Los Angeles is one of the most pet-friendly cities in the country with its infamous beaches, restaurants, hotels, and even stores welcoming dogs with enthusiasm. Plus, there are plenty of dog parks, too!
But no visit to LA is complete without taking a hike to explore like locals and sniff out the best views that the City of Angels has to offer. Your calves might complain, but your dog will certainly thank you!
We’ve rounded up some of the top dog friendly hikes in Los Angeles (and around it!) so active humans can safely explore the region’s stunning canyons with their canines.
10 Best Dog Friendly Hikes in Los Angeles
Rugged trails might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of LA, but the sprawling cosmopolitan city has them in spades.
It’s important to note that while the City of Los Angeles and LA County parks system have hiking trails that allow dogs, most California state parks do not. As a default, dogs are expected to remain on a leash during most hikes, with the exception of Runyon and Canyonback, included below.
West Mandeville Fire Road
Mandeville Canyon Park, Brentwood
In the Santa Monica Mountains you’ll find Topanga State Park, and here is where you and your pup can enjoy breathtaking vistas along the wide West Mandeville Fire Road. Be aware that many dogs are left off leash here, but if your own is not comfortable with verbal commands it’s best to keep them within reach on a leash. On a clear day, hikers say that from San Vincente Peak you can see Hollywood and the Pacific Ocean. History buffs and their pooches who make it to the peak will also enjoy checking out the Nike Missile Control Site LA-96, an abandoned radar tower used during the Cold War.
Parking and Details: A parking lot can be found at the end of Westridge Road in Mandeville Canyon Park, with trail access on the west side of the lot. This moderately difficult trail is 3.7 miles with a 698-foot elevation gain and very little sun cover, so be sure to take hydration breaks or avoid on extremely sunny days. Bathrooms are located at the top of the trail. Also be on the lookout for speeding mountain bikers who are often found on this trail.
Griffith Park, Downtown LA
Throngs of tourists and locals alike frequent Griffith Park, home to the Griffith Observatory and Hollywood sign, and one of the largest municipal parks in North America. With more than 70 miles of trails, people and pets are spoiled for choice when it comes to hikes, including panoramic peaks and a lone pine known as Wisdom Tree. It wouldn’t be Hollywood without the chance to visit a movie set. Bronson Caves, also known as the Bat Cave from the 1960’s Batman series, are accessible here.
We recommend a winding trail known as Ferndell, lush year-round with tropical flora. It’s short as trails go, but your walk will be deliciously shaded by sycamores—respite from the sun is a treasure in LA. At the top, rest your weary paws at The Trails Cafe (open 8 to 6, daily), which offers Stumptown coffee and a variety of baked goods for you and for your four-legged friend. With a highly suggested stop at the cafe, your hike will take you 0.7 miles round trip.
Parking and Details: Parking in Griffith Park can get expensive, with rates up to $10 an hour in some sections. Depending on your plan for the day, consider parking at the Observatory, which is remarkably free from 5 a.m. to noon during the week, and until 10 a.m. on weekends. There is also roadside parking along Fern Dell Drive.
Upper Canyonback Trail
Westridge-Canyonback Wilderness Park, Encino
The shorter of the two Canyonback trails in Westridge-Canyonback Wilderness Park—separated since 2006 by a housing development—offers you and your canine companion 3 miles round trip with only 200 feet of elevation gain, close to San Vicente Mountain. On the Upper Canyonback Trail, your scenery will include lots of evergreen shrubs, bushes, and small trees known as chapparal. Westridge-Canyonback is one of only a few parks with trails in Los Angeles that formally allow well-behaved dogs to be off leash. Hikes are best taken in the early morning or late afternoon when the unrelenting sun is a bit less aggressive.
Parking and details: Parking is free and the trailhead can be found off Mulholland Drive, along an unpaved portion. The trail is open sunrise to sunset.
Rivas Canyon Trail
Temescal Gateway Park and Will Rogers State Historic Park, Pacific Palisades
This 2.1-mile trail crosses between two scenic parks; start at either Temescal or Will Rogers. Regular visitors comment that the cacti-laced Rivas Canyon Trail has a surprising amount of shade with stellar views of Temescal Canyon, but to watch for horse manure, poison oak, and areas with tall grasses that might contain ticks. This trail is less frequented than some more popular routes, and you can knock off two great parks at once.
Parking and details: You and your leashed dog will enjoy a nearly 5-mile round trip hike that is relatively moderate in difficulty, but an easy walk from either parking lot (Rivas is a private road, so don’t park there). Parking is $12 for all day at either Will Rogers or Temescal Gateway.
Escondido Falls Trail
Escondido Canyon Park, Malibu
Coast along the Pacific Coast Highway until you reach the Escondido Canyon Natural Area, which claims the 150-foot Escondido Falls (best viewed right after some rare LA rain). Four- and two-legged hikers will be equally impressed by the woodland vegetation and the winding creek that feeds the falls.
