2023January August 4, 2023

Great Views and a Killer Workout

L.A.’s 16 hardest staircases, ranked by which walks are worth the climb

Here’s a recent realization that kind of blew my mind: Los Angeles is really a big city of hills.

I spend so much time on flat freeways, I never appreciated just how elevated we get around here until I began exploring L.A.’s most challenging staircase walks, as collated by Charles Fleming in his 2010 book “Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles.” (Fleming is a contributor to The Times.)

Fleming documented 42 looping stair walks around L.A., from the up-and-down neighborhoods of El Sereno to the ocean breezes of Pacific Palisades. I’d heard about these stair walks, but I secretly worried about whether I could really do them. I’m a gardener in good health, but if there’s a scale for athleticism, I’m near the bottom. I’ve been AARP-eligible for more than a decade and my knees would be happier if I lost 25 pounds. I walk often but get winded climbing hills. Oh, and there’s the klutz factor too: I broke my leg in October 2021 by stepping off a trail into … nothing during a night hike in Griffith Park.

So my reasoning was, if can do these heart-hammering, lung-bursting, are-you-serious?! climbs, then anyone who can manage stairs can too.

I chose 16 of the hardest of Fleming’s walks with up to 1,000 steps and lengths up to four miles. I took friends with me on most of the hikes, women of about the same age and fitness level. We did many of these walks on 90-plus-degree days, and there were times I was sweating so much I felt like a liquid. Most of these routes, though, are shaded by mature trees, so there is some respite from the sun.

Many of these stairs also have lights, but I don’t recommend taking these walks at night. For one, you miss the architecture, and two, you’re so close to people’s homes, it feels a little sketchy and unsafe to be a stranger in a strange neighborhood after dark.

I relied on my fellow walkers to help me answer the other big question: Were these walks worth the time, gas and serious sweat to get there?

Answer: For the most part, absolutely! A few I would recommend only if you live nearby or have to be in the area for some reason and have time to kill. Those get a “Meh” rating, as in “Worth doing, but once is enough.”

The others I’ve ranked either as “Glute busters,” where the exertion is more memorable than the scenery — great for people who love the high from completing a workout challenge — and “Wowza!” for challenging routes worth multiple visits because the intense exertion is softened by magnificent scenery.

Obviously, this is very subjective — in some cases, my brain probably was addled by oxygen deprivation — so plan on trying all the walks and let me know how you would rate them.

A few other pointers:

  1. These walks involve quiet neighborhoods not used to hordes of visitors, so be respectful of their privacy and keep out of their yards.
  2. Wear good walking shoes; flip-flops aren’t going to make it here. Some of these streets are so steep you feel like you could fall off.
  3. Bring water and find a toilet ahead of time, because most of these routes have neither restrooms nor cafes.
  4. Parking can be a challenge, especially on weekends. Try to park as close to the starting/ending location as you can.
  5. Sidewalks are nonexistent on many of the walks’ curvy, narrow streets, so proceed with care. I had a couple of near misses; drivers just don’t expect people to be walking on these roads.
  6. The views can be spectacular but are often blocked by houses, trees and shrubs. For me, the best part of these walks was discovering some of L.A.’s most historic and beautiful neighborhoods and quintessential L.A. architecture.
  7. Buy a Kindle version of Fleming’s 2020 book update for more walks and interesting details. If you’re banking on dining at a restaurant he mentions, though, check if it’s still open.
  8. If you’re interested in other stair walks, or teaming up with stair walkers, check out SoCal Stair Climbers, a group that regularly designs and hosts stair walks around L.A. County that are as short as four miles or as long as 20.
  9. The trail icons on the map are meant to signify general areas where you may be able to find parking. They are not exactly where stair walks begin. As always in L.A., your parking luck may vary.

Santa Monica Canyon — Rustic Canyon Loop walk

Distance: 3.0-mile loop
Intensity: Strenuous

Rating: Wowza! — the intense exertion is softened by magnificent scenery

I love, love love this walk, even though it took me past a parade of hard bodies charging up and down the infamous 4th Street Stairs multiple times before I could huff and puff my way to the top just once.

So yes, expect some labored breathing on this walk, but it also takes you through some serene and majestically green neighborhoods, great ocean views and — quite unexpectedly — a tiny stream during our dry-as-dust summer. There are lots of stairs — at 976 steps, it’s one of the most stair-intensive — but the sights are so transporting it’s easy to forget you’re near a city center, and that makes all the effort worthwhile.

1. Park alongside the beach at Will Rogers Parking Lot No. 1, where Entrada Drive spills into Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Parking here is $9, and it’s safest to bring cash, since the machines don’t reliably accept debit cards.
2. Walk north a half block along PCH to where Chautauqua Boulevard and West Channel Road merge into PCH in one massive snarl of traffic. There are no crosswalks here, so don’t try to cross PCH aboveground. Instead, find the entrance to the Little Tunnel, descend the 17 steps and safely cross under PCH to the other side, walking up 17 steps and emerging into the sun on the south side of Channel Road.
3. Walk south on PCH, past Patrick’s Roadhouse and a gas station, along the sidewalk until you come to your first set of stairs, a colorful set of 48 steps that climb to Ocean Way. A note here: The start of this walk wasn’t nice. The traffic is thick on PCH, the sidewalk is narrow and there was a glassy-eyed man smoking a small pipe as we slipped past him on the stairs. But it gets better, I promise.
4. At the top, head left, down the hill, until Ocean Way merges with Entrada. Walk up Entrada just past 278, a tall, white modern structure with a corner so sharp it has a surreal M.C. Escher feel. Look right to find your second set of stairs. These start as a path through sprays of bougainvillea, towering eucalyptus and tropical greens to a stair that climbs 79 steps to Mabery Road.
5. Turn left on Mabery and follow the road down to East Ocean Avenue (also known as Ocean Avenue Ext. on Google Maps). Cross carefully to the other side of Ocean and head left, downhill, to the base of the 4th Street Stairs. (Note: There is a smaller set of stairs on the right just before the 4th Street Stairs, which you should ignore. The 4th Street Stairs are just past 358 Ocean, and are pretty easy to recognize since they zig and zag 189 steps to the top and have a fair number of panting, dripping athletic types running up and down them.
6. Luckily, the 4th Street Stairs have several landings along the way where you can catch your breath, enjoy the gorgeous views behind you and, in my case anyway, try to ignore the fact that the same runner has passed you three times already up and down and up again. Just be careful to hug the rails as you climb these stairs because these runners aren’t shy about asking you to move.
7. At the top, past the water bottles left by the runners as they exercise, you emerge at the corner of 4th Street and Adelaide Drive. Here are some truly breathtaking views of the ocean, Rustic Canyon and many gorgeous homes, with plaintive signs asking people to please refrain from doing calisthenics in view of their windows.
8. Turn left on Adelaide, walking uphill, and savor the views until you reach 526. There on the left are the Santa Monica Stairs, 166 weathered wooden steps, thankfully heading down. You’ll soon understand that this is a continuation of the workout regime, with some runners charging up the 4th Street Stairs and then down the Santa Monica Stairs again and again in a sweaty circle. Anyway, be sure to stay right so they can speed past (unless you are fit enough to join their ranks).
9. At the bottom of the stairs, you’re back on Entrada, where you should cross the street and turn right, heading uphill a short distance, past 525 and a tall jagged concrete wall to find your next stairs on the left, about 25 steps down to the cul-de-sac end of Attilla Road.
10. Walk straight on Attilla past Dryad Road to East Channel Road, where you turn left. This is a serenely beautiful neighborhood, full of majestic trees, quiet birdsong and children playing safely in the street.
11. East Channel Road dead-ends, becoming impassable for cars, but we foot travelers can continue forward following a path through a wide gate on the right of the road to the other end of East Channel Road. Keep walking straight, past Amalfi Drive and Canyon Elementary School, until you see a crosswalk and a pedestrian bridge crossing the Santa Monica Canyon Creek bed on your right.
12. Across the bridge you emerge on Sage Lane, where you should walk straight until Sage bends left and you spot your next stairs on the right, rising 14 steps and then turning right up another 64 steps through what appears to be a tall grove of bamboo.
13. At the top, you’ll emerge onto Amalfi Drive. Turn left, and stay left when Amalfi runs into Sumac Lane.
14. Follow Sumac about a block, until it curves to the right. On your left, at 323 Sumac, you’ll find another set of steep stairs, 124 steps climbing straight up to Amalfi again, where you turn left, past just one house, and take a semihidden set of stairs along a steel fence that plunge you down again — without handrails — a very steep 124 steps to Mesa Road.
15. Turn right on Mesa, heading uphill to 475, a stark, hyper-modern-looking home built in 1937 by Harwell H. Harris for John Entenza, editor of Art & Architecture magazine. This 850-square-foot house looks like a circle attached to a square with some very cool (and private) steps leading to a rooftop patio. We must, however, carry on to our public stairs just beyond 491 Mesa, a few doors down on the left.
16. Be careful as you descend because the 61 steps are uneven and broken in places. At the bottom, you’ll emerge onto West Rustic Road, my favorite part of this walk. It’s so quiet, green and yes, rustic, it feels magical, especially when you cross the bridge in front of you, over Rustic Creek (which actually has a small trickle of water) and follow West Rustic Road to the left.
17. At the first corner, turn right on Hillside Lane and follow the narrow street as it bends left, so quiet it feels like a deserted movie set of tall, lovely homes. Just as Hillside bends left again, look straight ahead for your final set of stairs, 85 steep, narrow steps that climb up through green shady yards to Vance Road at the top.
18. Turn left on Vance, walking downhill past the magnificent mosaic of a guitarist and dancer at 390, straight and then right, as the road curves back, alas, to civilization. Along the way, there are some fine views of Santa Monica and Rustic Canyon, a small consolation. Suddenly, far too soon, you’re back in the real world amid the jarring traffic of Chautauqua Boulevard.
19. Turn left on Chautauqua and follow the road down to where it converges with West Channel Road at PCH. The traffic is fierce here, so use the crosswalks from Chautauqua to the south side of Channel to get back to the tunnel that will take you down 17 steps to cross under PCH and then back up 17 steps to your car.

