virgin River, which would (at points) reach our waist. I quickly realized that my Lululemon pants would not keep my cell phone safe, so in addition to the canyoneering shoes, neoprene socks and walking stick that came in our rental package, I rented a waterproof sack and backpack.

After a short bus ride to the Temple of Sinawava, we walked 1 mile along the Riverside Walk to the gateway to the Narrows. After walking a mile on a hot day in neoprene socks, we were all eager to get our feet wet and we happily made our way into the river. We were immediately struck by the incredible views as we walked upstream in a valley between thousand foot high cliff walls. We depended heavily on our walking sticks, as the current was pretty strong and we couldn’t always see the rocks we were stepping on. A few times, I found myself slipping and ending up in water up to my waist, so I was happy I had packed a suitcase full of fast drying, moisture wicking clothes. Despite the cold water and warnings we could succumb to hyperthermia (I believe the water temperature was in the low 50s), the neoprene socks and hot day kept us warm. After a couple of hours, several hundred spectacular pictures and no electronic causalities, we found a sandy bank to sit down and enjoy our lunches. We realized it had taken us quite some time for our group of 9 to make it to our lunch spot, so we decided to turn around and head downstream and back to the Zion Adventure Company to return our equipment before they closed.

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Our initial plan had been to have dinner in town to celebrate a friend’s birthday, but after our long day outside, we decided to instead take advantage of our patio’s Jacuzzi and grill. After dropping off our equipment, we stopped in town and picked up some steaks, veggies and sausages and headed back up to our incredible retreat. Since we had arrived late the night before, we were excited to see our first Zion sunset, so we spent the rest of the evening outside, grilling our dinner and enjoying the Jacuzzi, fire pit and a few bottles of wine.

Abby: I realize Sasha just said this, but that water hike was absolutely incredible, so I figured nothing could compare to that on Saturday. I was wrong. On Saturday, after a delicious breakfast, the daughter of the owner of the house we were staying at took us on a trail hike to a cliff overlooking miles upon miles of bright blue skies over quiet mountains. After a brief photo shoot, we made our way to a cave to scale. Climbing up, into the cave, and to the edge of the mountain made me feel a little nervous as it was steep, with loose rock and nothing to hold onto. A fall could have really hurt. Fortunately no one was injured, and we were able to enjoy a quick snack break on top of the cliff before heading back down and to the house. That afternoon, we took in more views, snacked, and watched the Clips winning before making our way outside to see the stunning sunset. I wish these photos did it justice. It’s something I’ll never forget.

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When the sun had set, we watched the fight and enjoyed the rest of our time together in the house.

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Sasha: After a long Friday and Saturday, once the sun set and we caught our last evening views of Zion, we had a light dinner of leftovers and spent the rest of the evening enjoying each other’s company and losing money on the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. I headed to bed early, sad knowing we would have to wake up and leave our incredible vacation the next morning. When we woke up the next day, we quickly packed our things and hit the road by 9:30, eager to beat the fight traffic we anticipated catching up with in Vegas. As we left the house, the owner came by to see us off, and as he took our last group picture, he said “The home will miss your energy when you leave.” By some magic (maybe Zion’s), we managed to make it home in record time, and spent the rest of our afternoons texting each other our favorite pictures and swearing to go back as soon as we could.

Hike Number 14, Sunday May 3, Hollywood Stairs Circuit

Distance: 2 miles

Elevation Change: 266 ft

Temperature Day of Hike: 80 degrees

Directions: From Franklin Avenue, head north on Beachwood Drive. Once you pass the Beachwood Café (Beachwood and Westshire) park anywhere.

Abby: On Saturday, Sasha sent me a text with a link to the Hollywood Stairs Circuit and asked if I was up for it on Sunday. We’d been talking about trying an “urban hike” for a while, so despite my feelings for running stairs, I agreed. When we parked at Beachwood Canyon, we weren’t sure of cell phone service, so we sat for a bit to take screen grabs of the route.

While Sasha did this, I googled how many stairs and it was in the 800’s. From the car, the trek to the first set is a small climb up Beachwood Canyon Drive. When you reach the stair case, you meet a set to haul up. Per my Google search, this was 124 steps. At the top, you are greeted by signage directing you to the right for the second set.

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As you continue up the canyon to the second set, take advantage of the incredible views of the Hollywood Sign and Downtown LA.

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The second staircase was a bit hidden, but since we knew the address markers, we were able to spot it, and make our way down. At the top of the second set, we were welcomed by more beautiful views of Downtown LA and now the Griffith Observatory.  Once we reached the bottom, we continued on to the third set.

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Sasha: When we started the blog, we really set out to find and explore hikes in the LA area that didn’t require too long a drive, but were still challenging. The past month has been pretty hectic for both of us, so we were excited to take the opportunity to find a local “hike” that would take us to a neighborhood we weren’t too familiar with. The idea of the urban hike really appealed to us too – we were hoping to use some of our hikes as excuses to explore urban Los Angeles.

The third staircase was probably one of my favorites – it is a divided set that apparently was once home to a water feature that has been converted to planters. We descended 138 steps, and found our way back to Beachwood Drive, where we found staircase number four.

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The fourth staircase was hidden between houses on Beachwood Drive, and at 144 steps, was the first of the more challenging ascents. This staircase was a little overgrown and steep, so we definitely were grateful for the just in case handrail. Both Abby and I have been known to take a tumble on a hike, so we were fairly cautious on the steep, narrow stairs. Once we got to the top of set four, we were treated to more spectacular views of the city. From the top, we headed back to Beachwood Drive, to find the largest ascent, staircase five.

