Great Places To Run In Los Angeles

For me running is my Zen. It literally grounds me to nature in a way not much else does. Whether you are like me or you just do it for exercise there are great places to run in Los Angeles. Considering the metropolis that is LA there are great getaway spots all over the city where you can put on your sneaks and feel like you are miles away. So, whether you are a beginner or a running veteran here are some of my best recommendations around town. 

West side of Los Angeles

Kenneth Hahn Recreation Area

Located at 4100 S. La Cienega Blvd. Los Angeles, CA this 308 acre park is quite a gym.  It is a scenic getaway with a lake, man made stream, waterfall and Japanese garden. This was once the location of the Baldwin Hills Dam that tragically gave way in 1963. The trail itself is a 2.8 mile loop that is mostly flat. A couple of laps should add up to a very nice workout.

San Vicente Blvd. Median Park

Lake Hollywood - Ultimate Health - Personal Trainer Hollywood

San Vicente Blvd. between Federal and Ocean Ave. has what amounts to a park down the center of the roadway. Enjoy the scenery of luxury homes giving way to oceans views as you run this wide grass path lined the coral trees. A round trip run would net you 8 miles with a slight elevation gain of 310 ft. on the return leg.

Santa Monica Stairs

Forget the Stair Master, go out and get a real stair workout; nothing burns more calories. There are two great stair cases in Santa Monica, one at Adelaide and 4th and the other at Adelaide and 6th. The Adelaide stairs consist of 170 wooden steps. The 6th street stairs are made of concrete and number 199 steps. This workout will blast your legs and glutes. You can either add to your pace or add trips as you gain in cardiovascular capacity. The stairs tend to get busy in the evening and weekends so plan accordingly.

Manhattan to Redondo Beach

It’s hard to beat the scenery of the Pacific Coast Line.  This stretch of beach is 3 miles long for a round trip of 6 miles. This is a great place to run even during the hotter summer months. You can certainly choose to run the concrete boardwalk, but I personally like to run the water’s edge.  It’s more forgiving on the joints, less crowded on the weekends and is perfect for barefoot running. Frankly almost any beach in Los Angeles and Orange County is great for a run. Add dry sand running for a more challenging workout. 

San Fernando Valley

Sepulveda Basin/Lake Balboa

Just off the 101 and 405 freeways is the Sepulveda Flood control basin. Flood control, sounds silly considering the lack of rain we have been experiencing. During the last El Nino, well not this last one this year, more the last, last one in 1997/1998 the basin flooded with cars actually being swept off of Burbank Blvd. into deep water necessitating rescue. Consider that this is what the basin was constructed for it comes complete with a spillway dam that has been seen in many Hollywood movies. Burbank and Woodman Ave. both run through the flood basin during drier times. Most of the year this 2 thousand acre basin functions as a recreational area with a lake, golf courses, gardens, a sports center, velodrome, an off lease dog park and many hiking trails. Lake Balboa offers a 1.3 mile running trail that can be linked to other trails for a longer run.

Fryman Canyon/Wilacre Park

Nestled in the hills above Studio City between Laurel and Coldwater Canyons and Mulholland Drive is this great running/hiking spot cleaner than Runyan and less crowded. Like Runyan is a good place to spot celebrities and other pretty people. The park can be accessed on several sides with my preference being turning onto Fryman off of Laurel Canyon. There is a decent sized dirt parking area there. The trail starts as a very steep paved road that yields to a dirt path as it flattens out about a half mile up. From here it roller coasters a bit up and a bit down. If you follow the path to the left you will reach a gate that drops you out into a neighborhood. This is Iredell St. If you follow the Iredell down you will make your way back to Fryman and then to your starting point for a total of 3 miles and 450ft. of elevation gain. I usually walk the pavement as a warm-up starting my run once I hit the dirt, run to the gate at Iredell then double back for more hill training. I then run the pavement last for good measure. Maybe, that’s just me. There are several off shoot trails for more of a workout or exploring. At Iredell there is one such path directly across the street that starts with wooden stairs that will take you to the antennae at the top and a good overlook spot near Mulholland. The trail, a continuation of the Betty B. Dearing Trail, can nearly double your distance.