Highland Park — Southwest Museum walk

Distance: 3.0-mile loop
Intensity: Strenuous
Rating: Wowza! — the intense exertion is softened by magnificent scenery

Fleming designed this walk to include the grounds of the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, but the museum and its grounds are currently closed to visitors with no date set for reopening, according to museum officials. Nonetheless, this challenging, strenuous walk is still one of my favorites, partly because I started looking up at the distant hills thinking, “Can he really expect me to get up there?” and then being totally exhilarated when I found myself at the top of those high hills looking down.

One reason I love this walk: It involves the longest wooden stairs in Los Angeles — 196 winding steps at the top of reportedly the steepest road in CaliforniaEldred Street. The top of this street is so steep — a 33% grade — that I almost had to crawl to get to the top. Needless to say, the going was very slow, but every few feet, when I would stop to catch my breath (this is just a blocklong hike, mind you), I would carefully turn around and gasp anew at the view.

You’ll pass through a variety of neighborhoods too, from more modest homes with inventive vegetable gardens and found-item sculptures in the front yard to more elaborate minimansions perched somewhat precariously at the edge of the hills. There are lots of mature trees here and birdsong with bits of history and art along the route. I went alone on this one, and I can’t wait to go back and challenge my family and friends.

1. Find a place to park on Sycamore Terrace, as close as you can get to North Figueroa Street and North Avenue 50, because that’s where you’ll start your walk; but you’ll also end up on Sycamore Terrace, so anywhere along this street will be good.
2. Head uphill on the left side of North Avenue 50past the railroad tracksMarmion Way, Monte Vista and Malta streets until you reach Lynn Street, where you will turn left.
3. Walk a block to the end of Lynn Street and find your first set of stairs, heading down. (This is where I started getting nervous about the hills looming before me, wondering how I could climb anything that high.) Walk down the 60 steps to a continuation of Lynn and turn right onto North Avenue 49.
4. Walk a block on North Avenue 49 through a charming neighborhood of tidy duplexes and bungalows. Turn right on Granada Street and walk a block, turning left back onto North Avenue 50.
5. After one block, turn left on Eldred Street and take a deep breath, because this is where the adventure starts. Eldred actually flattens out at first, even heading slightly downhill for the first two blocks as you walk toward the impossibly high hills. But at Avenue 48, Eldred starts going up, and that final block before the wooden stairs is the slowest I’ve walked, almost like trying to run and breathe under water. It’s intense.
6. At the top of the street, be sure to turn around — carefully, so you don’t fall — and take in the view. You’ll feel like you’re standing in a carnival funhouse, about to tip over, but it’s satisfying to see how far you’ve come, and it’s only the beginning of the (literally) breathtaking vistas on this walk.
7. Now turn your attention to those rickety white wooden stairs towering before you, the top disappearing in a grove of pepper trees (Schinus molle). When I was there, Martin Williams and his son, Russell, were resting during their regular neighborhood workout, running up and down the steps at least eight times. They warned me about a broken step around the halfway mark, and politely waited for me to gasp my way up the 196 steps before they resumed their swift charge up and down the stairs.
8. At the top of the stairs, once you catch your breath, turn left on Cross Avenue for about a mile of flat, meandering past lovely homes and some sweeping, heart-stopping views to your left. Take a minute to appreciate that you really did make it to the top of that impossible hill and follow Cross as it turns to the right to meet Crane Boulevard.
9. Take a left at Crane and follow the road downhill. It was late afternoon as I was walking, and a man was settling himself on an upturned bucket in his driveway with a bag of dog treats, waiting for dogs and their walkers to pass by. There are more trees here, many interesting homes and lots of noisy birds. Stay on Crane as it continues downhill, bearing left at Dustin Drive and a sharp hairpin turn left past Rustic Drive.
10. Near the bottom of the hill, Crane becomes Museum Drive, and you see what Fleming calls the “strange secret entrance” to the Southwest Museum; alas, all of the museum portion of this walk is closed to the public now, as the owners — the Autry Museum of the American West — consider what to do with the museum and grounds, which need extensive repairs.
11. Continue on Museum Drive past Marmion and take the 11 steps down to the Gold Line tracks, then another 27 steps and a long, sloping ramp that drops you off at Woodside Drive. As you pass through the stop, check out the whimsical “angels” on columns created by artist Teddy Sandoval. (They look a little like colorful bowling pins with wings.)
12. Walk straight toward Figueroa Street, and just before you hit that big street, turn left and up 16 wide stone stairs to the elevated walkway that runs adjacent to Figueroa in front of La Casita Verde, a magnificent old green house that is now a childcare center.
13. Watch for a T-shaped staircase that takes you down 12 steps, past an intimate shrine for the Virgin Mary, and then up 28 steps. Continue past grand old Craftsman-style homes and bungalows, intermixed with some more modern apartments on the left and busy Figueroa below you to the right. After about another block you’ll come to a staircase on the right leading down to Figueroa; take the 46 steps down and turn left, walking along the sidewalk a short distance until you reach Sycamore Terrace.
14. Pause to gape at the remarkable stone and timber “chalet” designed in 1922 by architect Carl Boller, which is now a Los Angeles historic-cultural monument known as the Hiner House and Sousa Nook. Be sure to examine its billiard-ball studded gate.
15. Turn left onto Sycamore Terrace, walking uphill past apartment buildings. There are no sidewalks here and the road curves, so walk carefully, but within a block you’ll be back on the sidewalk, passing stately homes, until you reach your car.

Cove-Loma Vista Loop walk

Distance: 2.0-mile loop
Intensity: Strenuous
Rating: Wowza! — the intense exertion is softened by magnificent scenery

This is another of my favorite walks because it takes you along Loma Vista Place, a shady stairway “street” that climbs past a mix of stunning and bedraggled homes, some with beautifully landscaped yards and others wildly overgrown. It took me several minutes to comprehend that these steep stairs were the main access to these houses — which only sharpened my appreciation and curiosity. Who are these hearty people of Silver Lake who must trudge up countless stairs every day, just to enter their homes? Someone should do a study to see if they are healthier than the rest of us.

Anyway, I loved this walk even though it nearly killed me. Near the end, I had to mince my way down one of the steepest streets I’ve ever encountered — Edendale Place. I was relieved when I realized I wouldn’t have to climb that street, but walking down was almost as hard because of the effort involved in not falling on my face.

A note: I recommend a different starting point than Fleming because of issues with parking and traffic. Fleming starts his walk at the corner of Silver Lake Boulevard and Glendale Boulevard, a nightmare of cars and noise. He recommended walking up Glendale Boulevard from there, from wherever you managed to park, so you can pass the offices of the famous father-son architects Richard and Dion Neutra at 2379 Glendale Blvd. (now the Neutra Institute Museum of Silver Lake). Richard designed the office and many of Silver Lake’s lovely homes, but the car issues are so taxing, I recommend parking about five or six blocks farther up Glendale Boulevard near Earl Street, where the traffic is far lighter and it’s much easier to park. Then, if you must get a look at the Neutra office building, walk down Glendale to take a peek.

Note, too, that the lovely Silver Lake Library is at the corner of Glendale and Silver Lake, where you can find a restroom, water fountain and small but compelling display of old and rare books in its tiny bookstore.