Parking and Details: Dogs on leash are allowed to explore the 4-mile trail, with a trailhead located a mile walk from the parking lot on Winding Way in Malibu. The park is open every day from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Franklin Canyon Park, Beverly Hills
While dogs must be leashed to explore in Franklin Canyon Park, the nature—which includes grasslands, chaparral, a large lake and even a duck pond across 605 acres—is unleashed. There are a number of dog walking trails to choose from here. For an easy loop around the reservoir, park just north of Franklin Canyon Lake, familiar as the setting for approximately 25 films annually (and famously included in the opening of “The Andy Griffith Show”). Franklin Canyon is also part of the Pacific Flyway, a major north-south migratory route for a variety of birds, perfect for binoculars and excited barks.
Parking and details: To get here, take Santa Monica Boulevard to Beverly Hills and turn north on Beverly Drive. After about 2.5 miles turn onto Franklin Canyon Drive.
Mulholland Drive Loop
Runyon Canyon Park, Hollywood Hills
Perhaps the location of the most popular dog-friendly trails in LA, Runyon Canyon Park offers pets and pet parents 160 acres to glamorously roam near the Hollywood Hills, which includes an impressive 90 acres where dogs can explore off leash. However, many routine visitors suggest keeping dogs on leash because of how busy it can get, which also means that parking here, especially on weekends, can get hectic. If you’re looking for a peaceful hike with your dog, this might not be the spot. But if you and your best fur friend relish people- and pup-watching, then this park full of bustling trails is a fun pitstop on your tour of Los Angeles.
To begin with a shorter and easier loop, start at the top of Runyon Canyon Park using a trailhead along Mulholland, which will rewardingly take you to the park’s highest point in less than a mile. With just 200 feet of elevation change, it’s perhaps one of the easiest hikes in LA with the biggest payoff. Continue on to the Trebek Open Space, donated by the late host of Jeopardy! for more outdoor exploration.
Parking and details: The park is open daily, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is street parking only; try Hollywood Boulevard or North Curson Avenue. The park entrance is located on 2000 North Fuller Avenue.
Wild Iris Trail
South Hills Park, Glendora
At the eastern end of Mauna Loa Avenue in Glendora are the 200 acres that comprise South Hills Park. Before or after hitting the hiking trails and clipping on the leash, there is a dog park with an area for both large and small dogs near the parking lot. For a scenic sprint, head south on the Tonyon Trail then follow right to the Wild Iris Trail and continue right. The trail is partially wooded with a peak elevation of 1,212 feet. When it opens, it provides stellar views of the Cassia Mountain Range, known locally as the South Hills.
Parking and details: The park is typically open from 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Street parking is free.
Vital Link Trail
Wildwood Canyon Park, Burbank
From sunrise to sunset, dogs and owners who don’t mind a perpetual incline can enjoy the 3.2-mile Vital Link Trail, which provides incredible views of the Verdugo Mountains, but requires some serious cardio, gaining 1,275 feet in a mile and a half. Alternatively, Wildwood Canyon Trail offers a 2.3-mile roundtrip hike on a well-maintained dirt path. Birds and blooms pepper this trail as a reward for the climb, and a bench offers a much-deserved rest at the halfway point.
Parking and details: Parking is free at the trailhead, along with restrooms and water. Dogs are asked to remain on leash. The trailhead address for GPS is 1701 Wildwood Canyon Road, Burbank.
Montecito Heights Urban Trail
Ernest E. Debs Regional Park, Montecito Heights
Tucked into the Montecito Hills, this nature reserve and regional park located on old ranch land in the Arroyo Seco offers stellar hiking for you and your pups. Just off Monterey Road at the southern entrance of the park, hikers will find the Montecito Heights Urban Trail. Along the way you’ll pass not one but two dog parks and an abundance of wildlife.
Parking and details: The parking area is located near the Audubon Center, which is only open from 8 to 4, Thursday through Saturday, though Ernest E. Debs Park trails are open daily from dawn to dusk.
Hiking With Dogs in Los Angeles: Safety Tips
While most safety tips regarding hiking with your dog in sunny Southern California would appear be common sense, they bear repeating:
Stock up on water. Always bring plenty of water for your dog and yourself (you’re no good to them if you have heat exhaustion). Don’t wait for signs of dehydration or panting. Schedule frequent breaks to stop and rehydrate.
The mornings and evenings are best. Plan hikes for the early morning or the early evening. This is to avoid the most intense heat of the day, especially in many parks and canyons that offer little to no shade from the sun’s rays. If you are planning on an afternoon venture, be sure to check the forecast and ideally plan for a day that’s overcast or a bit cooler.
Watch for dangerous flora and fauna. Familiarize yourself with poisonous plants and dangerous animals of Southern California, and when in doubt, don’t let you or your dog touch it. Ironically named, the poodle-dog bush is a pretty, purple-flowered plant that causes a severe allergic reaction if come into contact. Hikers report similar but worse symptoms as poison oak allergy. The ASPCA maintains a comprehensive list of plants known to cause distress on its website. It also runs a 24-hour Animal Poison Control Center hotline: 1-888-426-4435.