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Abby: At 176 steps, the fifth set was the most challenging, in my opinion, so I was eager to see what was next on flight six. It was a nice descent back to Beachwood Drive, although as Sasha said, the steps were super narrow, so I took them a little slowly to avoid an “Abby fell down the stairs on a hike” story.

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The blow by blow directions:

From the intersection of Belden Drive and Woodshire Drive:

  1. Head north on Woodshire Drive to staircase 1, on the left just before 2795 Woodshire Drive and ascend 124 steps.
  2. At the top (Belden Drive) head left.
  3. At the fork in the road, bear right (Flagmoor Place) and at the intersection at Durand, continue uphill on Durand.
  4. Staircase 2 is located past 2954 Durand; descend 117 steps.
  5. At the bottom of set 2, you will be back on Belden Drive. Continue on Belden, cross Rogerton, and find staircase 3 just before 2950 Belden Drive. Descend 138 steps.
  6. Once you reach the bottom, cross Beachwood Drive and head to the right.
  7. Staircase 4 is located after 2800 Beachwood Drive; ascend 144 steps.
  8. At the top of set 4, turn left and head downhill on Westshire. Once you reach Beachwood, continue on, crossing Belden to staircase 5.
  9. Find staircase 5 after 3020 Beachwood Drive. Ascend 176 steps to the top.
  10. At the top of set 5, turn right onto Hollyridge Drive. Continue on Hollyridge past Pelham, and find staircase 6 just past 2831 Hollyridge Drive. Descend 149 steps.
  11. You’re done! Take a break at the Beachwood Café, or reverse the series for a more challenging hike.

Pro’s:

– Amazing views

– Quick and challenging

– Not too crowded

– Easy for us to get to

Con’s:

-Stairs were a little narrow

– May need to do it a few times to really feel a burn

Holy shit view factor: 6/10. The views aren’t totally unique to the hike, but always beautiful

How good your ass will look after: 8/10. Climbing stairs is no joke.

Post hike grub spot: Beachwood Cafe. We decided to stop there because it was close, and because we saw Secret Service hanging out outside. We were hopeful to see Hillary, but were unsuccessful in that endeavor.

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Hike Number 13, April 19, 2015: Temescal Gateway Park

Distance: 4.10 miles

Elevation change: 810 ft

Temperature day of hike: 75

Directions: Temescal Gateway Park is located at the intersection of Temescal Canyon Road and Sunset Boulevard in the Pacific Palisades.

Sasha: And we’re back! The last few weeks were full of familial obligations, heat waves and other hike deterrents, so Abby and I decided to trade in our weekly hikes for some of our other favorite workouts and activities. We’ve been excitedly planning an upcoming road trip with some amazing friends that we can’t wait to share with you, so we promise we’re still on track to make our 50 hike goal.

We decided to end our hiatus at Temescal Gateway Park, which we’d heard was the starting point of several great trails. We made the easy drive down Sunset Boulevard and parked in the park’s parking lot right at Temescal Canyon Road and Sunset Boulevard. Parking is self-serve and $7 per vehicle, so make sure to have cash or check on you to avoid a parking ticket.

After we parked, we weren’t quite sure where to go, and I realized I hadn’t really planned anything other than the drive to Temescal. We decided to head down the main road, deeper into the canyon to look for a trailhead, and passed several picnic areas and what looked like a conference center with cabins nearby. There were several people walking the road headed both to and from the canyon, so we took this as a good sign and hoped we would soon find a trail to begin our hike.

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After about 10 minutes, two young (read: early 20’s) and fairly clueless girls stopped us and asked if we knew where the trail began. They said they had made it to the trailhead, which they said was blocked by a chain and marked as closed due to several hazards. Having been on a few hikes ourselves, we were pretty certain that they misunderstood (or had never been on a hike before), as almost every hike we’ve been on has had some sort of chain or gate blocking it. We decided to play it safe and stopped the first confident looking hiker we encountered, and he assured us we were heading in the right direction and would soon find the head of the trail. Once we did, we climbed over the chain the girls had noted and saw the sign that confused them, which marked the trail closed to horses, dogs and fires but open to hikers and rattlesnakes.

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Abby: The first mile went by really quickly as there wasn’t much of an incline but to be honest I was grateful for that with the lull in hikes lately, and went kind of overboard with leg workouts last week. When MapMyHike told us we’d reached a mile, I thought “this is amazing” but that was premature. It wasn’t long after that the trail changed drastically and I found myself embarrassingly tired (and sweaty) by the step climb.

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Sasha: After that first easy mile, I wondered if we had ended up on the wrong trail and were destined for a long walk through the shaded canyon, but soon after we crossed a bridge over a dry creek, the narrow trail became much steeper. While this definitely wasn’t the steepest hike we’d ever taken, the loose, rocky ground and 2 week hiatus definitely made us feel every step. The views on the steepest part of the trail were also not super exciting (gorgeous green lushness just wasn’t doing it for us on Sunday), so we were shocked by how long the second mile took us. When we heard the 2 mile notification from MapMyHike, we took a short break to drink some water, surprised ourselves with our quick recovery and headed to the top of the trail.

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Once we reached the top of the trail, we were rewarded with panoramic ocean views. It looked like there were a few trails that descended from the summit, so we took a few minutes to consult MapMyHike. I was disappointed to find very few trails marked on their map, but luckily there were other hikers who pointed us in the right direction. After we spent a few more minutes admiring the view, we decided to make the loop back down the mountain.