1Park on Glendale Boulevard as close to Earl Street as possible. Then walk up Earl heading west, toward the lake. This is a street with beautiful homes, including the “Tree Tops” home at 2434 Earl, designed by Dion Neutra in 1980, and Richard’s 1948 Sokol house at 2242 Earl, whose property extends from Neutra Place, the street named after the architects, to Silver Lake Boulevard. Follow wistfully along to Silver Lake and turn left.
2. Enjoy the short, relatively flat walk along Silver Lake and then turn left on Cove Avenue for a searingly steep climb to the Mattachine Steps, a.k.a. the Cove Avenue Stairs. The day I walked there, the historic marker sign was lying on the ground, apparently exhausted from trying to stay upright on such a sharp hill. The stairs are named after the Mattachine Society, one of the United States’ earliest gay rights organizations, formed in 1948 by Silver Lake resident Harry Hay, who happened to live at the top of the wide and lovely 163 steps. Stop halfway up to recover and look back at the gorgeous view of the lake.
3. At the top, continue straight on Cove Avenue past Apex Avenue and a short flight of 19 stairs back to Glendale Boulevard. Cross the boulevard carefully; the traffic is thinner here, but it’s still a major road. Turn left and walk past Edendale Place, giving thanks that you won’t have to climb that monster hill, and turn right on Loma Vista Place, a street not quite so steep but still a challenging climb until you reach the stairs. Admire the tall, wavy mosaic wall to the right of the stairs and then begin your ascent on the Loma Vista Place stairs — 182 steps shaded by sprawling oaks and many other trees, from bananas to eucalyptus. This stair walk feels magical and transporting. It’s quite a climb but there’s so much to admire I didn’t feel much pain. In the dappled shade there are rustic, artistic mailboxes, inviting benches and whimsical landscaping. Near the top, on an even higher hill, a green chair sits under a large tree, waiting for the owner to sit and admire the westward view.
4. The stairs turn into a level path for a short distance and then head down, past seemingly older and much more ramshackle homes. One appears abandoned, but a passing neighbor assures me someone really does live there. I asked her, “Is there really no other way into these homes except these stairs? Do the residents really have to lug everything up multiple flights to their doors?” The woman shrugged. “I guess it’s a lifestyle,” she said, as her dog dragged her away.
5. The stairs go down 69 steps, then become a divided sloping walkway littered with pink drifts of fallen bougainvillea flowers, until the stairs resume for another 97 steps onto Allesandro Way.
6. Turn right on Allesandro sadly as you reenter the real world, and walk two blocks with the Glendale Freeway and Echo Park hills on your left.
7. Turn right onto Oak Glen Place and then right again onto Fair Oak View Terrace and follow Fair Oak View around to the left onto a little stub street that ends with the stairs to Edendale Place known as the Three Stooges Stairs, from their 1941 short movie, “An Ache in Every Stake,” that features them trying to carry a block of ice up the stairs with predictably disastrous results.
8. These stairs rise 134 steps, displaying the other side of several houses and yards you passed on the Loma Vista stairs. At the top, turn left into the alley and then right on Edendale Place and mince your way down one of the steepest streets in Los Angeles to Glendale Boulevard. Turn right on Glendale, back toward Earl Street and your car.

Pacific Palisades — Castellammare

Distance: 3.2-mile loop
Rating: Wowza! — the intense exertion is softened by magnificent scenery

This scenic walk isn’t as strenuous as some of the others, but the sweeping ocean views and unique, stately homes make it well worth the trek. And believe me, you’ll still get in plenty of exercise on stairs with a total of 518 steps.

1. Park in Will Rogers State Beach Parking Lot 5 on the ocean side of Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). The fees vary depending on the season. Between Labor Day and Memorial Day, expect to pay $6 on weekdays and $8 on weekends to park from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. After Memorial Day, during the peak summer months, the rates increase to $8 on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and $13 on weekends from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Important note: Technically the self-serve parking machines accept debit and credit cards, but when I went, the only thing that worked was cash, so be sure to bring some paper money in exact amounts, since the machines don’t give change.
2. Head north on PCH past a bank of public showers and restrooms (here’s your chance) toward the pedestrian bridge over the highway. As you walk, notice the damage done by landslides across the highway, where whole portions of the hillside have washed away. Farther on you’ll see some innovative and some downright ugly attempts to stop the slides.
3. At the overpass, climb the 35 steps to cross the always busy highway and then walk past the south side of the once-grand Thelma Todd’s Sidewalk Cafe, now a historic site owned by the Many advertising agency, up another 40 steps up to Castellammare Drive.
4. Turn left on Castellammare, walking uphill a short distance to the next set of stairs on the right — 69 steps up to Posetano Road. Across the street, you’ll see evidence of stairs that used to go farther up, until they were destroyed by a landslide, so here we turn left. We’re still walking uphill but this street has many lovely homes that our slow ascent gives us plenty of time to admire.
5. At Revello Drive, turn left and head downhill. Just after 17712, you’ll find your next set of stairs on the left, heading down 91 steep steps with gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean.
6. You’ll touch down at the corner of Breve Way and Castellammare. Follow Breve as it curves downhill to Porto Marina Way and then turn right, walking uphill again to 17737 Porto Marina to find your next set of stairs on the right, which — you guessed it — rise 86 steps up, back to Castellammare.
7. Turn left at the top of the stairs and continue walking uphill on Castellammare. Here you’ll see more evidence of landslides and the herculean efforts to hold these slopes and massive homes in place. Along the way on the right you’ll see a slope studded with buried concrete blocks that make the hillside look like a honeycomb. The holes in the blocks provide places for planting grasses and shrubs that could help stabilize the slope. Farther along, you’ll see the massive pilings supporting what appears to be a giant villa with huge, suspended-in-midair tennis courts and a patio jutting out the back. Strangely, the villa looks like a fairly normal home from the front at 17800 Tramonto Drive, which we will be passing shortly.
8. Castellammare gets steeper as it finally reaches Tramonto Drive. Our walk will continue uphill to the right, but it’s worth a short detour to the left, on Porto Marina Way, to walk to the gates of the stately Villa de Leon, built on the edge of the cliff, with butter-colored balconies and statuary and a vast view of the ocean. This 12,000-square-foot Mediterranean villa was built in 1927 for industrialist Leon Kauffman, one of the first residences (with nine bedrooms, 11 bathrooms and a seven-car garage, you can’t really call it a house) to be built in the Castellammare development and reportedly one of the largest villas in Southern California. Apparently all that grandeur isn’t enough because a sign on the fence when I went said the current owners were building a pool on the west side of the property that juts over and above PCH toward the ocean beyond.
9. After you’ve had your fill of gaping at the villa, head back up Porto Marina past Castellammare to where the road becomes Tramonto Drive and continues its uphill climb. To your left, through the trees, you can supposedly spot glimpses of the neighboring Getty Villa (which offers tours of its collection of ancient Greek and Roman art), but I couldn’t see much through the leaves. Best to visit in person if you’re interested (make a reservation before you go).
10. After a steep blocklong climb, turn right on Vicino Way to an easier climb to the next corner, at Tramonto Drive, where you turn right and walk on fairly level ground for several meandering blocks, past magnificent midcentury homes, older estates and truly astounding views of the Pacific Ocean.
11. Stay on Tramonto as it winds and curves, reveling in the views and wondering at the construction past Tranquillo and Notteargenta roads and Bellino, Quadro Vecchio and Coperto drives until you come to Revello Drive, where you turn right.
12. Revello will continue your winding descent, first heading south and then making a wide curve to the right, so that you’re facing north. Just before the road ends, right after 17496, you’ll find another staircase to the left, 122 steep steps to the bottom, passing huge jade plants and a tall hedge of bougainvillea in various shades in four sets of 25 steps and a final set of 22.
13. You’ll land on Posetano Road, where you turn right. At Stretto Way, stop to admire the massive cream and teal home of the actor (and cafe owner) Thelma Todd, who was active in films from 1926 until her mysterious death in 1935 at the age of 29, when she was found dead in her car in the garage of Jewel Carmen, the former wife of Todd’s lover and business partner Roland West. The cause of death was ruled accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, but many questions remained unanswered, even after the coroner’s inquest.
14. On that somber note, make a hairpin turn left on Stretto Way, and at the bottom of the block turn right on Castellammare and walk to the end of the road, where a big chunk of the street was washed away by landslides in the 1960s and ’70s, according to Fleming. Today, there is a dirt path that allows pedestrians to cross the divide, down a little hill and back up again back to the paved road where we first encountered Castellammare.
15. Once you return to the pavement, walk straight a short distance, looking to the left until you see the 40 steps that take you back to the pedestrian bridge over PCH and down 35 steps to the other side, where you can return to your car. Note: If you’re hungry, as we were, keep walking south on PCH to Gladstone’s restaurant, across from Sunset Boulevard. You can approach the restaurant by walking along the beach too, if you prefer to preserve the rarefied vibe of Pacific Palisades just a little bit longer.

Hollywood Bowl and High Tower Loop

Distance: 2.6-mile loop
Intensity: Strenuous
Rating: Wowza! — the intense exertion is softened by magnificent scenery

I really love this walk through the hills of Hollywood Heights, next to the Hollywood Bowl, along some of the historic “walk streets” where the only access is by foot. As you’re walking, look for the narrow, cavelike garages carved into the hills below these extraordinary homes, built when cars were much smaller, and the famous freestanding High Tower elevator, which transports lucky residents with keys up to their hillside homes.

