With a population exceeding 18 million and access to plenty of hillside hiking trails, rugged canyons, leafy trees and gardens, the Los Angeles metro area has rightly earned a reputation as an urban jungle.
And, of course, many outdoor lovers in Los Angeles consider the beach part of their backyard, even if experiencing the beach in exclusive communities such as Malibu or Rancho Palos Verdes is out of reach. “Most of the beachfront in Los Angeles is very exposed to the public," says Richard Schulman, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty in Los Angeles.
However, finding a home with ample access to the outdoors isn't always easy, and beachfront real estate is in high demand. To help you find a place to live within easy reach of hiking trails and shorelines, we contacted a few of Los Angeles' top real estate agents. Here are the neighborhoods they recommend for buyers craving some fresh air.
Topanga. An inland community about 11 miles northwest of Santa Monica, Topanga is a rural residential area perched on the edge of Topanga Canyon and surrounded by miles of hiking trails. Homes in this area sit on the edges of several wilderness areas, including Topanga State Park and Tuna Canyon Park. In much of the area, ranch-style properties occupy large, remote lots, giving the impression of permanent retreats in the woods.
Residents of Topanga may be communing with nature, but they also find themselves commuting – almost everywhere. “Topanga is lovely, but you’re putting yourself out there," says Mark Mullin, a real estate agent with Tracy Do Real Estate and Compass. "For someone who has a job other than being a writer in a cabin, you’re pretty far.” There is limited access in and out of this isolated, forested community, with one two-lane highway providing access into and out of the canyon.
Baldwin Hills. In South Los Angeles, the affluent neighborhood of Baldwin Hills offers a more suburban setting than Topanga, with large, single-family homes lining hilly streets and views overlooking the city to the north and the ocean to the west. It also borders one of the city’s only remaining undeveloped hillsides, the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area. This sizable park encompasses a fishing lake and dozens of hiking trails – one of the most popular being the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, which includes a climb up 282 stone steps. “That is one of the toughest stair climbs in the city, and they’re made of jagged concrete. It’s daunting climbing, but perfect for outdoor lovers,” Schulman says.
Unlike Topanga, Baldwin Hills is a neighborhood within Los Angeles city limits. Although it’s a mostly quiet, residential area, residents can access other parts of the metro area more easily, by car or by public transit. Property values are climbing in this part of town, but buyers can generally find lower prices here than in more popular neighborhoods farther west.
Hollywood Hills. Just west of Los Angeles' beloved Griffith Park is the neighborhood of Hollywood Hills, an expansive area comprised of several residential communities. In the center of the hills is one of the city’s most famous hiking trails, Runyon Canyon, while a little farther east is the the Hollywood Reservoir, a serene, tree-lined lakefront.
“There are some great urban hikes near Lake Hollywood," Mullin says. "Although it’s very easily accessible from studios in Burbank and Hollywood, you feel like you’re in another place.”
The homes in Hollywood Hills range dramatically in price and privacy. While some areas are quiet and secluded, others – particularly those that are home to popular trailheads – can feel congested when the weather is nice. “The parts of the Hills that are impacted by tourist traffic are very limited, but they are heavily impacted,” Schulman says.
Los Feliz. Just east of the Hollywood Hills is an even older Los Angeles neighborhood, Los Feliz, where homes range from little Craftsman bungalows to estate-style manors built in the 1920s. Like those who live in the Hollywood Hills, Los Feliz residents also have easy access to the 4,310-acre Griffith Park.
“You can do anything there," says Tracy Do of Compass's Tracy Do Team. "There’s recreation for young kids at the zoo or the playgrounds, hiking trails for older kids and families, horseback riding, jogging – anything you want.” It is also home to an observatory and planetarium, the Autry Museum of the American West and a number of other family attractions.
Los Feliz is walkable, with attractions, parks, shops and restaurants located near residential areas. Compared with other central L.A. neighborhoods, houses on this side of town are affordable, especially for first-time buyers. However, prices vary dramatically between the 80-year-old mansions on hilly streets north of Los Feliz Boulevard, adjacent to the park, and the more modern (and modest) properties on flat lots south of the boulevard.
Mount Washington. Better known as an artist community with funky architecture, this hillside neighborhood in eastern Los Angeles is a hiker’s paradise.
“We market homes in Mount Washington as 'above it all,' but it’s very accessible to the city, too," Mullin says. "It’s got hillside views, hiking trails and an unplanned feeling – yet you’re never more than 10 minutes away from a supermarket or a great place to eat.” Meanwhile, at the top of the hill is a meditation and yoga center with tranquil public gardens that Mount Washington residents consider a secret extension of their own backyards.
However, many of the homes here are traditionally small. Do warns that structural improvements might be necessary on many of the homes. “There was a lot of construction here in the 1910s, 20s and 30s," she explains. "And many times, those foundations and systems have not received any upgrades since they were built.”
Still, Mount Washington is a considerably affordable area to live in, especially given its proximity to downtown and its prime freeway access. Buyers can often find homes starting at around $650,000. Do tells her clients, “It’s the Laurel Canyon of the Eastside: rustic, but so close to everything.”
Looking for a real estate agent in Los Angeles? U.S. News' Find an Agent tool can match you with the person who's most qualified for the job.