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Abby: As Sasha noted, the descent was much easier after a quick breather. We learned from others on the trail that if we headed back down the other side of the mountain, there wouldn’t be much shade, but we’d been pretty covered on the trek up, so we opted to try it anyway.

The decline was steady, but we had a lot of things to talk about and weren’t walking straight up the side of a mountain anymore, so it went by quickly.

Pro’s:

  • Busy site, so easy to not get lost
  • Several trail paths to choose from
  • Beautiful view from the top
  • No horses or dogs allowed

Con’s: 

  • The climb goes from pretty easy to pretty tough without much notice
  • On a hot day, it could be too hot to enjoy

Holy shit view factor: 5/10. Views aren’t great until you’re at the top

How good your ass will look afterwards: 6/10

Post hike grub spot: We weren’t certain where the Palisades Town Center was, so we opted for something we knew. We went to Tavern in Brentwood and both had a salad and a raspberry mimosa. Or two.

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Hike Number 12. March 29, 2015. Tuna Canyon.

Distance: 3.67 miles (Likely closer to 3.8 miles – we accidentally turned off tracking for a bit on MapMyHike)

Elevation Change: 728 feet

Temperature day of hike: 78 degrees

Directions: From PCH in Santa Monica, head north until you reach Big Rock Drive. Turn right onto Big Rock Drive, and follow it 1.7 miles to the top until it dead ends. There is limited parking at the top of the hill.

Abby: Sasha and I had a much more eventful weekend than usual, with a late night comedy show on Friday, and a full day of making pasta from scratch (and drinking a lot of wine) on Saturday. By the time Sunday rolled around, we were exhausted and a little cranky. I’m writing this as a caveat to what may be a slightly bitter review.

Around noon, we finally made our way to Starbucks before heading to Malibu. When we got to the mountain, we made our way up a super windy road overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was really beautiful but also quite sharp, so drive slowly. As we hit a curve nearing the top of the hill, we saw a creepy animal, which Sasha recognized as a coyote. I didn’t know I was afraid of coyotes until this point. So now, on top of being cranky, tired and maybe a touch hungover, I am also anxious and without cellphone service. Not my best combination.

When we got to the top, it was a total dead end, so we weren’t certain where to park. We noticed that there were a couple of cars on a pseudo sidewalk, and with a small car, we were able to squeeze in. Not sure if this is legal, but we figured a tow truck wasn’t going to make its way up that windy hill, so we risked it.

After a few minutes of complaining, we made our way to the gated entrance to the service road to begin our hike.

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Sasha: After we awkwardly climbed over the locked gate, we started on the paved road up to the top of the mountain. As Abby mentioned, we were both feeling under the weather, so neither of us was thrilled when we realized we had quite a climb ahead of us. Since we didn’t have cell service, we weren’t really sure what path to follow, so we headed straight up Big Rock Drive. If you’ve ever met either one of us, you’re probably aware that we can be quite verbose, so it was pretty telling that we said maybe 5 words to each other over that first 2/3 of a mile.

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Abby: When we finally made it to the end of that miserable hill, we were shown two options. One was to head down a hill (Big Rock Lateral), the other was to keep climbing up Big Rock Drive. We decided to keep climbing up, so that the end of our hike was downhill rather than uphill. As we trekked up, we noticed two different spots where someone had buried an animal and now I’ve not only seen a coyote, and climbed straight up a concrete hill, I’ve also seen memorials to dead animals on the side of a mountain. Sasha put it into perspective by saying this was reminiscent of “Pet Sematary.” I am officially no longer interested in this hike.

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Sasha: Once we saw that second shrine, I turned to Abby and said “Let’s just find a good point to turn around and end this thing.” We knew there was a meditation maze somewhere on the hike, and were hoping to get to it but weren’t sure how to find it. After a little more walking, I noticed a meditation maze to our right, through some heavy bushes. We continued on, hoping to find an easy path to the maze. We finally found a small opening in the brush and tried to head towards the maze, but quickly realized we had no idea where we were going and turned around, pushing past overgrown plants to make it back to the main trail.

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At that point, we decided we had spent more than enough time on the trail. We were pretty spooked after the animal shrines and the feeling of total isolation on the trail, so we picked up our pace on the way back to the car. As we reached a flat section bordered dry rocky ground and low plants, we heard the unmistakable sound of rattles surrounding us. I paused to listen, and Abby said “don’t even say anything,” so we booked it until we were clear of the sound.

Abby: When I learn that there are rattlesnakes in addition to all of the aforementioned, I just start laughing as this whole thing has become a big joke. We picked up the pace, and quickly made our way back down the hill. I’m fairly certain I’m going to fall down the concrete hill as icing on the cake, but somehow I don’t.

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Pro’s:

  • Great views
  • Wide trails
  • Easy to find your way back down

Con’s:

  • The concrete climb at the beginning is incredibly steep
  • There is no shade
  • All of the deadly animals and burial sites

Holy shit view factor: 7/10 If it would have been a clearer day, the views would have been significantly better, so there is potential.

How good your ass will look afterwards: 7/10 That first .6 miles will bring your ass up at least an inch.

Post hike grub spot: Since we were at the tip of Malibu, we drove back to San Vicente and stopped at À Vôtre Santé because Gwyneth Paltrow like their food. Their mimosas were only $4 and the food was delicious.

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Hike Number 11, March 23, 2015. San Vicente Mountains.

