Hiking is the thing to do in LA. Before moving here I didn’t think that hiking with kids was even possible, especially once they were too big to carry and no longer interested in the stroller. As a baby you can carry them and older kids can walk, but what do you do during those few years where your toddler is exerting their independence, but can’t walk too far? Find easy hikes for toddlers!
There are plenty of great well manicured trails that are stroller friendly throughout Los Angeles. However, we found that our son was much more engaged and entertained on rocky and rugged trails. We have explored many hikes in LA, but returned to a few repeatedly. These are easy ‘hikes’ for toddlers, helping them develop a love for nature, while also building their confidence that they can complete hikes on their own. Here are our suggestions for 5 easy hikes for toddlers in Los Angeles.
Audubon Center at Ernest E Debs
If you haven’t been here yet, hop to it. The Audubon Center is such a cute place for a morning stroll. The center itself has binoculars and animal cards for loan while you and your little one ventures around on the easy trails around the center. Kids will also love the pond in the center courtyard, the great trees for climbing and little nooks and caves to explore. It gets hot here, so plan to go early or on cooler days. There are small trails for kids to really explore and feel that they are making the plan. The nature center also hosts art days, guided walks and bird watching sessions for all ages. The center is open Tuesday – Saturday from 9-5 and is free; check the website for more information and event schedules.
Ferndell Nature Trail
Ferndell Nature Trail is our favorite short trail for our son. It’s great even on hot days as it’s very shaded. For kids, the reward of the playground at the end and snacks at Trails Cafe makes the walk even easier. Save some bribes for the walk back if they have worn themselves out at the playground! If you park closest to Los Feliz Boulevard, you will end with the playground and Trails Cafe. However, there are at several places you can park that are little more in the middle of the trail if your child can’t make it the entire way. This trail is short and has plenty of things to keep them busy – a small stream with fish and bugs, a wishing well, plants hanging from the trees and a variety of fauna. This trail is stroller friendly, but also feels a bit off the beaten path for kids to enjoy.
Vista Hermosa Nature Park
Vista Hermosa is not really a hike, rather manicured walking trails with a stream, meadows and a nature themed playground. If you start from the bottom parking lot (100 N. Toluca Street), the trail leads you up to the top where the playground is situated with beautiful views over DTLA. This is great nature escape and truly a hidden gem so close to downtown LA. Occasionally there are nature themed educational programs here, so check the website/calendar regularly for updates.
Franklin Canyon Park
Starting at the Sooky Goldman Nature Center parking area at Franklin Canyon Park, there are many areas for kids to explore. Some of the trail here is asphalt fire road which is no fun for the kids, so venture to the trails by the water for some real exploration and to watch the ducks. Check in with the nature center before your walk to see if there are any planned nature programs or volunteer led walks. Franklin Canyon is a great place to return to over and over as there are many trails to continue to explore as your little one gets older.
Our absolute favorite hike is at Monrovia Canyon. This is a beautiful shady hike in the San Gabriel Mountains that can be adjustable lengths depending on age and fitness levels. For smaller hikers, you can start from behind the nature center at the top of Canyon Road for a rocky 1.5 hr hike over streams and shady groves ending in a waterfall. Wear water proof shoes or bring a change of shoes as your little one will have fun splashing in the water crossings. This hike can be made longer as your child grows by parking further down the hill in one of the 2 other lots. On weekends the top lot might be full and you will be forced to do the 2+ mile walk from the middle lot. This hike is probably more suitable for 3 yrs and up, but you can be the judge of your child’s abilities. There are stretches where the path is very narrow with a sloping ravine on one side. This trail is not stroller friendly though, so bring the smaller kids in a carrier.