When you mention walking in L.A. to people who don’t live in L.A. the most common reaction is: Ha! And then, “Are you kidding, nobody walks in L.A.”
That’s not true, of course. Nobody jaywalks in L.A. Or, if one does, there are cops waiting to pounce. A friend and I once crossed two feet outside a crosswalk on Fairfax and 6th Street. A motorcycle cop came out of nowhere and told us to stand against the building on the corner. When my friend mildly protested (“C’mon man, the light was green, it was nothing”) the cop called for assistance and, I kid you not, three other motorcycle cops and four police cars were at this corner within three minutes. The street was blocked off, and it looked like a giant drug bust was going down.
But this is about walking, not jaywalking. And, believe it or not, people do walk in L.A. I know, because I do it. I see others doing it. I even see famous people doing it. And when I ask people where they like to walk, I get so many different answers that I could probably write a book about it, but my editor asked that I narrow it down to four. So I chose four areas that I thought visitors might be interested in exploring: the Hollywood Hills, Beverly Hills, Westwood, and Santa Monica. My choices combine walks with activities—from checking out beautiful dogs and their often famous owners to looking at art for appreciation or to buy to window shopping at some of the most exclusive brand names in the world to digging your toes into warm sand–so even the reluctant walker might want to tag along to see things while getting that heart beating.
THE HOLLYWOOD HILLS: RUNYON CANYON
I live a half mile from one of the most popular and aerobic walking spots in the entire city and I never knew about it until my dog was ten years old. Runyon Canyon goes from Hollywood Blvd up to Mulholland Drive (or from Mulholland down to Hollywood Blvd). There’s a paved path, sometimes covered with dirt, that lets you make the 2 ½ mile walk in sneakers, rather than hiking boots. There are also other paths which require those boots, and a lot of people enjoy going off the beaten path. (The trails are not marked but they’re not hard to find—especially if you follow behind someone going in that direction, or ask anyone you pass—like the unleashed dogs, the people are also very friendly.) I’ve seen Mathew McConaughy, Laurence Fishburne and Robert Forster walking these paths, but the true stars are the dogs. They’re allowed to run free and what’s incredible is that there seems to be an understanding by these animals that they will not attack their fellow canines while in the canyon. They may growl and bark and act tough while leashed in their neighborhood or in a car, but they’re all sniffy and friendly once that leash is unhooked. It’s like being at a dog show, especially if you’re thinking about a certain breed and want to see one on the trail. From giant Mastiffs and Great Danes to miniature Dobermans and nervous Chihuahuas, you can observe how they walk, how happy they seem, if their tongues drip drool, if they lag behind on the steep climb up. Dog owners are usually friendly and willing to talk about their breed. And some of these owners are in terrific shape, so it’s a feast for the eyes as well.
There are a few different trails in Runyon. Besides the one from north to south, there’s another trail at the top of Mulholland that’s only a mile and leads to an overview of the city that is spectacular. It’s where you can go to view firework displays on the Fourth of July, or where you can go on New Year’s Day, to start the year off healthy.