Distance: 5.34 miles round trip

Elevation Change: 784 feet

Temperature day of hike: 70 degrees

Directions: From Sunset Boulevard, turn North onto Mandeville Canyon Road. After 4.8 miles, turn left onto Garden Lane Road. Parking is easy, and free, and the trailhead is easily found at the base of Garden Lane Road.

Abby: When we woke up on Sunday morning, it was pretty hazy outside, which was welcomed after last weeks 90-degree hike, so we decided to stay inland since clouds would likely obstruct the ocean views. We also needed to ensure we found a trail that was dog friendly, as Sasha’s mom and family dog Buster joined us this week. The San Vicente Mountain offered a trail that was perfect for this day and our guests.

  

Sasha: After cramming my mom, Buster and Abby into my tiny Fiat, we headed west to Mandeville Canyon to begin our hike. Mandeville Canyon is a beautiful and secluded neighborhood in Brentwood that extends deep into the Santa Monica mountains, and its winding roads are popular with mountain bikers and horseback riders. We drovealmost 5 miles up the winding canyon road, avoiding hitting several aggressive mountain bikers braving the single lane road, and found easy street parking on Garden Lane Road. The trailhead should be fairly east to spot as soon as you make the left turn onto Garden Lane Road, but per usual, I was only half paying attention so I ended up at a dead end before tracking back to find the trailhead.

To start the hike, we passed through a gate marked Santa Monica Mountains Conservency Zone Parkland, and began up the Water and Pole Power Road towards the Mandeville Fire Road. After about half a mile, we came to the first intersection, where we stopped to check our directions. We turned right, continuing up the Water and Pole Power Road and quickly gained the majority of the hike’s elevation until we reached the second intersection, the W. Mandeville FireRoad. We checked our directions again and turned right, almost immediately noticing a sign pointing us towards San Vincente Peak, .5 miles away.

Abby: When we made it to this fork, we were surprised at how high up we’d already climbed. The incline was steep, but steady, which I much prefer. As we made the right and continued up, we were surprised at how quiet the trail was. I think we’d only seen three other people at this point. We persisted up the trail, taking in the lush views and a quick steep incline to make our way to the Nike Missile. There were several picnic tables, a bathroom, drinking water fountains to refill if need be and even a payphone in case you wanted to call your parents

   

After checking out the views from the top of the tower, we headed toward Mulholland Drive to make our way back down, closing the loop.  

Sasha: After turning right on the unpaved section of Mulholland Drive, we walked until we passed through a yellow gate (usually closed to car traffic) and past a small parking lot before noticing a second yellow gate to the right. We entered the gate and joined theCanyonback Ridge trail, an easy fire road of rolling hills covered with beautiful wildflowers. After about 20 minutes of walking, I pulled up MapMyHike, as the directions mentioned that the intersection with the Hollyhock Trail was easy to miss. I was happy to see that it was marked on the app, so we continued walking confidently until we found it, and turned right to complete the loop. Once we were on the Hollyhock Trail, we knew we were home free, and descended back towards Mandeville Canyon Road. At the bottom of the trail, we walked through a pretty wooded area and past a few beautiful homes before the trail dumped onto Mandeville Canyon Road. We turned right on Mandeville, where I almost ran back up to the car (parked on Garden Lane), to complete the loop before my phone died.

  

   Pro’s:

  • Mountainous views
  • Not very busy
  • Lush greenery and beautiful, bright flowers
  • Plenty of photo opportunities

Con’s

  • It was a pretty steady climb, not much of a challenge
  • Not much signage, we had to rely on our MapMyHike app often

Tips:

  • Have directions with you, as it’s not clearly marked
  • Even on hazy days, wear sunscreen. There isn’t a lot of shade

Holy Shit View Factor: 4/10. The greenery and lush flowers are beautiful, but you’re mostly looking at the Valley.

How Good Your Ass Will Look Afterwards: 4/10 It was a climb, but being that it was slow and steady, it wasn’t much of a workout.

Post hike grub spot: We drove back to Beverly Hills for a quick snack at Oliverio at the Avalon Hotel. We were seated right away in a cabana by the pool, and had a yogurt parfait and a kale Caesar salad. They also offered $15 bottomless mimosas until 4pm. It wasn’t too busy, so the service was great.  

Tracking the hike: We used MapMyHike to track, but also relied on tips from Hikespeak.

   

  

Hike Number Ten, March 15, 2015: Portuguese Bend Reserve.

Distance: 5 miles round trip

Elevation Change: 850feet

Temperature day of hike: 85 degrees

Directions: From the 405 South, exit Crenshaw Blvd. Head West on Crenshaw Blvd 9 miles until it ends. Park anywhere.

Sasha: Sunday, March 15th was the LA Marathon, and after weeks of street signage warning us of impending street closures, we decided to get outta Dodge and head away from the action for hike 10. Even though I’m from LA, I had never been to Palos Verdes, but read that there were several beautiful hikes along the peninsula. After grabbing extra-large water bottles and lathering on sunscreen, we put the top down and headed south to the Portuguese Bend Reserve. We took the 405 South through Inglewood and Lawndale, and after a long drive down Crenshaw Blvd through Torrance and past several dilapidated mini malls, we made it to the white picket fences of Rancho Palos Verdes.

After we parked at the end of Crenshaw Blvd, we walked through the marked gate to Burma Road, a wide path that takes you through the reserve and all the way to the bottom of the peninsula. While researching this week’s hike, we were immediately intrigued by the idea of an “upside down” hike – a hike that started and ended at its highest point. This meant that while we would get an easy start on a hot and muggy day, we would lose our cool down and finish the hike with the hard trek back up the mountain at the hottest part of the day. We also noticed that while we could follow Burma Road down and then back up the peninsula, there were several smaller single-track off shoots, which gave us the chance to choose our own adventure.