There are only 486 steps on this walk but several intense uphill climbs that lead to narrow passageways where people live, which feel both intimate and magical. The walk takes you behind the Hollywood Bowl,and I’ve added a detour through the lovely Highland Camrose Bungalow Village to avoid walking along Highland Avenue, which is lousy with jarring traffic.

But first you have to park, and that may be the most challenging part of the walk. Fleming recommends starting your walk at North Highland Avenue and Franklin Avenue, apparently because once upon a time there was a Starbucks there, but that coffee shop is gone, and the walk along Highland to Camrose Drive, the real start of the walk, is really unpleasant because of all the traffic. This intersection is horrible with traffic during normal times, and when there are events at the Hollywood Bowl, just a few blocks away, the traffic becomes a nightmare.

So I’m starting this walk at Highland and Camrose and parking as near there as possible. If you drive up Highland to Camrose and take a right on what becomes Milner Road, you have a fair chance of finding some parking a few blocks away on North Las Palmas Avenue, the first right off of Milner. I do not recommend trying to park on Camrose — it’s a narrow street already crammed with cars; nice for walking but hellish for parking. And if you happen to visit on a day when there’s an event at the Hollywood Bowl, you could get blocked in, so best to leave that area for walking only.

A final note: You won’t find any restrooms or water along this route, so plan to make a prewalk pit stop at a coffee shop or gas station somewhere else before you start.

1. Turn left on Camrose at Highland and head uphill — something you’ll do a lot of on this walk. On your right you’ll see the Highland Camrose Bungalow Village, a cluster of Craftsman-style bungalows built between 1900 and 1924 that’s now on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district of “working-class housing.” The bungalows now are used as offices for organizations affiliated with the nearby Hollywood Bowl. We will walk through the grounds later, on our return.
2. Continue up Camrose, past Woodland Way and Rockledge Road, and turn left on High Tower Drive. The homes are so unique and colorful, it’s easy to forget that we were in the thick of terrible traffic just a few blocks before. Walk to the end of the cul-de-sac and find your first stairs next to a bright pink wall draped with bougainvillea.
3. This is a clean set of stairs shaded by eucalyptus trees that climbs 103 steps up to the cul-de-sac end of Glencoe Way. If you look behind midway up, you can see the round Capital Records building in the distance. At the top, while you catch your breath, look to your right to see the High Tower elevator shaft built in the 1920s, styled after an Italian campanile (freestanding bell tower).
4. We’ll be walking right next to the elevator soon enough, so for now, just cross Glencoe to the next set of stairs, which goes up another 110 steps to the cul-de-sac end of Paramount Drive.
5. Turn right on Paramount and follow it as it winds downhill and right, back onto Camrose, where the sidewalk is cracked and broken in places, so walk with care while, if you’re like me, admiring the variety of architectural styles and stunning gates (which is often all you can see of these sometimes very secluded properties).
6. Continue downhill on Camrose until you reach the first corner and turn left on La Presa Drive.
7. Walk up La Presa one steepish block, until you come to Yeager Place. Here, you will turn right and immediately look to the left, where you will see Broadview Terrace, the beginning of a narrow walk street that quickly becomes stairs, 38 steps to the “intersection” with another walk street, Los Altos Place. Stay on Broadview and climb another 37 steps to a narrow path that provides a sweeping view of Hollywood and those little “cave” garages below, with doors painted in various shades of green, mocha and gray.
8. The path becomes more stairs, another 52 steps to the top, where you pass the five-stories-tall High Tower elevator on your right and enter the surreal neighborhood known as Alta Loma, which Fleming aptly describes as a “honeycomb of thin passages, wooden fences and lush gardens obscuring most of the architecture.”
9. Just past High Tower, turn right on the walk street Alta Loma Terrace and begin a slow, and then sharper, descent. Some of the passages are so narrow and winding they inflame my claustrophobia as much as my fascination, but luckily I can keep moving, more steeply downhill now, almost like Alice running headlong through Wonderland.
10. The area is so thick with serene gardens, gates and walls, it’s easy to forget how close we are to the roar of civilization. The sloping walkway drops down 18 steps and turns right down four more steps to an old Alta Loma Terrace sign on the corner. Take a hard left as the walkway continues down, over four sets of 14 steps and then a final 10 steps to a … parking lot. Welcome back to the real world.
11. Turn left and walk past those narrow garages cut into the hill, and at the far end of the parking lot, turn right and walk through a tall black swing gate that will let you out but not back in. You may want to run back up those steps, because now you’re back on busy Highland Avenue, with the Hollywood Bowl to your left and tons of traffic beside you.
12. Take a right on Highland, and then almost immediately, take another right into the relative quiet of Highland Camrose Park, where you can avoid the traffic noise and reality just a little longer by walking along its lovely path. If you’re walking in the late afternoon you might see people with tickets to the Hollywood Bowl eating a picnic in the park at the tables spread along the route; one table even had real plates and glassware and some fragrant takeout I was dying to try.
13. The park spills into the Highland Camrose Bungalow Village, those lovely “working-class” Craftsman bungalows that “workers” would now love to own. Wander through and admire these tidy homes that are now offices, and return to wherever you were lucky enough to find parking.

Beachwood Canyon walk

Distance: 2.6-mile loop
Intensity: Strenuous
Rating: Wowza! — the intense exertion is softened by magnificent scenery

If you have visitors just dying to see the Hollywood sign, this is the walk for you. And even if you are indifferent to L.A.’s iconic sign, this strenuous walk will fill you up with historic stairs, scenic views and winding, charming streets full of unique and lovely homes.

A couple of important notes before you start: We took this walk on a Sunday, when there was far too much traffic and too many people walking up the hill to see the sign. If possible, try to schedule this walk on a weekday, when the crowds will be thinner, and stop in at the excellent Beachwood Cafe for a delicious meal (open daily 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. except Mondays, when it’s open 4 to 9 p.m.). On Sunday, the wait was way too long for two ravenous walkers.

Find a restroom before you get to Beachwood Canyon, because you won’t find any there. We went to the nearby Gower Gulch shopping area where, for the first time ever, I found a Starbucks that didn’t have public restrooms. The Rite Aid at the other end of the center had restrooms that were out of order, but the Denny’s did have a very nice restroom we were able to use. Perhaps you can order a coffee or iced tea to-go there in gratitude.

1. Parking will be your first challenge. Once you drive through the “Hollywoodland” gates of Beachwood Canyon (the original name of this housing development from 1923), the cafe will be on your left, at the corner of North Beachwood Drive and Westshire Drive. We had good luck finding parking on Woodhaven Drive, a narrow, winding street with extraordinary homes just a short jog right and then immediately left from the cafe. Wherever you park, start your walk at the cafe.
2. Walk north (uphill) on North Beachwood Drive on the right side of the street. You’ll pass the other end of Woodhaven Street on your right, and a short distance later, past a long brown fence shaded by a magnificent backyard oak at 2800 Beachwood, look for your first stairs on the right, the North Beachwood Westshire Stairs. (Do not take the stairs a little farther to the left — we’ll tackle those later.)
3. These shady stairs are steep but beautiful, 143 steps up to Westshire Drive, where you take a right and continue to climb until the road splits at Lechner Place. Stay right and continue on Westshire on a winding walk downhill.
4. When Westshire takes a wide curve to the right, look for your next stairs on the left at 2748, another steep and shady climb with wrought-iron handrails up 149 steps to Hollyridge Drive, where you turn left.
5. Here is a relatively flat walk past some magnificent homes, several with aspirations to being castles. We are high in the hills now, and occasionally you may get glimpses of some terrific views in between houses, but don’t get impatient. The big view is coming soon. When the road splits at Lechner Place, stay right, heading uphill, on Hollyridge and continue your stroll admiring some pretty diverse architecture along the way.
6. You’ll find your next set of stairs just after 3057 Hollyridge, 178 steep steps down, thank goodness, where you land at 3020 N. Beachwood Drive. (When we took the walk, the steps were temporarily closed; if the gate is still closed, just continue straight on Hollyridge until it turns down to Beachwood, about three long blocks farther than where the stairs descend.) Turn left, heading downhill, and enjoy this easy walk as you stay left, past Belden Drive and Ledgewood Drive, because we’re climbing again at the next set of stairs on the right, at Woodshire Drive.
7. These are “Hollywoodland’s Granite Retaining Walls and Interconnecting Granite Stairs,” built in 1928, according to the plaque at the bottom for L.A. historic-cultural monument No. 535. They are a tony, double set of stairs with stately planters in the middle where a little stream once flowed. Now it’s 148 dry steps to the top on Belden Drive.
8. Turn left and follow Belden around a couple of curves, just past Rodgerton Drive, where your next stairs will be on the right just past 2917, another 118 steps up to Durand Drive.
9. And here I diverge from Fleming’s route, because truth be told, I got a little lost. His route sends you left on Durand, downhill to a hairpin turn left onto Flagmoor Place, then left again onto Belden, where you find the Woodshire Stairs to your right, just past 2872, dropping 125 steps to Woodshire Drive, where you turn right, down to Belden, then left on Belden for a short block to where you started at the Beachwood Cafe.
10. We, however, turned right on Durand and followed it uphill (gluttons for punishment, I guess, but we got our reward farther along). This is another curvy, narrow road without sidewalks, so walk with care because you’re going to be distracted by the stupendous views of the Hollywood sign, which plays peekaboo for a while as you round curves but becomes a pretty solid fixture by the time you reach 3092 Durand Drive.
11. After many twists on Durandwe veered right onto Heather Drive. If we’d walked much farther on Durand, we would have run into the Mulholland Highway, which was thick with traffic on a Sunday, so we opted for the quieter adventure on Heather Drive, winding around past Lugano Place until we reached Ledgewood Drive and turned right, heading down an increasingly steep hill, again with no sidewalks, so walk with care.
12. We jogged a little to the left at Rodgerton Drive to continue our descent on Ledgewood, and here, about a block down to the left, we got our reward: passing the enchanting Garden of OzLooking through the gate, there are signs asking passersby to refrain from taking photos of the colorful mosaics and sculptures within. But just a few steps downhill, you’ll pass parts of the garden that are easy to admire and photograph, including the delightful “throne” of stones built into the hill to your left. It’s called “A Throne of Your Own,” and it’s a great spot to stop and take photos.
13. Continue walking down Ledgewood, which gets very steep. You can walk past Belden until you reach Beachwood and turn right, back to the cafe. Or if you want one more set of stairs, turn right on Belden, and follow this winding street just past 2960 to take the Hollywoodland stairs down, 148 steps, back down to Beachwood Canyon. Turn right and return to the cafe.

