You might have noticed that I’ve been going on a lot of hikes in the Santa Monica mountains lately.  They’ve all be great, but each seems to be better than the last.  At a friend’s recommendation, I did the Los Liones Canyon hike and I think it’s the best one I’ve done so far!

Los Liones Canyon is ideal because it has lush greenery and more shade than most other local trails, it offers some spectacular views, and it’s relatively close to civilization. It is an up-and-back trail, so you can stop and turn around any time. Oh, and parking is plentiful and FREE!


This hike can be as long or as short as you want it to be, so prepare accordingly.  I would say the ideal hike is to Parker Mesa Overlook, which is 3.75 miles each way.  If you do that, it’s about a three-hour or so hike.  Anyone in good health should be able to do it,  although you will work up a good sweat and be tired at the end!  The trail is an easy dirt trail with no boulders to go over.

Bring your standard hiking gear: hiking boots or sneakers, a good hat, sunscreen, lots of water, and snacks.

Interestingly, we found that the temperature varied wildly along the trail on the overcast day that we went.  At the base, it was pretty warm, while at the top, it was colder and misty.  Just keep that in mind when choosing clothing.

Note that dogs are not allowed on this trail.

Getting There and Parking

It’s really easy to get to Los Liones Canyon.  Take PCH and head inland on Sunset Blvd. for a short distance.  Turn left on Los Liones and keep going until you start seeing cars parked on the side of the road.  There are also a few parking lots along the way on the right side of the road.  You can park in any of these, or on the street. There is no charge!  The parking situation here is more convenient than any other trail I’ve been to in the area!

But, I recommend looking at a map and memorizing the (simple) directions before you depart for this hike.  Cell phone reception is poor in the canyon.  The GPS on my phone worked, but I was not able to do any searches due to lack of data reception, so I would not have been able to Google the address of the trailhead if I had needed to.

There is a pleasant pathway from the parking lots to the trailhead.  Along the way, there is a small building with two restrooms… really convenient if you’ve made a long drive to get here and don’t want to make a pit stop on the trail itself (which has no restrooms).

Restrooms at Los Liones trailhead
Convenient restroom on the way to the trailhead early in the morning

The Trail

You will be welcomed by a nice gate at the trailhead.

Los Liones trailhead

Very early on, the trail is quite pleasant and lush, offering some nice views of the hills that you’ll be hiking up.

Los Liones trail near beginning
Los Liones trail near beginning

We were lucky.  It had just rained recently and the vegetation was super lush and green.  We joked that it felt like we were hiking in New Zealand or Middle Earth.

Los Liones lush greenery
In the summer, most of this will be brown and not nearly as beautiful.

It was also overcast that day which kept us cool.  I don’t recommend doing these hikes on super hot and sunny days (unless you go really early in the morning).  These hikes are ideal right after it rains, and on overcast days.

Los Liones trail
Lush area of Los Liones

I was afraid that the trail would be crowded, but it wasn’t too bad.  I’d say we ran into another group every few minutes (college students, retired folks, families, and everything in-between).  We went on a Saturday morning at about 10:30AM.

Los Liones trail hikers
Fire road

About 1.5 miles up, the trail meets up with the East Topanga Fire Road. There is an observation point worth stopping at where you can survey the view:

Los Liones first lookout point
View from Los Liones trail

After that point, the trail becomes a fire road which is noticeably steeper, less shady, and less covered with vegetation.

Los Liones fire road
View from fire road

Parker Mesa Overlook

The day we went, visibility due to fog was only about 50 feet at Parker Mesa Overlook.  So, when we got there, we didn’t couldn’t see anything except for whiteness in all directions.

Los Liones view

We didn’t mind that we missed the view, because the fog and light drizzle kept us nice and cool.

Los Liones trail closeup
Early morning was ideal because it was nice and cool

Here’s the view on a clear day:

Los Liones Canyon view
View from Parker Mesa Overlook at Los Liones Canyon


We were famished by the time we got back. If you want something close by, just drive inland on Sunset to the brand new Palisades Village and the surrounding area. It’s a charming area with lots of restaurants.

For tasty, healthy Mexican food, check out Cafe Vida. It’s a great place to refuel after a long hike. There’s always a wait, but it goes fast.

Or, go to Santa Monica where there are lots of options!

To Sum Up

I really love this hike, and my friends did too!  If you can go after it rains on a cooler day, it really is like hiking in some mystical far-away land!  I highly recommend the Los Liones Canyon hike – check it out!

What do you think of Los Liones Canyon?  Please leave your comments or questions below! – Brian


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