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Once we made it through the gate, we were immediately overwhelmed by the gorgeous seascape ahead, with Catalina Island directly in front of us. Burma Road was a little crowded for our taste, and after overhearing a young girl make a pinky promise with her bestie “to marry millionaires,” we decided to veer off the road most taken to the Eagles Nest Trail, a single track trail which we could tell would lead to a beautifully framed view of Catalina. After taking a quick view break at the Harman Overlook, we continued on the Eagle’s Nest Trail until it met up with Burma Road again. We followed Burma Road until we noticed the single track Panorama Trail, which traversed a steep hill I did not want to climb (but later had to, on the steeper side).

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Abby: As Sasha mentioned, the idea of an “upside down” hike was a welcomed challenge, since it offered something we’d not yet tried. We approached the trail and it was a pretty easy first half, since it was a steady decline with unbelievable views of the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island. After the first overlook, we had fun randomly choosing “left” or “right” at each of the trail markers. Until we took the Panorama trail to the Barn Owl Trail, which forced us up a very steep side of the mountain. Fortunately, at the top, there was a rock that made for a nice resting spot as we soaked in the views and tried to cool down. The heat had not only warmed our bodies, but also our water, making it really tough to stay hydrated. At this point, we looked at our phones and the weather app read 87 degrees.

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After our brief cool down, we decided to make our way back to the top. This is where things got really tough.

Sasha: The short but very steep climb up the Barn Owl Trail had been such a struggle in the heat that we were not excited to begin the climb back up the peninsula. As we fantasized escape plans, I made the executive decision to take the Burma Road Trail straight back up the mountain. From the bottom of the hill, it looked like the least steep way to get back to the top, so we took swigs of our bath-water temperature water, and started trudging back up the hill. While the path was not steep, the hot weather made this quite a workout, so I’d definitely suggest taking this hike on a cooler day.

Abby: When we finally approached the final horseshoe bend, I looked to my left and saw what looked like an incredibly steep hill. I believe I said, “Holy shit, do we have to climb that?” to which Sasha replied, “That’s why I keep looking at you; I’ve been waiting for you to notice. Yes, we do.”

After I grumbled and took a drink of my hot water, we trekked our way up to the top and agreed it was a priority to find a place to buy a freezing cold water immediately. We found a gas station, and after drinking half of a large SmartWater bottle, I finally felt my body start to cool down.

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Pro’s:

  • Incredible views
  • A significant workout at the end, though, not the beginning
  • Not very busy
  • Peaceful, despite the heat
  • Plenty of photo opportunities

Con’s:

  • We weren’t fans of the upside down hike
  • It was way too hot to be enjoyable for us, go on a cooler day
  • Very little shade

Tips:

  • Don’t forget a camera
  • Be cognizant of the weather
  • Bring extra water and wear sunscreen

Holy Shit View Factor: 10/10. You have endless views of the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island, with luscious greenery and beautiful flowers along the trail.

How Good Your Ass Will Look Afterwards: 4/10 There is a steady incline on the way back, but not for too long.

Post hike grub spot: We drove around the area for a bit to find something to eat, but we could only find chain restaurants without a view, so we decided to grab a cold water at a gas station and make our way to Manhattan Beach. We parked the car and headed toward the water where we found The Strand House. We were seated right next to the window overlooking the beach right away, and the food was delicious and we both loved their fruity cocktails.

Tracking the hike: We used MapMyHike to track, but also relied on tips from Hikespeak.com.

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Hike Number Nine, March 8, 2015: Mesa Peak.

Distance: 6.65 miles round trip

Elevation Change: 1,512 feet

Temperature day of hike: 75 degrees

Directions: From PCH in Malibu, drive inland on Malibu Canyon Road for 4.5 miles and turn left into the parking area for the Piuma Trailhead on the west side of the road. From the north, take the 101 Freeway to exit 32 for Las Virgenes Canyon Road in Agoura Hills. Drive south for 5 miles on Las Virgenes Canyon Road (which becomes Malibu Canyon Road) and turn right into the parking area for Malibu Creek State Park’s Piuma Trailhead. The turnout is 0.1 miles south of Piuma Road and 1.6 miles south of the main entrance for Malibu Creek State Park.

Abby: Leading up to this weeks’ climb, we had both read and been told that the Mesa Peak hike in Malibu State Park was notoriously challenging, which we were initially excited about. The day started a little later than planned, maybe due to Daylight Savings Time, maybe due to a hangover, but most likely due to beach traffic. When Los Angeles weather goes from “cold” to mid-seventies in five days, the beaches fill up quickly.

We took PCH up to Malibu, turned right onto Malibu Canyon Drive, and after about four and a half winding miles through the tall, plunging mountains, we began to feel a little nervous about what we were about to encounter. And rightfully so.

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Sasha: We found easy parking at the Piuma Trail parking lot, where you can park for $10 per vehicle (check local signage for instructions). After we parked, we walked past a porta-potty and out-of-order bathroom to the well-marked base of the Backbone Trail. We immediately started a steep climb up a rocky single-track trail. After about ½ a mile, the trail evened out and at 2/3 of a mile, the Backbone Trail ended at the Mesa Peak Service Road, where we turned left to continue up the hill. While this first 2/3 of a mile has nice shaded coverage, once you hit the service road the trail is largely uncovered so be sure to lather on the sunscreen before you head out.