Pacific Palisades — Giant Steps walk (a.k.a. the Murphy Ranch walk)

Distance: 3.6-mile loop
Intensity: Strenuous
Rating: Glute-buster — the exertion is more memorable than the scenery

This is the mother of all L.A. stair walks, a whopping 1,117 steps — basically half up and half down — into what was reportedly a Nazi survival camp — complete with fruit orchards, a water tower and power-generating center from 1933 until Dec. 8, 1941, when Los Angeles police raided the compound and arrested the residents the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The site has been owned by the city of Los Angeles since 1973, but many of the old buildings at the bottom of the canyon are demolished ruins overgrown by shrubs and so heavily graffitied that they feel more like archaeological artworks than vandalism.

Even the main trail to the stairs, the mostly asphalt Sullivan Fire Road above Rustic Canyon in Topanga State Park, is covered with graffiti, mostly more artsy and clever than vulgar or obscene.

Along the way, you’ll see many native plants, including large swathes of California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), the daisy-like stems of California plumseed (Rafinesquia californica) and the red stems and cream-colored blooms on laurel sumac (Malosma laurina) shrubs. There are sweeping views of Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean here too, as well as some pretty amazing mansions looming above the beginning of the trail.

The important advice here:

  • Walk carefully as you descend these very steep, narrow stairs.
  • Breathe out more than you breathe in when you climb back up. This last advice from a frequent hiker confused me as I was gasping my way to the top, but it did help distract me from my misery so I could finish my climb.

Another helpful thing: We were fortunate to be walking with mild temperatures in the 70s and a light ocean breeze. There’s little shade along the fire road, so it could get oppressively hot if the temps were much higher; remember to use sunscreen and bring a hat. I noticed bits of garbage as I walked along, like discarded cups and cans. I briefly regretted not bringing a trash bag, until I realized I’d have to haul it all out. If you decide to bring one, consider carefully, because all those good karma points will evaporate if you leave your bag of trash behind.

One final note about safety: I walked this trail with another woman in the midafternoon and felt fairly secure, but I would have felt less confident walking alone. Once you descend into the old Murphy Ranch ruins, where the graffiti is thickest, the walk starts to feel creepy, especially where the stairs are overgrown, and it’s hard to stand upright. I never felt any serious danger, but I was glad to be with a friend, if only to commiserate about the seemingly endless trek up more than 500 steps.

1. Park as close as you can to Umeo Road and Capri Drive in Brentwood, and as always in Los Angeles, carefully read all the street signs to make sure you aren’t violating parking rules that will cost you serious bucks if you get a ticket. We parked on Umeo, a short distance from Capri, and then began our walk climbing up Capri to Casale Road, where we turned left and began walking slightly downhill as Casale curved up and around some spectacular views and a home high above us, seemingly carved into the hill.
2. Casale ends at the beginning of Sullivan Fire Road, a narrow primitive road that curves to the right past a wide yellow fire gate with a sign saying you are entering Topanga State Park via the Rustic Canyon entrance. There are also warnings about mountain lions, another good reason to travel with a companion.
3. Follow the fire road as it curves around through buckwheat, sumac and other native plants alive with bees, at least when I was there on a midsummer afternoon. You may see some old wooden railroad-tie stairs descending down the canyon on your left, but these look unsafe. Save your strength (and your ankles) for the big stairs up ahead.
4. The graffiti along this road is colorful, often artistic and sometimes poignant or funny (“I didn’t wish you were here” and “Hope you make it!” written in large, cheerful colors). On the way out, we passed three people lugging what looked like heavy sacks. When one of them stumbled and dropped their bag, a couple of spray cans rolled out, so at least some of this graffiti is very fresh indeed.
5. After about 20 to 25 minutes of walking slightly downhill, you will come to a chain-link fence on the left. Follow the fence past the first opening (you’ll revisit the stairs beyond on your return) and take a left into the next opening in the fence, about 100 feet farther along. This is your first set of stairs — about 40 steps down to the old abandoned water tower, festooned with layers of graffiti.
6. Walk behind the water tank to the right, over fallen branches and other debris, and find the next set of stairs, 321 steps so steep that at times it almost feels like you’re walking backwards down a ladder. The steps are covered with leaves that can be slippery, and there are only sporadic handrails, so proceed with care as the stairs twist and curve down down down under overgrown brush and trees.
7. At the bottom, you’ll see a short dirt path that opens into a wider dirt road, one of the driveways leading into the ranch. Turn right, walking gently uphill for about 300 feet until the road begins to curve to the right. Look for a narrow dirt path to the left, where a thin, half-buried pipe has been painted mint green (paint that is beginning to fade and peel but is still visible). Follow this path to the left to an even narrower set of stairs, 130 curving steps so worn and faint they seem to be melting into the ground. As you get closer to the canyon bottom, you begin to see glimpses of graffiti-covered everything along the side of the stairs and through the trees, including some of the trees themselves.
8. At a small landing, you’ll drop another 37 steps into the shady canyon and what remains of the compound. To the left is the rubble from the old greenhouse, according to Fleming, and to the right is the remains of the old power station, “now a tagger’s paradise.” Inside the building is littered with empty paint cans, and every square inch, including the roof, has been covered.
9. Do some exploring around the compound if you like, but return to the power station when you’re done and start walking south, slightly uphill, along the broken paved road on the canyon floor, with Rustic Creek somewhere off to your right. This is a lovely shady walk, with sprawling sycamores and stately pines, but I can’t quite consider this a nature walk; the constant flashes of graffiti are a loud reminder of urban humanity.
10. A short distance from the power station you’ll come to a graffitied wall that curves gracefully up to the left. Keep walking past this wall, because it only leads you back to the greenhouse and the stairs you came down.
11. Farther down, the road takes a sharp turn to the left, where four tall pines loom above a short graffitied wall. Follow the road to another section of wall, with two tall pines rising behind it. About 20 feet from the end of this wall, look for a dirt path heading uphill to the right. This will lead you to the biggest stair climb of all, what Fleming calls “the monster — the largest known staircase in Los Angeles,” rising 512 steps, past low branches and invasive shrubs back to Sullivan Fire Road.
12. These concrete stairs are narrow, with nary a handrail or overhead lighting. Take them slowly unless you have a passion for running up steep stairs. For those who consider this possible, Fleming tells the following story he heard from an unnamed man he met on the stairs: “In the mid-1990s he and three friends pooled $5,000 of their money and set a competition: The first one to successfully run up all 512 steps, two at a time, without slowing or stopping, even for a second, would claim the prize. Each of the four fitness buffs tried multiple times to complete the task. None could do it. The money went unclaimed, and finally the competition was canceled.”
13. I can just hear the gears grinding in your competitive little brains — “I can do this!” — the same way they briefly, delusionally ground in mine. Well, the best of luck to you fitness buffs willing to give it a try. To the mere mortals among us, I cry, “Soldier on! You can do this, even if you have to crawl.” I know, because that’s pretty much how I made it to the top, after multiple wheezing rest stops and a brief argument with my legs, which wanted to sit down.
14. Rejoice when you reach the top and look back at the stupendous view of the mountains and sea while you try to calm your thundering heart and resume breathing normally.
15. Turn right and follow the fire road back the way you came. The return walk is sweeter, not just because of what you’ve accomplished but because the views go all the way to the sea. Be sure to look up as the road curves right against the hillside, and gape at the huge houses above, with elaborate pools and patios clinging to the side of the cliff. Return to Casale Road and wherever you parked your car.

