Make a loop out of this hike by hopping off the Gold Line at the Southwest Museum Station, taking a hilly jaunt through Ernest E. Debs Park, sandwiched between two short neighborhood walks, and getting back on the train in Highland Park. At a bare minimum, this is two and a half miles long (combine the Scrub Jay and Seco View trails), but you can greatly expand your mileage by going deeper into the park. As you end your hike near the Highland Park station, why not grab a bite to eat on Figueroa, perhaps at Good Girl Dinette?
2 Arroyo Seco
This 25-mile Arroyo Seco, a tributary of the Los Angeles River, begins in the San Gabriel Mountains and is steeped in historyand culture. This hike will take you aside it for several miles, and if you’re feeling hardcore, deep into the mountains. Begin at the South Pasadena Station and walk a half-mile west on Mission Street to Stoney Drive at the Arroyo Seco Golf Course. Follow the drive down, under the 110 Freeway, and under the bridge at San Pasqual Avenue. Now it’s starting to feel like nature. This hike can be as short or long as you like, as there are a handful of points to duck out and back into the paved cityscape, including Lower Arroyo Park (catch the train at the Del Mar Station a little over a mile away) and the Rose Bowl (use Metro’s 181-181 bus route to the Memorial Park Station or Pasadena Transit’s 51/52 Monday thru Saturday). For something north of seven miles, keep on going past Devil’s Gate Dam to Hahamongna Watershed Park across from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. From the Ventura Street entrance to the park, use your phone to hail a ride or walk a quarter-mile over to Lincoln Avenue to catch the Metro 206 bus back to the Gold Line via the Memorial Park station. A PDF map of the trail can be downloaded here.
3 Altadena Crest Trail
The unassuming trailhead and bland staging area here is a big red herring. Give this trail a chance and walk a few minutes and the landscape surprisingly transforms: coastal sage scrub and chaparral begin to appear as you wind your way through small gullies and up ridges into the Angeles National Forest. At just under two miles in, you’ll find yourself on Mount Lowe fire road. From here, there’s an assortment of good options. A few ideas: Hike a mile and a half down to Millard Canyon Falls (follow signs to Millard Camp), two and a half miles to Dawn Mine, or take a longer three and a half miles to Echo Mountain. To do this hike, catch Metro’s occasional 264-267 bus from the north end of the park at Memorial Park Station—it will drop you at Dabney Street and Alta Drive, a half-mile out from the trailhead (not to be confused with other access points for the Altadena Crest Trail farther east). You can also take a four-mile bike ride or hail a ride.
4 Echo Mountain
This hike is an LA area classic—and one that’s steeped in history. Start at the historic Cobb Estate and take the Sam Merrill Trail up to Echo Mountain, where you’ll find ruins of a burnt down hotel and the incline railway that carried guests to their reservations. This is a good six-mile roundtrip hike that offers great views of the San Gabriel Valley and beyond on a clear day. Add another four miles by going up to Inspiration Point and back. Two bus routes get within one mile of the trailhead, but neither has the most frequent headways. In any case, they are Metro bus routes 180 (via the Sierra Madre Station) and the 264-267 (via the Sierra Madre or Memorial Parks stations). If you’re looking to bike or hail a ride, the Lake Station is just under four miles away.
5 Eaton Canyon
Another LA area classic, one which can be incredibly crowded on weekends. Eaton Canyon is a pleasant hike that takes you to a waterfall and back in under four miles. You can extend your stay in the mountains by trekking farther up to Henninger Flats or even to Mount Wilson. Buses drop you off at New York and Altadena drives, a block away from the entrance to Eaton Canyon Nature Center and the trailhead. Again, the headways with Metro’s 264-267 and Pasadena Transit’s 32 are not ideal. Both of those routes come from the Sierra Madre Villa Station, which is about a two-and-a-half-mile journey, an easy distance for biking or hailing a ride.
6 Monrovia Falls
This waterfall is another easy, short walk, with options from one and a half miles to just under three and a half, depending on where you start. Parking here is up to $6 and is closed to vehicles on Tuesdays, but that doesn’t matter, since you’re arriving sans four wheels (restrooms are closed on Tuesdays too, though). That said, public transit options to this park are null. It’s a little over three miles to the new Monrovia Station if you’re hailing a ride, although cell reception could be problematic deeper in the park (lots of people walk down Canyon Boulevard back to civilization to avoid the parking fees anyway). If you’re biking and don’t mind a dirt path part of the way, consider combining the Duarte bicycle and Sawpit Wash paths (see the dirt part in this video starting at about 2:50) from the Duarte/City of Hope Station. Here’s a Google map of that route. Unlike Angeles National Forest, the park where this hike begins is a city park and, thus, it closes at 5 p.m.
7 Fish Canyon Falls
This once very popular waterfall remained an open secret in recent years, blocked off by an active quarry operation and only accessible to the public a handful of weekends a year. Then, a couple years ago, a solution was built and access can now be had year round, if only during daytime hours (see details here). But all that means your first mile will be of the industrial sort before nature takes its course (Modern Hiker has a very detailed write-up). To get here, Duarte Transit’s Green Line can deliver you about a mile from the trailhead Monday through Saturday, while the Blue Line runs Monday through Friday. Foothill Transit’s 187 line from the Sierra Madre Villa Station takes you a little under two miles away. And it’s a little over three miles from the Duarte/City of Hope or Irwindale stations, making a bike ride or Uber/Lyft/taxi possible.