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Once we turned onto the service road and rounded a hairpin turn we realized that we had quite a bit of climbing left to do. We continued onward, stopping several times to catch our breath, hydrate and admire the sweeping views of the surrounding mountains and Malibu Canyon. We noted some landmarks (Brents Mountain, which we named Boob Mountain, was a favorite) and measured our progress by our relative position to the sights. After one particularly grueling climb, we stopped to catch our breath and noticed Malibu Canyon Road in the canyon far below us and I made the classic mistake of checking our progress on MapMyHike. We had only climbed 1.5 miles and had about 2 miles left to Mesa Peak.

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Abby: When Sasha announced we still had about two miles to scale, I was shocked. I felt as though we’d been climbing up that steep mountain for hours. At this point, we looked at each other and exchanged “I can’t believe we haven’t thrown up” admissions. However, if there is one trait we share, it is our tenacity, so we were going to make it to the top however challenging it may be. We continued upward and onward for another two miles until we made it to Mesa Peak. The views from this point made all of the leg and ass pain worth it.

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Sasha: The highest point of the climb actually happens before Mesa Peak, where a fork in the road greeted us. We veered left, toward our destination. Before we made the descent, we stopped at the top to take some pictures of our first major coastal view, and noticed some rock piles marking the location. After a few minutes, we continued onward to Mesa Peak, which we could tell would give us even better and less obstructed views of the coast below us. As we approached, we noticed a narrow path to the right up to the summit, and scrambled up to the solar panel and small building at the top. Once we reached the top, we realized there was another lower peak obstructing our view, so we bushwhacked our way across a poorly maintained footpath to our reward: panoramic views of the Pacific below us.

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Abby: After taking in the views and cooling off for a bit while staring at the ocean, we decided to head back down the mountain. I’ve said this many times, but I am always trepid on the way down. This trail was no different, especially as it was such a steep climb up, and the trail was so loose. While it was a significant challenge on the way down, I have to admit that I basked in pride as we made this trek downward because seeing how vertical the trail was shocked me. I cannot believe we made our way all the way up that mountain.

Sasha: As Abby said, the trip down the mountain was pretty harrowing. Despite my well-treaded trail running shoes, I had a complete wipeout on one of the steeper sections of the descent. For the first time, hiking sticks seemed like less of a joke than a necessity, and we envied those we saw using them flying down the mountain. We’re still not entirely convinced we need them, but we’ll see how we feel after our next 1500 foot climb.

Pro’s:

  • Incredible views
  • A significant workout
  • No animals allowed, so no animal feces on trail
  • Wide open spaces
  • Not very busy
  • Peaceful, despite the challenge

Con’s:

  • Very few resting spots
  • Not a ton of shade
  • Watch out for snakes – we encountered our first one on this trail!

Tips:

  • Don’t forget a camera
  • Be prepared for steep climbs
  • Bring extra water and wear sunscreen

Holy Shit View Factor: 10/10

How Good Your Ass Will Look Afterwards: 9/10 This is a very steep climb

Post hike grub spot: As we’ve mentioned, Malibu has some exceptional venues for post-hike grub. We decided to stop at Duke’s on the way back east and although we were told there would be an hour wait, we found a nice spot at the bar, right on the ocean. We ordered Pina Coladas and they were incredible. After sucking the first one down quickly, we ordered wings and Brussel sprouts proving that we both have a little east and west coast in our blood. The food was great, service was wonderful and we paid less for our meal and drinks than we usually do for a bottle of wine. Highly recommend.

Tracking the hike: We used MapMyHike to track, but also relied on tips from Hikespeak (linked above).

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Hike Number Eight, March 1, 2015: Zuma Canyon Trail.

Distance: 4.01 miles round trip

Elevation Change: 755 feet

Temperature day of hike: 65 degrees

Directions: From PCH headed north, turn right on Bonsall Drive. Continue until it ends at a short dirt road to a parking lot. For GPS, use 5875 Bonsall Drive, Malibu, CA 90265.

Sasha: When Abby and I started brainstorming this week’s hike, we decided we wanted to try something a little longer and steeper, and preferably with some killer ocean views. I had hiked the Mugu Peak Trail before, and we thought we would roll the dice on rainy forecasts and take a farther drive up PCH for that climb. When we headed out on Sunday morning, we realized PCH was closed at Point Mugu because Los Angeles and rain, so we did some fast research en route and thought Zuma Canyon would be a nice replacement. Zuma is well-known for its gorgeous Malibu beaches, so we were confident we would be in for some spectacular views. And we were right!

Once we found parking in the almost-empty lot, we saw the trailhead at the northwest corner, near a box full of maps, and started the walk to the trail. We were planning on making a loop of two trails: the Ocean View Trail and the Canyon View Trail. After we walked for about ¼ of a mile, we hit a sign that said Canyon View Trail, but we decided we were more interested in starting with the Ocean View Trail, so we continued on. After a few minutes, we ran into a second intersection and a sign that said Ocean View Trail by a path to the right and headed that way.

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The initial climb was mild; we noted the beautiful flowers that lined the sandy, narrow, single track tail as well as the giant mines made of horse poop we were constantly hopping around. After a few switchbacks, we got our first glimpse of the Pacific from the trail and the climb became aggressively steep. We stopped several times to catch our breath and to admire (and take pictures of) the gorgeous views of the ocean. We also noticed the angry storm clouds to the north, but were grateful for the cool breeze that seemed to be coming from their direction. Once we got to the top, we wandered down the well-marked Kanan-Edison Road for a bit to check out the views, but quickly turned back in the direction of the Canyon View Trail to complete the loop back down the mountain.

