Gone Outdoors

How to Hike Fryman Canyon in Los Angeles

by Richard Corrigan

Despite its urban surroundings, Fryman Canyon provides a green oasis in the heart of Los Angeles' Studio City. When L.A.-area hikers talk about the Fryman Canyon trail, they usually mean the 3-mile loop that begins at the parking area in Wilacre Park, not in nearby Fryman Canyon Park, as one might expect. The trail in Wilacre Park meanders along rugged ridges and through shady forests, offering valley-spanning views across the city to the San Gabriel Mountains beyond.

Finding the Trail

Wilacre Park is located on Fryman Road, just off Laurel Canyon Boulevard. The parking area is immediately visible as you enter the park. Once you've parked and paid the parking fee -- $3 as of 2014 -- head for the gate at the end of the parking lot that marks the beginning of the Betty B. Dearing Mountain Trail. This trail is less busy than many other hiking spots in Los Angeles, but you should still expect to share the trail with other hikers, joggers and leashed dogs on most days. The terrain is easy to moderate, and it generally takes about an hour and a half to complete the journey.

Exploring the Canyon

The Betty B. Dearing Mountain Trail begins as a paved fire road, and then transitions to a dirt path after about 0.3 miles. The initial section of trail is shady, with scenic viewpoints, benches and the occasional side trails, which loop away and then return to the main trail. The terrain becomes a bit more open and exposed as the trail goes on. At the 1.3-mile mark, you will enter a clearing with benches, water fountains and a second path to the right that leads to Coldwater Canyon and the headquarters of Tree People, a nonprofit conservation group. At 1.4 miles, another trail to the right leads to an exhibit on the trees and rocks of the Fryman Canyon area.

Returning to the Trailhead

About 0.25 miles past the side trail that leads to the tree and rock exhibit, the Betty B. Dearing Mountain Trail ends at a yellow gate that marks the park boundary. On the other side of the gate is a cul-de-sac at the end of Iredell Lane, a quiet residential street. You can either turn back here and retrace your steps to the trailhead, or continue past the gate onto Iredell Lane. If you choose the latter, follow Iredell Lane for 0.2 miles and then take a right on Iredell Street. Turn left on Fryman Road and follow it back to the parking area and trailhead.

Planning Ahead

You can expect to be out in the open sun during portions of this hike, so bring sunscreen and plenty of drinking water. Temperatures can be very hot, especially during summer, so don't hesitate to take a breather if you need it. The terrain is easy to moderate with plenty of gradual uphill climbs, along with a few more difficult sections if you choose to explore any of the side trails. Durable, comfortable shoes are essential.

Exploring More Trails

A few hundred feet after the Betty B. Dearing Mountain Trail dead-ends at the end of Iredell Lane, it reappears on the opposite side of the lane. From here, the trail enters Fryman Canyon Park, where you can explore several additional miles of hiking trails. Fryman Canyon Park contains about 1.5 miles of the Betty B. Dearing Mountain Trail, including a lush gully known as the Rainforest, plus a handful of shorter side trails. Fryman Canyon Park's trail system is also accessible from a parking area and trailhead on Mulholland Drive.

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