Vetter Mountain, Sacred Cove: LA's best summer hikes

Looking for a summer hike? Modern Hiker’s Casey Schreiner shares his favorites, including the Hollywood Reservoir trail. Photo by Shutterstock.

Summer is here. The longer days are perfect for an early morning or evening hike. Editor and founder of Modern Hiker Casey Schreiner shares some of his favorites.

Santa Monica Mountains

Sandstone Peak follows the Backbone and Mishe Mokwa trails and has killer views of sunrise and sunset. It’s about 6.1 miles roundtrip. He recommends traveling counterclockwise for a more scenic hike. 

Santa Ynez Falls in Topanga State Park takes hikers through a shaded canyon. It’s short, about 2.4 miles long, but keep an eye out for poison oak along the trail. 

Palos Verdes Peninsula

Schreiner recommends visiting the Sacred Cove, which is accessible through the Portuguese Bend Reserve on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. He says the best time to visit is near low tide, when visitors can visit the tide pools.

If you want to take a dip, Schreiner says swimming is permitted at the nearby Abalone Cove Reserve. 

Verdugo Mountains

The Beaudry Loop is a 6.1 mile hike with little shade. Schreiner advises to visit early in the morning or later in the evening. Take the loop counterclockwise for the gentlest incline. 

San Gabriel Mountains

One of the easiest hikes in the area is on Vetter Mountain, where the historic Vetter Fire Lookout Tower lies. Schreiner says it's about 3.6 miles in length.

“Vetter Mountain is a great spot to watch that marine layer break up on Mount Wilson and the front range,” Schreiner describes. “The old timers used to call it the ‘phantom sea.’ And when you look at it from a perspective like this, it really does look like oceans crashing on the shore. It's a beautiful view.”

Experienced hikers can check out the trail to Bighorn and Ontario Peaks. It’s about 14 miles and takes a full day to travel. Schreiner notes the area is home to a high-altitude campground. 

Hollywood Reservoir

If you’re looking for an easier, family-friendly hike, Schreiner recommends taking a walk around the Hollywood Reservoir. It’s a flat, 3.1 mile walk.   

How to stay safe during hikes

Schreiner says when picking a trail, to look for shade, water, and elevation. That’s because temperatures drop the closer a trail is to water and the higher it goes. He also recommends avoiding hikes during the middle of day, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun is at its highest. 

He adds to stay aware of your surroundings when on a hike. That’s due to the risk of encountering a rattlesnake. He says if you hear a rattle, it’s not too late, but to tread with caution. 

“If I ever encounter a rattlesnake, I tend to take that as an opportunity to take a snack break and backtrack a little bit, and give the snake a little bit of time to move on. You definitely do not want to get too close to those guys.”