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Abby: As Sasha mentioned, the views on this trail were absolutely phenomenal and to get to them literally took my breath away. Those hills were no joke, and despite the fact that we work out every day, I was out of breath with burning calves by the time we got to the top. Actually, to be honest, I was out of breath many times on the way to the top. Some of the hikes that we’ve been on to date have been rather easy to climb; Zuma Canyon was definitely not that, so you do get a workout.

The trail was a loop, which was nice, as it gave us even more opportunities to take in the ocean, greenery and hills from another angle. However, the way down was also quite steep, and since the trail was so narrow, it’s a little intimidating to be so high up with such steep falls. Sasha was patient with me as I was a tad trepid, since, you know, I’d like to make it to thirty-one

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The cool breeze was a nice addition to the trek down, since that climb had us sweating pretty profusely. I’d recommend going on a day that isn’t too hot. Overall it was beautiful, just be prepared for a tough climb to the top.

Pro’s:

  • Incredible views
  • A great workout that doesn’t take too long to complete
  • Healthy greenery that is well kept

Con’s:

  • Very little shade
  • Narrow trails
  • Tons of horse poop

Tips:

  • Don’t forget a camera
  • Be prepared for steep climbs
  • Bring water and wear sunscreen

Holy Shit View Factor: 10/10

How Good Your Ass Will Look Afterwards: 9/10 This is a very steep climb

Post hike grub spot: One of our favorite things about Malibu is how many options there are for a great meal and cocktail. We have been talking about getting Pina Coladas for a long time, so we stopped at one of our favorite spots on the way back down PCH, Moonshadows. The bar to sit over the ocean was closed, but we still had a beautiful view sitting inside and shared some calamari and ahi tuna over our Pina Coladas

Tracking the hike: MapMyHike was really helpful this week as we weren’t totally sure if the trail was a loop or not.

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Hike Number Seven, February 22, 2015: Hollyridge Trail to the Hollywood Sign

Distance: 4.84 miles round trip

Elevation Change: 853 feet

Temperature day of hike: 60 degrees

Directions: From Franklin Avenue, head north on Beachwood Drive. Beachwood leads to a dead-end on Sunset Ranch, which is where this hike begins. There is plenty of parking on Beachwood, just pay close attention to the parking signs to make sure you’re safe to leave your car. We parked 2 stop signs south of the entrance to the ranch, about ½ mile from the trailhead.

Abby: Since it was Oscars Sunday, and I had guests from the east coast visiting, we decided to hike up behind the Hollywood Sign. It was pretty overcast in the morning, and we weren’t certain about what traffic would look like because of the awards show, but we were excited for the hike, the views, and the Instagram opportunities.

As we approached the trail entrance, we noticed that there were signs reading, “no Hollywood Sign access” but as we drove to the gate, a security guard let us know we could walk to the sign, just not drive to it. He also informed us that we had to park pretty far away, so be prepared for a small hike before the big hike. Also be certain to read the parking signs on the streets, because they were a bit confusing.

Sasha: Beachwood Canyon is one of my favorite places in Los Angeles – it’s lush, green, very private and the former home of the Hollywoodland community (and much Hollywood history.) I was really excited to share this beautiful place with Abby and our guests, so I was nervous that access to the sign would still be cut off. After talking to the security guard at Sunset Ranch, we drove back down Beachwood Drive, two stop signs from the entrance to the Sunset Ranch and found easy parking. Along the trek to the trailhead, there are plenty of beautiful homes to be distracted by (hello 1920’s Mediterranean Villas!) and not much sidewalk to walk on, so be weary of fast cars.

Once we made it to the gate, we continued up a short, steep hill until we reached the trailhead to the right. It’s pretty clearly marked, with a life-sized Smokey the Bear cutout admonishing visitors not to smoke, as fires start and spread easily in the dry mountain terrain. We hiked up a short bit, before hitting a T-junction (the Hollyridge Trail, where Smokey warns you one last time not to light up), and we veered left to continue up near the top of Mount Lee. We were almost immediately hit with a gorgeous view of the Hollywood sign, a perfect photo op for our out-of-towners.

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We continued on, and caught a quick whiff (and view) of the horse stables below us to the left, which reminds me that we haven’t discussed the horse poop yet. There is a lot of it, so be prepared to jump over fresh piles every few steps. I’m actually pretty sure the “dirt” path is horse-made. After another quarter mile, we made a sharp left turn onto the Malibu Service Road (going right takes you deeper into Griffith Park) to continue up to Mount Lee. We got a few views of the Observatory and miles of Griffith trails to the east.

After another quarter mile, we turned right at Mount Lee Road, which begins the steep, paved climb to the top of the mountain. As we were admiring some interesting street art, it began to rain and I made my first promise to the group that we were almost at the top of the mountain. In reality, the last part of the climb is about a mile long, so as we all cried about the cold, (east coast guests included, who had escaped a blizzard to come to LA) as we continued to climb up the hill. About half way up the hill a local affiliate news trucks passed us and we were convinced someone had died from hiking in the rain. As we followed the news trucks, I made a few more promises that we were almost at the top, and we finally rounded the final bend where we saw the back of the “H” through the chain-linked fence that keeps hikers off the giant letters. Despite what you saw in “Friends with Benefits.”

