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10 easy ways to get 10,000 steps in Southern California

Crystal Cove State Park Crystal Cove State Park. | Photo by Eric Van Eyke

What’s the best way to get to know a place? Walk it. You’ll take in sweeping landscapes, smell fragrant flowers, or relax at the sound of crashing waves.

And, if you track your daily steps, you’ll enjoy the following Southern California walks for another reason: You’ll be fitter. Each route here is close to or surpasses 10,000 steps, or about 5 miles. Enjoy! 

1. Beach cities: Venice’s Ocean Front Walk to Santa Monica Pier

Venice Beach

Photo by Nicole Gregory

This pedestrian beach path provides a lively people-watching scene. You’ll pass restaurants and cafés, colorful murals, and an eclectic mix of street musicians, artists, and vendors selling oddities (“Your name on a grain of rice” reads the sign of one vendor). Walk 2.9 flat miles to the Santa Monica Pier. Then turn around and return to your start point.

Kick it up a notch: Pump your legs on the long-chain swings near the Santa Monica Pier.

Venice map

Start: Washington Boulevard at the beach in Venice
Parking: Look for street parking or in the lot at West Washington Boulevard at the beach; $5-$7 daily.
Type of route: 5.8-mile round-trip 
Terrain: Flat 
Dog friendly? Yes

2. Santa Barbara: Andrée Clark Bird Refuge and Beach Promenade

Santa Barbara

Photo by Nicole Gregory

Venture along the wood-chip path into the quiet 42-acre Andrée Clark Bird Refuge and take a moment to observe the birds and ducks paddling in the peaceful lake. At the end of the path, turn back and follow the asphalt bike path that curves around the lake along Cabrillo Boulevard to the Santa Barbara shoreline. The path crosses Cabrillo at Milpas Street and hugs the beach, offering a view of the majestic Santa Ynez mountains rising behind Santa Barbara. Walk to Stearns Wharf, then turn back.

Kick it up a notch: Work out on the outdoor fitness equipment adjacent to the bird refuge parking lot. 

Santa Barbara walk

Start: Andrée Clark Bird Refuge 
Parking: Free at the refuge lot at Los Patos Way and East Cabrillo Boulevard
Type of route: 4.6-mile round-trip 
Terrain: Mostly flat with a few gentle rises
Dog friendly? Yes

3. Long Beach: seaside bluff walk and pedestrian beach path

Bluff Park, Long Beach

Photo by Nicole Gregory

Bluff Park is a 13.2-acre strip of a city park that overlooks the ocean. Enjoy a relaxed beach vibe on this route, which also provides a glimpse of the Queen Mary, a wide beach path, and a fun old pier. Begin at the park’s western end and walk easterly along the bluff path. After passing the Lone Sailor Memorial (a statue that pays homage to those who served in the Navy), look for Loma Avenue on the left. On the right, take the staircase to descend to the beach. Turn left onto the pedestrian path (you are now entering Belmont Shore). Walk to the end of Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, then return to the path and continue east. Stop when you get to Rosie’s Dog Beach. Rest awhile to watch happy pups romp in the surf, and then turn back. 

Kick it up a notch: Tack on an extra up-and-down on the staircase.

Long Beach walking route

Start: East Ocean Boulevard and Kennebec Avenue
Parking: Street parking is easy to find along Ocean Boulevard or side streets.
Type of route: 3.2-mile round-trip
Terrain: Mostly flat with one big incline 
Dog friendly? Yes. Dogs must be on a leash, except at Rosie’s Dog Beach.

4. Los Angeles: downtown urban streets

Downtown Los Angeles

Photo by Nicole Gregory

Go through the market and exit onto Broadway and turn left. Turn right on Second Street and walk to Central Avenue and turn left. You will pass the Japanese American National Museum and the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. Walk through the plaza and behind the Geffen, turn left on Temple Street, and walk to Spring Street (you may encounter some construction work). Turn left and go to City Hall. Facing City Hall’s main entrance is Grand Park; climb the steps and walk all the way to Grand Avenue. Cross Grand Avenue and ascend the stairs to the Music Center plaza; take a seat at one of the sitting areas and enjoy the city view.

Kick it up a notch: Climb the steps in Grand Park a few times.

Downtown Los Angeles walking route

Start: Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 South Grand Avenue
Parking: Parking is $3.50 for every 15 minutes up to $20 maximum Walt Disney Concert Hall or take the Red Line or Purple Line Metro and get off at Civic Center/Grand Park station.
Type of route: 6.2-mile loop
Terrain: Mostly flat with some hills
Dog friendly? No

5. South Bay: Hermosa Beach to Manhattan Beach on Veterans Parkway (a.k.a. Hermosa Valley Greenbelt)

Hermosa Valley Greenbelt

Photo by Nicole Gregory

This 3.5-acre trail was once a rail line. Today it’s a soft, beautifully landscaped, wood-chip path that cuts through quiet, residential neighborhoods with tasteful homes and condos that are connected by wide pedestrian-only alleys. Towering pine and eucalyptus trees provide shade above benches and sculptures that dot the trail. Walk northward to Manhattan Beach Boulevard then turn back. 

Kick it up a notch: Do a workout on the outdoor equipment at 10th Place and Valley Drive.

Hermosa Beach walking route

Start: Herondo Street and Valley Drive in Hermosa Beach
Parking: Look for street parking.
Type of route: 5-mile round-trip 
Terrain: Flat and soft
Dog friendly? Yes

6. Laguna Beach: Crystal Cove State Park

Crystal Cove State Park

Photo by Eric Van Eyke

As you enter the park, ask the ranger for a trail map. From the bluffs of beautifully preserved Crystal Cove State Park, stop to admire the spectacular view of the shimmering Pacific Ocean and Santa Catalina Island in the distance. Then follow the path down to the white-sand beach and stroll south. You’ll pass the restored and historic Crystal Cove Beach Cottages. (You can reserve to stay in them through the State Parks website.) Continue south and take the incline path to the bluffs at Scotchman’s Cove and return to your start point on the blufftop Crystal Cove Trail. For a sweet ending, stop at Crystal Cove Shake Shack. 

