By Halina Newberry Grant
1 rugged stroller
Small diaper bag
When I moved to LA from NYC in 2012, I was certain of one thing; no more gyms! Though I knew I was moving to the “Gym Body Capitol of the Free World” (my quote) I felt that with year-round perfect weather, I had no excuses when it came to exercise. Working out didn’t have to be a chore, slogging on a treadmill or sharing free-weights with huge dudes in what feels like a prison yard. I could make it fun—on the beach, around my sunny, tree-lined neighborhood, or on the myriad hiking trails in and around Los Angeles.
When it comes to “Exercise Excuses” (again, my quote) I am kind of the queen. I really don’t like to exercise. And now that I have a toddler, my day is so full that it’s really easy to put my physical health last.
Which is why I love hiking and walking. It doesn’t really feel like a work-out because there’s a destination (not just the countdown from 30 minutes on the treadmill.) There are mountains and trails surrounding LA, and they all have terrific views as payoff for your sweat.
I live on the West Side, so a decent distance from the famous and popular Griffith Park. I have had a great time exploring my side of town behind the handles of our stroller. In my neighborhood of Culver City, I find that it’s really easy to walk to local cafes and restaurants, but I have also found some gentle hikes in the area that get my heart rate up a little higher.
My toddler loves these outings, and it’s great bonding time, talking about everything we see along the way. Equipment-wise, I wear sneakers—no need for a sturdy hiking boot or shoe—and our stroller of choice is the Quinny Buzz Xtra (in grey. I had to ignore that inner-New Yorker telling me to buy everything in black. Quinny gives you a ton of great colors to choose from, but grey is the new black, IMO.)
As an aside, the thing I like about this stroller is that its wheels are large and it’s sturdy enough to handle both the dirt paths and the pavement, but not one of those massive, rugged joggers that are impossible to navigate on twists and turns, and which take up the entire path making it impossible for other people to pass. The other bonus about the tires is that they aren’t the inflatable-type, so they are rugged but there is no risk of a mid-outing blow out—tire-wise. No guarantees on your little one. (But since there’s always a chance of that other kind of blow out there’s plenty of room for a diaper bag or knapsack in the basket of the stroller.)
Also, I live in a small house, so space is premium. The Buzz Xtra collapses and disassembles easily. It has grown well with us, too—transitioning from carrying her car seat, then using the seat rear-facing, and now that she’s older we’ve swapped it to front facing.
Back to that exercise thing. Can you tell I like to avoid the subject altogether?
Here are a couple of our favorite gentle, toddler-friendly hikes in West LA:
Culver City Steps
When my daughter was smaller, I could actually do the steps with her strapped onto me in a carrier. Now that she’s a hefty 20 pounds, I much prefer the stroller. You can opt for the dirt trail with switch backs, but it can be crowded. I like to take the paved street to the top. The payoff is the same (that view!) but the hill itself is more gradual, and there’s more space to meander (read: zig-zag to make the climb easier.)
The views from the top are spectacular! You can see the Pacific Ocean, the Santa Monica mountain range, the Hollywood sign and you have a panoramic view of Los Angeles from Beverly Hills to Downtown and beyond.
The only downside to this hike is dogs aren’t allowed in Culver City Parks. So our Mr. Manfred has to stay home.
Kenneth Hahn State Park
I think Kenneth Hahn is a best kept secret in LA. This park is massive, and the trail options are endless. There are windy narrow dirt paths throughout the hillsides for trail running or hiking (alas, too narrow and harrowing for any stroller.) But there are also stroller-friendly paved paths all over Kenneth Hahn that meander along babbling brooks, past a lily pond, a waterfall, over a foot bridge and around a lake with ducks, swans, cranes and geese. You can jump from one area to another, and discover a part of the park you have never seen before, despite the number of times you’ve come here.
My favorite path winds up a decent-sized hill that takes you to a MASSIVE meadow (that was at one time a reservoir; then nearby fracking generated an earthquake which caused a crack to form in the retaining walls, leading to a massive neighborhood-destroying flood.)
The meadow has a wide track around it that is just under a mile, and if you have the energy for jogging after climbing that hill, have at it.
But the real payoff, even more than the views, is the playground at the top of the park. Your little ones can swing and climb with some of the best views to be found in LA.
Kenneth Hahn also offers expansive lawns, countless picnic areas (perfect for parties and reunions) and playgrounds everywhere you turn. It’s seriously a great park.
Playa del Rey
I shouldn’t be telling you this. I don’t like to reveal my favorite spots because then they become everyone’s favorite spot, and I get crowded out. But maybe that’s the voice of the little New Yorker that still lives inside my brain. I am going to guess that Angelinos knew about Playa del Rey long before I did, and that my word is not powerful enough to transform a beach’s popularity.
Anyway, we can almost always find parking pretty easily when we go to Playa del Rey, and beautiful beaches and wading-friendly shores are accessible from the running and biking path that stretches from Marina del Rey in the North to Hermosa Beach in the South.
Make sure your stroller can handle the sand on the paths (mine can!) The bikers, runners and bladers get impatient with anything that slows them down. Also, I like to throw some buckets and sand toys in the basket of my stroller because if your kid is like mine, there’s no going to the beach without some sand and sea time.
And once that fresh air takes its effect, my little one slips into the best nap of her life listening to the surf. Hopefully your stroller is like mine, and the recline is gentle enough not to wake her, and the sun-shade creates a little cocoon of bliss.