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We continued onward, passed the “OLLYWOOD,” and saw the news trucks parked at end of Mount Lee Road, near the radio towers that top the mountain. It turned out the story they were telling wasn’t about a death from the rain, but rather, Oscars coverage from the Hollywood Sign. Because, we live in LA and saw many celebrities hiking that morning. (We didn’t, but we did stand in the cold rain, took many pictures and admired the views of the rain-soaked city below us.)

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Abby: Despite the freezing downpour, the views were unbelievable. There was something romantic about seeing the entire city under a hazy cloud. Not being from Los Angeles, I was also pretty mesmerized at the fact that we were standing behind the Hollywood Sign. After taking in the views, and shivering from the cold, we headed back down the trail. Because of the rain, it was pretty slippery so we treaded carefully. We were surprised a few times by some rocks that were falling from the top of the mountain, so we had to be extra careful, but I’m assuming that was also due to rain.

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When we made it to the entrance gate, we were reminded that we still had a ways to go to make it to the car. Once we reached the warm, dry vehicle, we agreed it was time for some hot food and fresh cocktails.

Pro’s:

  • Incredible views
  • Wide, well kept trails
  • Clearly marked

Con’s:

  • No shade
  • Beware of rocks falling
  • Tons of horse poop

Tips:

  • Don’t forget a camera

Holy Shit View Factor: 10/10

How Good Your Ass Will Look Afterwards: 8/10 This is a pretty steep climb

Post hike grub spot: We were all pretty hungry and ready for a cocktail after hiking in the rain, so we decided on Birds Café in Hollywood. Their menu is great; filled with options from kale salads to comfort foods like macaroni and cheese. They also had $3 mimosas! Definitely recommend trying this place.

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Tracking the hike: MapMyHike has been our go-to with these hikes, and it was reliable again this weekend.

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Hike Number Six, February 15, 2015: Inspiration Point, Will Rogers State Park.

Distance: 3.13 miles round trip

Elevation Change: 404 feet

Temperature day of hike: 75 degrees

DirectionsFrom Sunset Blvd in the Pacific Palisades, head north on Will Rogers State Park Road and park anywhere parking is allowed. I suggest parking on the street to get a little extra mileage on your hike, but there is parking at the park itself – just be prepared to pay $12.

Abby: The weather in LA has been incredible this week, so we were really looking forward to this hike. We had talked about heading deeper into the Palisades, but with the long holiday weekend, a touch of the flu and other commitments that evening, we opted for a hike that was closer to where we live and a bit shorter. We drove with the top down and parked the car outside of the park, to avoid paying for parking. When you get to the park, there is a large field that Sasha let me know was used for polo games. I’m here to tell you that we will be back to watch a polo game, because; hot men playing sports.

We had stopped at Starbucks along the way, so when we got to the park, we used the restroom which was clean and easy to find. Before you hit the trailhead, there are options to have a picnic, or play lawn games outside of Will Rogers’ former home. It is a beautiful location to spend time at, so I look forward to revisiting.

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Sasha: We wandered our way behind the ranger’s house and the ranch house (where I think tours are offered), and found a narrow stone path underneath some Eucalyptus trees. We followed that path for a bit, until it met up with what MapMyHike calls the Will Rogers Fire road, which also seems to be the Inspiration Point trail. There was a confusing sign posted that said “Inspiration Point .45 miles,” so we took that as a good sign and headed that way. Since the entire trip ended up being just over 3 miles, I’d guesstimate Inspiration Point was closer to 1.2 miles from that sign, but I’ve been known to be wrong.

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The fire road is wide well-maintained and easy to follow, with fantastic city and ocean views around every corner. It’s clear that a lot of money is spent on the upkeep of the park, which makes for an easy trip up and down the mountain. There are lots of trash and recycling cans along the way, and great west-LA people watching. There are a few well-placed, clean benches at optimal viewpoints, so if you get tired (or lazy) on the short climb up the mountain, you can take a seat and enjoy the scenery (by scenery, I definitely mean men in tight pants hitting balls on horses). Will Rogers Historic State Park is also home to the Westside Riding School, so be prepared to dodge horses and jump quite a few steaming piles on your way up.

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Abby: As Sasha mentioned, the views along the way were gorgeous. It was a hazy day, and we got to see the palm trees along the ocean as well as views of downtown LA. The people watching at the top of the mountain was also quite enjoyable with a man practicing Tai Chi. The way back down was pretty simple, but with the sunshine, the views and the company, it was so enjoyable. It was like a fancy Runyon Canyon. When we got to the bottom, people were still enjoying the space and it was quite busy, which feels nice in Los Angeles when you’re a little lonely.

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Sasha: Growing up in West-LA, I’d definitely spent quite a few Mother’s and Father’s Days picnicking at Will Rogers, so it was nice to revisit a familiar spot. Now that I’m an adult, I’m looking forward to champagne and stomping divots – is tailgating the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic inappropriate? Who’s in?

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Pro’s:

  • Great city views
  • Wide, well kept trails
  • Quick and easy workout
  • Really green and lush
  • Clean bathrooms

Con’s:

  • A lot of horse shit on the trail
  • Not much shade
  • Not a ton of inclines

Tips:

  • Definitely wear sunscreen
  • Don’t expect a tough workout

Holy Shit View Factor: 8/10 Great views of LA, beautiful lush plants all the way up

How Good Your Ass Will Look Afterwards: 4/10 Not a tough climb

Post hike grub spot: As noted, with busy schedules we weren’t able to eat together after the hike. On the way back, however, there are several options in Brentwood on San Vincente to choose from.

Tracking the hike: MapMyHike has been our go-to with these hikes, and it was reliable again this weekend.

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