Will Rogers State Park in Pacific Palisades offers an easy hike with some nice views of Century City to the Santa Monica Bay, and even Catalina Island on a clear day.
Will Rogers was one of the highest-paid and most famous actors in the early 1930s. He is most remembered for his riding and roping skills. The park was Will Rogers’ personal ranch, where he could entertain and practice.
Planning and preparation
The park has more shade than some of the other local trails, but it’s still pretty exposed, so bring hats, sunscreen, and so forth. It’s best not to go in the middle of a hot day. Try early morning or late afternoon instead.
Wear any kind of comfortable walking shoes for the dusty trails. You might want to bring some water and a snack for the top, but the entire main loop can be done in an hour, so no need to bring a lot. For a more complete list of suggested items to bring on a casual day hike, see my day-hike checklist at TheFrugalNoodle.com:
Dogs on leash are allowed.
Take Sunset and go up Will Rogers Road. There are a small number of free spaces along the side of the road near the top, but on the weekends, these will almost certainly fill up. During the week you should be able to find spaces before 6PM, when people get off from work and start heading up here.
The lot at the top costs $12 for all-day or $3 per hour. Note that the money goes to maintaining the park, so it’s nice to pay if you can. There is actually a second parking lot if you go further in, so don’t worry if the first lot is full.
Beware, the park closes at sunset. Ask the ranger exactly what time the park closes when you enter, because they close the front gates and your car will be locked in for the night if you overstay! Not something you want to happen!!
Once you get there, go to the visitor’s center and grab a free map.
The main attraction is the hiking trail, but you can also take a tour of the Will Rogers ranch house and take horse riding lessons Monday through Saturday. But, the park is also a great place to have a picnic, throw a Frisbee, or play soccer.
The trail you’ll want to go on is the main trail, called Inspiration Loop. This is an easy 2.6-mile hike that can be done in an hour or less, but you’ll want to pause at the scenic spots.
From the large polo field, walk up the service road to the Riding Arena. Pick a direction to go and start up the Inspiration Loop Trail. I like going to the right (doing the loop counterclockwise), because then you’ll get the ocean views on the way down the other side.
The Backbone Trail
About halfway up, there is an option to go off the loop onto the Backbone Trail. This is a trail that goes for the entire length of the Santa Monica Mountains. I don’t suggest doing that, but if you want to extend your hike a bit, you can go up and back as far as you want.
A good stopping point on the Backbone Trail is at the bridge (you can’t miss it). It’s not too far from the loop:
After you reach the bridge, or however far you want to go, simply turn around and return to the loop.
If you’re doing the loop in a counterclockwise direction as I’ve suggested, then a short distance past the Backbone Trail junction will be Inspiration Point (if you go the other direction, you’ll hit Inspiration Point first).
Inspiration Point offers a nice 360-degree view of the area and has some benches to reflect on the view. On a clear day, you can see Catalina Island, Santa Monica, Century City, and downtown LA.
Definitely take some time here to enjoy the view, take some photos, or have a snack.
There are a few picnic tables there, but they are often taken.
If you do the loop in the direction I’ve suggested, you’ll have some nice ocean views on the way down.
If you time things right, you could be rewarded with a lovely view just before sunset.
After the easy hike, you can drive down Sunset further west to the small but charming downtown area of Pacific Palisades, about a mile away or so. You’ll find some cafés, coffee shops and restaurants there. Or, you can cut over down to Pacific Coast Highway and head toward Santa Monica and do stuff down there.
I hope you enjoy your date at Will Rogers State Park! Please like or share this article if it was useful to you. – Brian