Mt. Washington

Distance: 3.2-mile loop
Intensity: Strenuous

Rating: Wowza! — the intense exertion is softened by magnificent scenery

OK, this walk would have ended up in the “Glute-Busting, more-strenuous-than-scenic” category except for one important detail: The route takes you right by the verdant grounds of the Self-Realization Fellowship International Headquarters, established by Paramahansa Yogananda, author of “Autobiography of a Yogi,” in 1925. It’s well worth the short detour to walk the inviting, peaceful public areas of the property, which was once the site of the historic Mt. Washington Hotel. The visitor center by the entrance gate has a restroom and drinking fountain, and the staff is welcoming but decidedly un-pushy. Walk farther in to explore the short but idyllic garden trails on your right and the old hotel on your left, which now houses the fellowship’s administration offices, library and chapel, open to the public 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Fleming notes there was once a funicular railway that carried guests from Figueroa Street to the hotel. You’ll understand why once you walk this very steep route that gets more scenic the higher you go. Almost all of this memorable walk is steep up or steep down.

1. Park near the Superior Grocers market at Avenue 45 and North Figueroa Street, so you can go inside the store before and/or after you’re done to buy a tall, cool agua fresca drink. I did both, and believe me, you’ll want to too. There are several flavors, but I particularly love pepino con limon (cucumber with lime), which was refreshing and delicious. Enter through the store’s left doors and then turn left; the drink counter is conveniently near the restrooms.
2. Leave the store and walk up Avenue 45 over the Gold Line train tracks and past Marmion Way, until you see Glenalbyn Drive on the left.
3. Turn left on Glenalbyn and walk a couple of blocks until you come to Avenue 43 and turn right.
4. Walk up Avenue 43, a short steep block that veers right, becoming Glenmuir Avenue. You, however, will look to the left to find your first staircase, 102 steps that end at Canyon Vista Drive.
5. Walk straight up Canyon Vista Drive for several blocks, past Glenwood and Frontenac avenues and Camino Real, where Canyon Vista splits and becomes Mt. Washington Drive, one side going down and the other continuing its steep ascent. You, alas, will stay right and keep walking up Mt. Washington Drive.
6. Use the sidewalk — people seem to drive haphazardly on this curvy road — but to distract yourself from the traffic, look to your left for some excellent views of downtown and East L.A. The green slopes on your right are the grounds of the Self-Realization Fellowship, but you’re still a good climb from the entrance. Keep walking up until you get to the stop sign at San Rafael Avenue,
7. Take a right on San Rafael, where, thank goodness, the road flattens out. The Self-Realization Fellowship entrance is just a short walk from the corner, on the right.
8. Once you’re done visiting, continue east under the oaks on San Rafael Avenue, past Rome Drive, where you’ll see a few old Craftsman homes, hazy views to the north and, finally, Mt. Washington Elementary School.
9. Just past the school, turn right on Glenalbyn Drive, heading downhill. It gets tricky here; at Lark Court, stay left on Glenalbyn, and at Quail Drive stay right, to continue on Glenalbyn. The descent gets steeper, but you’ll have better views between the houses hugging the slopes. (That huge salmon-colored building across the canyon to your left is the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, which is currently closed.)
10. After a long curving descent, the road will split again at 4786 Glenalbyn by a light gray house with red railings and trim. Bear right on Mavis Drive. The street sign isn’t evident; just take the road on the right heading uphill.
11. At the first corner, turn right on Frontenac Avenue, cross Avenue 46 one block away and then, still on Frontenac, look for the stairs entering the Carlin G. Smith Recreation Center, through a short gate with a pink sign that reads: “Please close the gate behind you.”
12. Walk down the 16 steps to another gate with the same sign and walk through to a steep curving ramp and 31 deep steps leading to and around a sandy playground. You’ll emerge in a small basketball court; walk to the far end, heading left past a drinking fountain that, sadly, no longer works.
13. Exit the basketball court area and immediately turn right, so you’re walking on the outside of the court along the fence line until you reach Avenue 45, where you will turn left, heading downhill.
14. Walk carefully here, because there are no sidewalks and the street is steep. Keep the gully at your left; it’s lined with palms and pines and a chorus of birdsong, led by the raucous shriek of hawks and crows, sparring over who knows what.
15. Watch for the Rainbow Avenue sign on your right and then look left, where the deep gully suddenly has a land bridge. You will need to step over the guardrail to walk across the gully here to 22 concrete steps that take you up to Canon Crest Avenue; there you will turn right and immediately look for your next set of stairs on the left, the Clermont Street Staircase.
16. The sign for the stairs is overgrown and partly toppled but still visible once you start the climb up 154 brutal steps. Luckily the stairs have 10 landings, and you’ll want to stop periodically to look behind you, because the views are spectacular. (Also, it’s a good excuse to catch your breath.)
17. You will emerge at 438 W. Avenue 46, but you’re turning right, and immediately the road becomes Mavis Drive. Follow Mavis down and around to the left, watching for 330 Mavis Drive, because your next steps are just past that home.
18. This is a railroad-tie staircase leading through a shady grove of trees, along a fence line. It looks like private property but it isn’t, Fleming said. Follow the fence line; after the railroad ties end the trail turns left, still following the fence line, with some sketchy earthen steps carved into the ground that ultimately become 28 concrete steps that end at Starling Way.
19. Turn left at the bottom of the stairs, heading downhill on Starling Way.
20, Make a hairpin turn to the right, back onto Glenalbyn, continuing downhill. This is a peaceful walk on a quiet street lined with houses, mature trees and scolding squirrels. There’s no sidewalk, and cars do come by every now and again, so stay alert.
21. As the road curves right at 4591, a large property on top of the hill on the right, look to the left to see more stairs heading down. These 58 steps abruptly return you to civilization, dumping you on Marmion Way with the train tracks beyond. Turn right and head downhill. Past a fire hydrant and a row of waste bins, watch for this lovely sign someone carved into the sidewalk: “Art is my race, humanity my color.”
22. Fleming has you walk back to Avenue 45 here, and then left to where you parked your car, but I suggest a little lingering in the quiet by taking a small staircase off Marmion just past 4583. It’s a shady intimate walkway between two grand old houses, 14 steps down from Marmion, then a long ramp until you reach the other side, going up eight steps to Glenalbyn. This lengthens your walk a little, but turn left on Glenalbyn as it curves around back to Avenue 45. Walk on the right side of the street here, because there is no sidewalk and people turning off Avenue 45 onto Glenalbyn could easily run you over, as they almost did me. Live (luckily) and learn.
23. Turn left on Avenue 45, heading downhill, and follow the street back, past Marmion and the railroad tracks, to your car.


Astro Loop walk

Distance: 2.5-mile loop
Intensity: Strenuous
Rating: Wowza! — the intense exertion is softened by magnificent scenery

This is a weird walk, no question. With 704 steps, it’s pretty strenuous as well. It’s worth the effort because things change so much along the route — it stays interesting. The secret-garden feel through shady neighborhoods transforms into open dirt roads and even a Polynesian garden. I did this one alone but wish I’d had someone with me to share my bewilderment and delight.

A note: I recommend slicing off the very first part of Fleming’s walk, which takes you east along Fletcher Drive to a very busy intersection at Riverside Drive to climb some stairs behind the Ivanhoe Restaurant & Bar. The stairs are on a barren hillside, filled with weeds and broken glass, and the walk through here felt uncomfortable. The walk turns into a neighborhood with a few pretty houses but then takes you right back where you started, so this leg of the walk is best omitted entirely.

