Southern California Sunrise Hikes


Early Riser

With the sun rising at around 7:00 a.m., now's the best time of year to catch it in action. Grab a thermos and get to any of these prime spots for watching one of nature's best shows. Here comes the sun!

Lizard Rock Wildwood Park

Lizard Rising

Never mind the worm. The best thing for early birds to get is the Lizard. Head out on a 2.5-mile loop hike to panoramic Lizard Rock in Wildwood Park. Conejo Valley's favorite park, crowded in daylight hours, is soft and quiet in the shadowy pre-dawn. Take the Mesa Trail, which at the start parallels Montclef Ridge, a volcanic outcrop that resulted from a series of eruptions some 30 million years ago. It's a mostly flat mile through a grassy meadow to reach the basalt outcrop bearing a faint resemblance to a lizard (imagination required). The last tenth of the mile is steep, and there's a slight scramble to get on top of Lizard Rock, a perfect perch to feel like the king (or queen) of the world as the sun comes up. At 931 feet, sweeping views of the Santa Susana Mountains and the Conejo Valley greet you while the eastern horizon gets pinker by the minute. The sun's majestic arrival over Simi Peak will have you hooting and hollering in welcome. From your 360-degree vantage, watch the golden rays transform the greys and browns of the terrain below to sparkling greens and pinks. To mix it up on the way back, take rockier Stagecoach Bluff Trail, which runs along a ridge with views down into Wildwood Canyon. Morning glory.

From the 101 in Thousand Oaks, take the Lynn Road exit and head north. Drive 2.5 miles to Avenida de los Arboles, and then turn left. Drive 1 mile and make a U-turn into the parking lot on the left side of the road. From the parking lot, follow Mesa Trail 1 mile to Lizard Rock. Return via Stagecoach Bluff Trail (1.5 miles). Here is a map of the park. Here is a Wildwood Park trail map. Dog-friendly!

Sandstone Peak Santa Monica Mountains

Sandstone Surprise

Few places in Southern California compete with Sandstone Peak when it comes to watching the day begin. Sunrise at this 3,111-foot summit—the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains—sheds light on the rugged Ojai backcountry, the hazy L.A. basin, and the high ridges of the San Gabriel Mountains. Six different Channel Islands are in view, even Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands, far to the north. For such an impressive summit, it's a surprisingly short (albeit fairly steep) hike to the top via a 1.5-mile section of the Backbone Trail that climbs 1,400 feet. Bring a flashlight; large chaparral shrubs form covered arches over parts of the trail, blocking dawn's light. The last ascent climbs a short stretch of steep volcanic rock, but the peaceful summit quickly quiets any huffing and puffing. Listen for the howling of coyotes in the distance while you watch a swift sunrise paint the sky in thick strokes of purples and pinks. Way to peak at the sun.

From PCH in Malibu, drive northwest to Yerba Buena Rd., 1.5 miles past Leo Carrillo State Park. Drive inland up Yerba Buena Rd. for 6.5 snaky miles to the marked turnout on the left for Sandstone Peak. (The trailhead is one mile east of the Circle X Ranch Ranger Station, which you will pass on the right hand side.) Hike 0.3 mile up the trail and make a left at the first junction onto the Backbone Trail; from here, it is 1.1 miles to the summit. Return the way you came. Dog-friendly!

Inspiration Point Will Rogers State Park

Loop du Soleil

From Inspiration Point in Will Rogers State Park, daybreak over the hazy L.A. cityscape looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. Clusters of high-rise buildings stand dark against a red-tinged sky whose giant rising orb seems to get bigger by the second. This apocalyptic panorama is the midway point of a 2-mile loop designed by Will Rogers himself, a 1930s cowboy philosopher and humorist. Take the unnamed path near the tennis courts at the entrance of the park and head north into the mountains. There will be a few side trails; join the main fire road. Inspiration Point, on your right after 1 mile, is a broad, flat knoll with picnic tables overlooking the ocean, downtown L.A., Santa Monica, Palos Verdes, and, in the distance, the Santa Ana and San Gabriel mountain ranges. From Inspiration Point, the main loop continues northeast and then descends, meandering through a eucalyptus-lined trail with views of the polo grounds below. Passing early-morning joggers on the return, try not to gloat about the exhilarating scene they've just missed. Sunup said.

Will Rogers State Park (310-454-8212) is on the north side of Sunset Blvd., about midway between Chautauqua Blvd. and Almalfi Drive in the Pacific Palisades. There is a $12 fee to park in the lot that opens at 8:00 a.m., but you can park for free before 9:00 a.m. in the bordering residential neighborhood. Dog-friendly!

Meet Your Match

Online match-ups, blind dates, the bar scene…dont let 2012 be another dating-scene dud. Instead, join the Team! Team In Training (TNT) that is. We've heard the (true) rumor that numerous perfect matches have come from like-minded people who met after joining the Team. It makes sense: when you join TNT, you're hanging out with others who share similar passions and interests, such as adventuring outdoors in the Grand Canyon. And with that comes extra benefits! (No, not those extra benefits; we'll leave that to your discretions.) We're talking benefits like getting in shape while supporting a great cause. TNT is The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's ground-breaking charity, sports-training program and has helped over half a million people reach their goals with top coaches, experienced mentors, and experts in fitness and nutrition. Your participation helps raise money in the fight against blood cancers. It's easy to learn more: visit and make a date with TNT!

TIP: So many choices! TNT has a huge roster of upcoming events, including a Grand Canyon Hike; Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon; and America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride in Lake Tahoe. Visit to learn more.

Greater Los Angeles Information Meetings 

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