Kick it up a notch: Hike the hills above and around the cottages.

Crystal Cove walking route

Start: Pelican Point entrance at Pacific Coast Highway and Newport Coast Drive
Parking: in Lot 1 or 2; $15
Type of route: 4-mile loop
Terrain: Flat except for one steep descent and incline
Dog friendly? No: Dogs are not allowed on the beach.

7. Ojai: town center streets, trails, and park

Ojai walking route

Photo by Nicole Gregory

Ojai is an artsy town surrounded by big mountains, with streets lined with art galleries, cafés, shops, and more than a few spas. A walk here is as pleasant as it is easy. Pick up the Ojai Valley Trail at Ojai Avenue just east of Del Norte Road; head east on the trail to Blanche Street; go left and turn left again onto Ojai Avenue; at Cañada Street turn right and walk to Matilija Street.

Stop at the indoor/outdoor Bart’s Books, at the corner of Matilija and Cañada streets, then continue east on Matilija to Ventura Street. Turn right here and walk back to Ojai Avenue; turn left and walk along the shop-filled arcade until you see Libbey Park to your right; cross the street and enter the park.

Behind the tennis courts, pick up the Ojai Valley Trail again. Head east along the trail until you reach Montgomery Street, then turn left. Cross Ojai Avenue and continue on  Montgomery (it jogs to the right) until you reach Oak Street; turn right and then turn right again at Fulton Street. Turn right briefly on Ojai Avenue and then pick up Fulton on your left; follow the street until you reach the Ojai Valley Trail; turn right and follow the trail west to your start point. 

Kick it up a notch: Extend your distance on the Ojai Valley Trail after you complete the loop.

Ojai walking route

Start: South side of West Ojai Avenue at Del Norte Road 
Parking: Free at the Rotary Community Park lot near trail entrance 
Type of route: 5.3-mile loop
Terrain: Mostly flat streets, trail path, and sidewalks with some gentle inclines
Dog friendly? Yes

8. The Valley: San Fernando Valley into Topanga State Park 

Topanga State Park

Photo by Nicole Gregory

After you’ve parked, take in the panoramic view of the Santa Susana and San Gabriel mountains and almost the entire San Fernando Valley. Walk to the top of the park access road and look for the yellow gates at the entrance of the dirt fire road (it’s easy to find). Follow the road’s curve to the left and to the top of the ridge. You’ll see a bench where the fire road widens. Continue along the ridge to the entrance of the Nike Missile Control Site, which was a Cold War military defense against possible Soviet nuclear attacks; then turn around and return to the parking lot. 

Kick it up a notch: Hike any one of the park’s many other trails. You’ll find maps in kiosks at Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park or on the trail, and on the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority website.

Topanga walking route

Start: Southern end of Reseda Boulevard in Tarzana
Parking: available at Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park on Reseda Boulevard, near the top of the mountain; $5
Type of route: 6-mile round-trip
Terrain: Wide, rocky, dirt fire road with some inclines
Dog friendly? No: Dogs are not allowed on state park trails or fire roads.

9. San Diego: Old Town and Presidio Park

Old Town San Diego

Photo by Nicole Gregory

Enter Old Town San Diego State Historic Park from Congress Street, and head to the McCoy House Interpretive Center, then walk through Old Town to the Whaley House Museum, stopping at  preserved adobe structures, craft shops, and eateries along the way.

Then head northeast to Heritage Park, where you can see restored 19th-century homes and the city’s first synagogue. Retrace your steps down to Juan Street to Mason Street; turn right and then left at Jackson Street, which loops around Presidio Park, leading you to the Junípero Serra Museum. (The museum has limited hours.) Continue all the way around Presidio Drive back to Mason Street and re-enter Old Town. Stroll through Old Town, then reward yourself with a hot chocolate or taco.

Kick it up a notch: Explore the trails in Presidio Park or take the steep path behind the Heritage Park residence called “Christian House” that leads to a spot overlooking the park.

San Diego walking route

Start: Caltrans Taylor Street entrance of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park
Parking: Free at Old Town Transit Center on Taylor Street, adjacent to Old Town
Type of route: 4.2-mile loop
Terrain: Flat in Old Town but steep walk up to Presidio Park
Dog friendly? No

10. Palm Desert:  The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

Palm Desert

Photo by Nicole Gregory

You won’t mind the entrance fee ($24.95 for adults and $14.95 for children) at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens when you realize how much flora and fauna there is to see, such as palo verde trees, desert willow, bighorn sheep and a variety of foxes. Find the start point for three connected loop desert trails at the far end of the zoo. Get your 10,000 steps by walking the entire exhibit pathway, and then taking the “Middle” or “Adventure Loop” two times, then walk 1,000 feet of the Wilderness Loop and head back and return to the zoo entrance.

Kick it up a notch: Walk the entire Wilderness Loop, a 4.8-mile trail. Note: This is a rugged trail with boulders and steep switchbacks. Trails are closed June through September.

Living Desert walking route

Start: Zoo entrance, 47900 Portola Avenue
Parking: Free in zoo lot
Type of route: 5-mile loop 
Terrain: Flat with some gentle inclines 
Dog friendly? No

Nicole Gregory regularly walks in the canyons and along the beaches of Los Angeles, but she saves the big 10,000-step routes for weekends so she can take a long nap afterward.

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