1. I recommend parking behind the Astro Family Restaurant on Silver Lake Boulevard. Walk to the front of the restaurant on Glendale Boulevard at Fletcher Drive, cross Glendale and turn right, heading uphill.
2. About a block up, just past 2617 Glendale, you’ll find the Ivan Hill Glendale Stairs, which climb 212 steps in total, starting with 56 steps through a green bowered space that feels like a magic garden to Ivan Hill Terrace, and then continuing on up across the street another 156 steps to Ivanhoe Drive. According to Fleming, Judy Garland lived in the castle-like home at 2605. (It looks more like a castle from the stairs than it does from the street.)
3. Turn left on Ivanhoe, heading uphill and following the curvy road as it bears right and winds up and down past Lindsay Lane. This is a pretty walk, past interesting homes and little libraries, including one in the shape of a black cat adorned with quotations, such as “The smallest feline is a masterpiece. — Leonardo da Vinci.” Another sign follows the “We believe” yard sign format, as in “We believe women’s rights are human rights,” etc., except this one reads: “We believe the legal thriller Michael Clayton starring George Clooney, Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson is a vastly underrated cinematic masterpiece and easily one of the five best films of the 21st century.”
4. At Edgewater Terrace, stay left and continue down to Silver Lake Boulevard, where you will turn left and cross Glenwater Avenue in front of the public library (which has a drinking fountain and nice public toilets if you feel the need).
5. Continue on Silver Lake Boulevard, turning right on Teviot Street and then left on Brier Avenue. Go two blocks up this steep hill, past a cool cactus garden on the left, to Hidalgo Avenue, where you turn left, walking down the slope and then steeply back up to a dead end and your next staircase — a lovely set of 82 steps down to Electric Street.
6. Turn right on Electric and start walking uphill again until the street spills into Silver Ridge Avenue.
7. Follow Silver Ridge a short distance until the road bends right and look for your next set of stairs to the left, at 2494. These are 77 steps going down to Lake View Avenue and across the street, slightly to the right, another set of stairs going down 31 steps and a long walkway. There are some terrific views here to the east, above the fences and trees.
8. The walkway ends at Silver Lake Court, a wide unpaved stretch of dirt that runs parallel to the busy Riverside Drive and even busier 5 Freeway, and was once the route for the Red Car electric trolley line. (Google Maps calls it the Corralitas Red Car Trail.) As I looked at the remnants of stairs and platforms along the route, I could almost imagine the trolley rumbling through in the 1920s and ’30s, dropping off passengers with their parcels to climb the stairs to their homes.
9. Cross the dirt road to another 30 steps heading up to the end of a short stub of a street called Silver Lake Avenue. At the bottom of the stairs, turn around and look behind you to the left, to see an inscrutable Easter Island moai watching all who pass.
10. Walk downhill on Silver Lake Avenue to Riverside Terrace and turn left. Follow Riverside one block to India Street and turn left again, heading back up to Silver Lake Court.
11. Cross the dirt road and find a path leading up a gradual slope to the right. On the way, you’ll pass a short set of concrete stairs flanked by a big “private property” sign. Don’t try to climb these. Stay on the path, walking toward a telephone pole, until it turns sharply left, and there you’ll find another set of stairs, barely visible through the shrubs and trees.
12. Climb the 98 steps (by now I’m sweating so much I feel like a liquid). When I traversed this walk in July, I felt a nice breeze at the top, smelled the unmistakable fragrance of ripening olives and saw spectacular views of Glendale and the hills beyond. Turn right into what appears to be a short alley or driveway and walk a short distance. Just before the barricade, look to the left and see your final set of stairs, going down, thank goodness, 35 steps to Lake View Avenue.
13. Turn left on Lake View, past Roselin Place, and then turn right onto India. Follow it down to Silver Lake Boulevard and turn right, walking two short blocks to your car.
14. If, like me, you are feeling famished, walk into the Astro Family Restaurant. It has patio seating or big padded bench seats inside. I chose the soft air-conditioned seats, hoping to cool myself into a solid again. This isn’t gourmet fare, just comforting classic diner food with excellent service. I got a milkshake and a burger, and it was just right.

Downtown Los Angeles walk

Distance: 3.0-mile loop
Intensity: Strenuous
Rating: Wowza! — the intense exertion is softened by magnificent scenery

This walk is the answer for every Angeleno who’s had out-of-town visitors begging to see downtown L.A. It’s also great for anyone who loves downtown, or wants to know more about the area, because it takes you to favorite haunts and landmarks and a few other places I never knew were there.

It also includes a lot of stairs, 804 total, so come prepared. This is not an easy stroll, but it sure is fun. If you just stick to the route and keep moving, it should take about 90 minutes to complete, but of course we stopped several times along the way, for coffee, snacks or just to admire, so plan accordingly. It could easily take up most of an afternoon.

1. Park at the Los Angeles Times Spring Street parking garage, just a block from Grand Central Market, where you start your walk. We paid $10 for parking at the Spring Street garage. Exit out the back of the garage and turn left (south) onto South Broadway.
2. Walk about a block on Broadway and cross East 3rd Street to enter the historic Bradbury Building at 304 S. Broadway. Built in 1893, it’s now the oldest commercial building still standing in the city center. This is the first of many recommended detours, but it’s worth a few minutes to admire the extraordinary wrought-iron staircases, open-cage elevator, brick and wood walls and enormous atrium roof in the lobby, all featured in the classic movie “Blade Runner.” You can’t go any farther unless you have a personal escort, but it’s free to wander the lobby from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends.
3. Walk back outside and cross Broadway to 3rd Street, then turn left, past the historic Million Dollar Theater to Grand Central Market, L.A’s. largest and oldest public market, which opened in 1917. Again, another detour and the walk hasn’t even started yet! But good luck trying to walk through this aromatic, raucous space without stopping to buy something. I recommend an early surrender to give all the walkers a chance to fortify themselves.
4. When everyone is satiated, walk out the back of the market to South Hill Street and cross the street at the crosswalk to the Angels Flight Railway and stairs, the official beginning of our walk. Admire the funicular cars that move up and down the steep slope between Hill and South Olive streets. Your task is to climb the adjacent stairs, 121 steps to the top.
5. Here, I diverge from Fleming’s instructions. He recommends walking through the park next to the stairs, but it’s fenced off now, and walking along Olive Street to some stairs near 4th and Olive is a mess of traffic and noise. Instead, I suggest continuing up the stairs in front of you another 30 steps to what appears to be a parking garage over Olive Street. In fact, it is one of several entrances to California Plaza, which was our destination anyway.
6. Fleming refers to this as the “water garden level,” but thanks to our ongoing drought, whatever fountains there were are now dry. Still, it’s a lovely spot to walk, rest or grab another coffee.
7. Walk through the plaza, heading west, and climb 17 steps to Grand Avenue. Cross Grand and walk up another four steps into the Wells Fargo Center, past some magnificent bronze sculptures by Robert Graham. Continue walking northwest, past Nick and Stef’s Steakhouse on your right, toward Hope Street.
8. Bear left, taking 21 steps up to Hope Street, and then continue straight on Hope toward 4th Street in the area known as Bunker Hill, once the location of many stately homes and now covered with tall modern buildings.
9. Continue on Hope Street across 4th Street as it begins to slope downhill. A block on, Hope will turn to the left, but you should continue straight to the Bunker Hill Stairs, which head down 101 steps, past more sterile skyscrapers, to West 5th Street and the extraordinary Central LibraryYou’ll have great views of its tiled tower from the stairs.
10. Of course, the Central Library, built in 1926, is another detour, if only to admire the children’s wing and Tom Bradley atrium, but you won’t enter here. We’re going to circle the building first.
11. Cross 5th Street and turn right, heading toward Flower Street. Turn left at Flower and, after a short distance, turn left again, past the blue tiled Los Angeles Public Library sign into Maguire Gardens, the library’s serenely beautiful main entrance. Walk up the long broad steps toward the library. You can enter the building from here, or take a right turn and walk around to the south entrance, which takes you past the library gift shop.
12. Once you’ve been inside, return to the south side entrance/exit and walk down the 41 steps in front of you toward South Hope Street. Continue straight on Hope for a block and then turn right on 6th Street.
13. Continue down 6th, cross Flower Street and turn right, going one block past Herbert Bayer’s red stairs-to-nowhere water sculpture called “Double Ascension,” until you come to a set of escalators with a staircase in the middle. Take the 42 steps up (no cheating! — the escalators weren’t working when I was there, anyway) and walk across 5th Street on the elevated pedestrian bridge.
14. Continue along this covered walkway until you come to stairs on the right, leading down to the street, another 29 steps. Then turn left and walk a short distance to the main entrance of the famous Westin Bonaventure Hotel.
15. Walk inside the lobby and veer to the right. You’ll see several spiral staircases rising high above you, but keep walking around the lobby until you get to the spiral staircase at the other end of the cavernous lobby.
16. Climb the swirling steps, up 28 to the second floor, another 28 to the third floor and, finally, 26 to the fourth floor, and walk toward the outside door, looking for a sign that guides you to the pool and “Plaza Level.” The signs aren’t easy to spot, but if you keep walking toward the glass doors leading outside, you should find your way.
17. Turn right outside the doors and walk across another elevated pedestrian bridge over Figueroa Street. Turn right and walk through the lovely, peaceful Union Bank Plaza, continuing right to the far corner of the plaza, exiting onto 4th Street.
18. Turn right on 4th, walking down toward Figueroa, which you will cross and then turn left.
19. Walk one block on Figueroa, cross 3rd Street and look for the spiral staircase to your right. Take it up 40 steps to the skyway level above and then walk straight ahead, paralleling Figueroa, until you come to a T-intersection, and turn right into the looming Bunker Hill Tower Condominiums development. You will stay outside for this, walking straight along the pathway until you get to 10 steps climbing off to your left. Cross the plaza, walking toward a mural with mountains and pink-blooming trees, then veer right, walking up a slope and then making a hairpin turn left onto a ramp into what looks like a small parking lot. Walk straight ahead a block up to 1st Street and turn right, to the corner of Hope Street.
20. Cross Hope Street and turn right to climb 41 steps into the backyard of the extraordinary Walt Disney Concert Hall (which offers free, self-guided tours of the hall if you want to see inside). Outside, you’ll pass by the lovely rose-shaped fountain made from broken shards of Royal Delft Blue porcelain known as “A Rose for Lilly,” created by architect Frank Gehry for his friend and benefactor, Lillian Disney. Explore the exterior of this distinctive metallic building, then head down 69 steps to Grand Avenue, where you take a left and walk up to 1st Street.
21. Turn left again on 1st Street and walk up to Hope Street, where you will turn right, crossing 1st and continuing along Hope for about half a block, to the first crosswalk and street light, where you will turn right into the Jerry Moss Plaza of the Music Center, L.A.’s great entertainment complex housing the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Mark Taper Forum and the Ahmanson Theatre. Cross the plaza heading toward Grand Avenue and the tall distinctive tower of City Hall beyond.
22. Descend 32 steps and cross Grand, then take another 56 steps down into the northern edge of Grand Park, a three-section, four-block ribbon of park that extends from the Music Center complex to City Hall. Keep walking toward City Hall. The grass is going brown in the park due to drought, but it’s still a lovely stretch starting with the magical Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountaina coffee shop and restrooms, trees, wide walkways, play areas and lots of flamingo-pink tables and chairs.
23. You’ll have to cross Hill Street and Broadway as you make your way downhill through the park and a few more stairs. At Spring Street, in front of City Hall, turn right. Walk past 1st Street and the historic Los Angeles Times building (no longer home to the newspaper) on your right. Continue on Spring Street across 2nd Street and walk half a block farther to the parking garage where you left your car.