Hollywood Hills

Running Trail Griffith Park - Ultimate Health - Personal Trainer Studio City

Lake Hollywood/Mulholland Dam

This is the oldest dam in all of Los Angeles and is famed for its collapse in the movie Earthquake.  Once used as a drinking water source it is now maintained more for its beauty and as an area of recreation. Though the lake is fenced off it is still quite scenic. You will often spot deer and coyote here. Near the dam turtles can often be spotted sunning themselves. The lake can be accessed from either Lake Hollywood Drive or Weidlake Drive to the south. Gate to gate the trail (a paved road) is 2.6 miles long, however, when you add the outer road which is trail like the total loop becomes 3.3 miles. The course is flat and well maintained, very good for up pace workouts. Be sure to take a moment to peer over the dam wall toward Hollywood and note the ornate bear heads.

Griffith Park

Griffith Park at 4,400 acres is the largest urban park in North America. Despite being snap-dab in the middle of a sprawling metropolis a visit to Griffith Park can help you leave all the hustle and bustle behind. Here nature and city truly come together. GP is home to deer, coyote, rabbits, raccoons, even our very own mountain lion known as P-22. GP is also home to golf courses, the Gene Autry Museum, The Griffith Observatory, the Greek Theater concert hall, Travel Town, and of course the Los Angeles Zoo. Lions’ and tigers and bears oh my…yeah, sorry about that. I love Griffith Park and not just for the things I described before, but also for the over 53 miles of trails. Some are single track, some are fire roads and still others are paved for cyclists. For a relatively flat course you can run the Zoo Drive Trail which can be accessed from Forrest Lawn Drive, Victory Blvd. or Los Felix Blvd. Want more of a challenge there are many trails that climb most of the parks peaks. If you enter off Bronson canyon on the Hollywood side you can make your way up to the Hollywood sign. Now you can’t actually touch the sign (fences, ground sensors, cameras) but you can peer down over it from above.  This is a brutal run though you could always hike it instead. There’s a trail through the old zoo, there’s a trail through Amir’s Garden, there’s a trail to the Bat Cave from the Batman series...get the picture? My Los Angeles Personal Training gym is so close that I’m usually at GP at lease 3-4 times a week for a run or a ride. If you need a little away time and all you have is an hour this is a great place to do it in. When you’re in the canyons of the park you might not even remember you’re still in LA.        

Los Angeles Near Civic Center

Echo Park

Echo Park Lake is a nice little gem just north of civic center. It is located at 751 Echo Park Avenue off the 101 Hollywood Freeway. The lake was built in 1870 as a reservoir for a growing Los Angeles. Deemed a commercial failure it was converted to a recreation park and opened to the public in 1892. The lake has a striking fountain, is ringed with palm trees and seasonally the lotus flowers bloom. The running path is only one mile long, but it’s pretty enough here to easily run multiple laps without getting bored.   

San Gabriel Valley

Brookside Park

Also known as the Pasadena Rose Bowl – yup the granddaddy of bowls. Brookside Park is nestled in the Arroyo Seco area of Pasadena. The Rose Bowl itself is the main attraction, but there is also a golf course, a swim center which was built for the 1984 Olympic Games, tennis courts, a bike and Run/walk path, athletic fields and a fitness trail. The loop around the bowl is a very well maintained 3 miles long path, essentially flat and generally well-traveled. If you are motivated by seeing other people exercising or are looking for something more social this is a good place for you.

Well, that’s my list for now. I know this only covers a tiny amount of LA’s offerings. If you have a favorite running spot please feel free to comment. I’m always looking for a new trail to try. Enjoy.