As a Los Angeles native, I’m always amazed that I am still discovering cool new things to do in the city. One of the things I was recently turned on to is the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. It offers a great stair workout that puts the Santa Monica stairs to shame, and it has a panoramic view of Los Angeles from the ocean to downtown L.A. at the top. It’s an ideal place to watch the sunset before having a nice dinner or drinks in downtown Culver City.
Dogs are not allowed in this park (although there is a nearby dog park). Bikes are not allowed on the actual trail either.
The Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook is a California State Park right in the “back yard” of downtown Culver City. From downtown Culver City, go southwest on Duquesne, over the Ballona Creek and turn left at Jefferson. The entrance is at Hertzler Road, but if you want to hike up, don’t go in there. Instead, park on Jefferson and walk to the entrance near Hertzler Road. Note the parking signs, as large swaths of street parking are 30-minute only.
There are convenient bike racks at the bottom of the hill, though they were nearly full after we locked our bikes there.
When to Go
We went right after it rained, and the grass was wonderful and green. It felt like we were in Scotland or something. During the summer, all of the grass turns brown and it’s not nearly as cool to walk though.
I would avoid going when it’s really hot out in the middle of the day, due to the lack of shade. I’d say late afternoon, just before sunset is the ideal time to go. By chance, our visit was timed so that the sun set just after we reached the top (it only takes 10 minutes to get to the top if you are in decent shape). The view was spectacular. The park officially closes at sunset, but there were still tons of people there and more showing up even after sunset.
At night, the park is officially closed, but people still flock to the top to see the view of the city lights.
The Hike and Stairs
At the park entrance, you’ll walk up a short trail to the base of the stairs. There, you have to make a decision. You can either take the stairs directly up, or take the more leisurely switchback trail (called the “Hillside Trail” on the trail map). My suggestion is to take the stairs up, then take the switchback trail down.
The actual stairs are made of recycled cement slabs. I felt like I was going up some ancient pyramid in Mexico. The height of the stairs varies quite widely, from 20 inches to 3 inches. My thighs were burning by the time I got to the top!
But once you reach it, you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view of the city, from the ocean to downtown LA, including Century City, Hollywood, and the Hollywood sign (as long as the smog isn’t too bad that day).
If you proceed further back at the summit, you’ll find a visitor’s center with a theater (it was closed when we were there on a Sunday evening). There are also drinking fountains and restrooms.
Pass the visitor’s center, and you’ll reach a radio tower and find a view of the ocean. This is an ideal spot to watch the sunset.
There’s a parking lot up there, but again, I suggest that you walk up instead of driving. I would only drive up if I was not prepared to hike (i.e., going to see the sunset after a nice dinner, wearing nice clothes, etc.) Cost to park at the top is $6. Beware, the road will have a lot of folks walking on it. Cars are definitely in the minority here.
Here are some ideas on how to incorporate the Baldwin Heights Scenic Outlook into a fun date:
- The Workout
Jog or bike to the park in workout clothes and do the stairs multiple times. Go to downtown Culver City for drinks afterwards.
- The Easy Stroll
Park on Jefferson and take the stairs up, resting at the midpoints to take in the view, or take the switchback trail if you prefer. Linger at the top and watch the sun set. Take the switchback trail down at a leisurely pace and have dinner or drinks in Culver City.
- The Summer Sunset
Have dinner in downtown Culver City. After dinner, drive up the access road and park at the top ($6) to admire the setting sun.
I had a great time at this oasis in the middle of Los Angeles. If you are into working out, the stairs will not disappoint, especially if you do them multiple times. If you want a more relaxed experience, take the switchback trail and admire the panoramic view of Los Angeles at the top!
When you’re done, it’s a short walk or drive to downtown Culver City for dinner or drinks.
I highly recommend the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook! Check it out! What’s your favorite way to the top? Stairs, switchback trail, or road? – Brian