One of the best way to explore a new city is to run it. However, when the city is as expansive as Los Angeles, with so many neighborhoods and geographical features, finding fun running routes can be tough.
Some folks rely on heat maps of Strava to know where popular routes are. Then again, popular routes may not be the right fit.
This is a list of some of the most scenic and unique runs in West Los Angeles. The west side of LA includes Santa Monica and the beach, the mountains, and the cityscape of Westwood and UCLA. Whether you want to get in a workout on some stairs or a track, or are looking for a place to knock out a long run, West LA has something to offer.
University campuses are typically a great spot for a run, and UCLA is no exception. The campus is one of the greenest places on the Westside and is jam packed with great routes. Although the topography of area makes it hard to get in flat miles, the addition of the track also makes it a unique place to do a workout. most days the Drake Stadium track is open and there are often others churning away on the stairs during stadiums or finding an open lane to do some hard efforts.
One of the more picturesque components of the campus are the trails along Sunset boulevard. If you hit these early in the morning, especially in the summer when the campus population drops, the dirt trail tucked under the cover of trees has the feel of being in a whole new world. By zig zagging across campus you can find a way to get in a 5+ mile run with minimal overlaps of the route and while taking in everything from city streets along Le Conte ave, to sculpture gardens, and hard packed trails.
Will Rogers State Park
If you want to find some real trails in West LA, head straight to Will Rogers State Park. The parking lot and main trailhead are accessible off Sunset boulevard and just next to the polo grounds. From there Will Rogers serves as a gateway to the Santa Monica Mountains. The trail here is the start of the 65+ mile path of the BackBone Trail, which runs the ridge line of the mountains all the way out to Point Magu state park.
As with much of the rest of the westside this area will have hills. Hiking is a fine way to go, and make sure to bring plenty of water as the day can get hot and exposed quickly. Still, by the time you reach inspiration point, on a short run, or turn around on the way up to Temescal Canyon, the views out over the Pacific Ocean are worth the effort.
Santa Monica Runs
While technically not a part of LA, since Santa Monica is its own city, the area is home to many recognizable land marks. There are plenty of roads to run on, and global heat maps will show nearly every road has some action. Still, there are some that are less populated and more conducive to a good run. If you want to run in West LA Santa Monica is a cant miss. Here are our favorite Santa Monica running areas, as experienced by more than a decade of calling it our home turf.
Perched on top of the cliffs overlooking PCH and the Santa Monica Beach, Ocean avenue path is a must hit spot for any runner. Going North from the Santa Monica Pier the route is uninterrupted for 1.5 miles, expect for a single hop over the California incline. This makes it the ideal place to knock out a quick 5k. The park area is also typically bustling with other runners, walkers, and even bootcamp and yoga classes over looking the water. If you run in West LA but never see the ocean you will feel like you are missing out. Ocean Ave offers the best chance to do this while still avoiding crowds.
San Vicente Blvd
From the end of the Ocean ave trail maybe you want to extend the run further. Many runners will already know both Ocean and San Vicente as they make up the end of the famous LA marathon Stadium to Sea course. But even on a non-marathon day San Vicente is a fantastic place to run. The community surrounding it is dotted with beautiful mansions and the wide boulevard offers a clear running path that is free of most obstacles other than the occasional route.
Santa Monica 4th Street Stairs
If you already found Ocean and San Vicente, but want an added workout, a short detour over to the Santa Monica Stairs is a great way to add to the workout. About 0.1miles off San Vicente, at the end of 4th street, is a narrow stairway that leads down the bluff into the neighborhood and eventually the beach. There are two sets of stairs, with 170-190 steps, and doing a loop up one across to the other, and back down is a great workout. Even on a hot day the ocean breeze and tree cover make this a great option for a workout.
A theme of our top spots is that each of them gets you out of the city in some way, since it’s hard to get into a good running rhythm if it is disrupted by the known traffic of LA. To really get away though head out to Franklin Canyon Park. This small park and reservoir is buried away in Beverly Hills and accessible from Sunset or Mulholland drive, and even long time residents often have no idea it is there. The water is a unique place to hear frogs, see turtles, and generally experience nature in a way that makes you feel a world away from the noises and exhaust the rest of West LA is known for.
Beverly Hills & Santa Monica Boulevard
Take in the Beverly Hills sign and head down to Century City along Santa Monica Boulevard. This rolling area again is known as a part of the LA Marathon course, but also runs through the heart of the Westside so it is easy to get to from most hotels. While the traffic and culture of the area make it hard to zone out and get into a good rhythm on an average day, there are few better areas to blend sight seeing and a run in the area.
Expo Line Trail
A few years ago the notoriously lacking public transportation system in West LA added the Expo Line that connects the Santa Monica Pier all the way to downtown. Along the way the rail line is bordered much of the way by a bike and running path that avoids many of the stop lights and cross streets thanks to the right of way being given to the rail line.
Venice Beach Trail
The iconic Venice Beach path is an okay place to run, so long as you do not mind dodging all of the sights and sounds of the area. Everything from street vendors, skateboards, folks who live on the beach, and gawking tourists are on this path. There are no better areas to people watch and see every cross section of Los Angeles.
Playa Vista Bluff Creek Trail
Known now as Silicon Beach, Playa Vista is home to a handful of major tech company hubs as well as hundreds of high priced condos. Situated just below the LMU campus though there is a beautiful 2.5 mile uninterrupted path that overlooks Playa Vista with peek a boo views out to the Hollywood sign and a fresh ocean breeze.
Culver City Stairs
If you want to get to a high point in West LA head own to the Culver City Stairs. The Baldwin Hills Overlook atop the stairs is 300 feet above see level and serves as an overlook to the whole westside. The stairs are no joke either. None of them are uniform in height so you need to stay focused on the climb up.