Franklin Hills West — Radio-Prospect Loop

Distance: 2.7-mile loop
Intensity: Moderate
Rating: Wowza! — the intense exertion is softened by magnificent scenery

I took an out-of-state friend on this East Hollywood walk and she loved it, which influenced my decision to give it a Wowza! score. She had just spent 30 days hiking 250 miles on the Camino de Santiago in Spain, so she’s no newbie to walking, but she liked what I too liked best about this walk: exploring classic L.A. neighborhoods and all the different architecture and landscape styles, from basic to eye-popping.

There are fewer than 700 steps on this walk, so it’s not as stair-heavy as the Franklin Hills East loop, but it still has some breathtaking climbs and drops.

1. Fleming starts this walk at the nightmare triple intersection of Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard and Hillhurst Avenue. I recommend doing anything you can to avoid that, such as parking on a nearby residential street like Rosalia Road (where I parked) or North Commonwealth Avenue, both of which connect to Sunset Drive, where we will start our walk heading east.
2. Be sure you walk on Sunset Drive — not Sunset Boulevard — toward the hills, which, yes, we are going to climb.
3. Walk past Rosalia Road and North Commonwealth Avenue on Sunset, and turn left on Hoover Street.
4. Walk two blocks up Hoover, past Clayton Avenue (jog a little to the right to stay on Hoover) and West Camero Avenue to where the street ends in front of the Hoover Walk, a double-sided staircase with a colorful and slightly graffitied mural. We had to step over a small smoldering fire of dried leaves someone started on the eighth step, but we made it to the top — 38 steps total — otherwise unscathed.
5. Now you’re on Prospect Avenue. Turn right and walk past Talmadge Avenue, with the Prospect Studios on your left. This is a historic Hollywood production facility, initially the home of Vitagraph Studios in 1915 until it was purchased by Warner Bros. in 1925, where they made many movies, including the first talkie, “The Jazz Singer.” ABC purchased the facility in 1948 and it became home to many popular television shows, including “Grey’s Anatomy.” The studio now is owned by Walt Disney Co., which acquired ABC in 1995.
6. Keep walking on Prospect past Myra and Sanborn avenues. The road will start climbing; just past 3976 Prospect, as the road curves left into a blind curve, look for your next set of stairs to the right — the Prospect Walk.
7. These stairs go up 57 steps, without handrails, to Deloz Avenue. Cross the street and continue up another 71 rail-less steps to Hollyvista Avenue. Cross that street and take a deep breath for the final stage — 168 steps up to Franklin Avenue, the top of Franklin Hills.
8. As you catch your breath at the top, look to your right to admire the lovely home with the two-masted boat etched on its chimney and yards with great succulent/cactus landscaping. Then turn left on Franklin and head downhill.
9. When the road begins turning to the right toward Radio Street, look to your left for the Radio Walk staircase. There are some lovely views here at the top of Hollywood, Century City and the Sunset Strip. But now you must begin your descent, which comes in two stages, first 127 steps back down to Hollyvista and then across the street another 97 steps down to Deloz.
10. Turn right on Deloz for just a few steps and then bear left onto Melbourne Avenue (the sign is well hidden by the surrounding trees). Follow Melbourne as it bends to the right, past the playing fields of the Lycée International de Los Angeles (a bilingual French-English K-12 school) and the Norman Harriton Community Garden of Franklin Hills on the left. There are some lovely homes through here, but note the profusion of signs warning about security cameras — a common feature on almost all of my stair walks.
11. As Melbourne curves, it becomes Sanborn Avenue, and at the end is the next step of stairs, 85 wide steps up to Franklin Avenue.
12. This is a busy three-way intersection, with lots of traffic merging onto Franklin from St. George Street directly in front of you. If you have time, take a short detour to the magical Shakespeare Bridge to your left, where you can take photos through the crazy turrets and stare down at the wild garden below, but walk carefully because the sidewalks are narrow. We opted to gaze from a distance and then continued our walk by turning right on Franklin. We crossed to be on the sidewalk, heading uphill, but the sidewalk disappeared after a few houses, so it’s back to street walking, but here, where the road curves up to the right, the traffic isn’t as fierce.
13. Bear right past 3959 heading onto Hollyvista as it winds downhill.
14. Bear right again onto Deloz, passing the Radio Walk steps on your left (unless you want a super workout, in which case you can run up the Radio Walk steps, turn right on Franklin and walk about a block, then run down the Prospect Walk steps to rejoin the walk).
15. If you opt for the sane-and-sensible route, walk straight on Deloz, up and over a small rise, past the Prospect Walk and Hollyvista.
16. When you reach Clayton Avenue, take a moment to admire the Hansel-and-Gretel-style house at the corner and then turn right, heading downhill. As the road winds down, look to the right for some great views of Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood sign, but keep an eye out for traffic since Clayton is another winding, narrow street without sidewalks.
17. Just after Clayton makes a big bend to the right, look to your left for your final staircase under a massive sprawling pine. This is a short climb of 41 steps to the cul-de-sac end of Sanborn Avenue.
18. Walk straight on Sanborn until you reach Cumberland Avenue. Turn right and walk down a very steep hill, past Myra, where the road thankfully flattens and begins a small climb for a block until you reach Talmadge Street and turn left.
19. Walk a short block on Talmadge to Sunset Drive, where you turn right and return to your car.

Los Feliz-Griffith Park Loop

Distance: 3.8-mile loop
Intensity: Strenuous
Rating: Glute buster — the exertion is more memorable than the scenery

There are lots of cool things about this walk — it takes you past Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House, an awe-inspiring Mayan Revival manse high on a hill, and some eye-popping views around the Griffith Observatory, but it’s also a tough slog with few stairs (just 463 steps overall) that feels more like a neighborhood hike than a stair walk. Still, it passes some memorable houses and provides a good excuse to visit the observatory while getting a great workout too, so by all means give this walk a whirl.

The first part of the walk, along the oak- and sycamore-shaded neighborhoods below Griffith Park, was actually our favorite part because of the historic homes and beautiful landscaping.

Planning note: If you want to tour the observatory and/or the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, make sure to bring proof of COVID vaccination for anyone 12 and older, and choose a day when things are open. The entire observatory is typically closed on Mondays and the planetarium is closed on Tuesdays, but the schedule may change, so check before you go.

1. Park on Vermont Avenue, across from the entrance to the Roosevelt Golf Course, just below the Greek Theatre. There are restrooms in the park across the street.
2. Walk downhill on Vermont Avenue for about a third of a mile, past Aberdeen Avenue on the left and Cockerham Drive on the right, a lovely stroll with stately historic homes, bougainvillea spilling over cream-colored walls and extraordinary gates. Turn right on Cromwell Avenue into a quiet neighborhood of huge Spanish- or Mission-style homes on top of the hills well above the road. If you’re like me, your neck will ache at the end of the day from looking up at the architecture and yards.
3. Cromwell meanders a bit with gentle ups and downs. When you see North Berendo Street on the left, look to your right to find your first set of stairs.
4. These are the Berendo Stairs, also known as the Los Feliz Heights Steps. They were built in 1924 and look as stately as the surrounding homes, with an elegant stone-speckled wall, built-in benches, graceful planters and a lion’s-head fountain that is not running. You may want to take advantage of the benches at the middle and top as you climb the 181 steps to 4800 Bonvue Avenue.
5. Turn right on Bonvue Avenue, walking downhill just a short distance until you see another set of stairs just past 4770 heading up 70 steps. At the top you’ll walk under an arched gate between someone’s home and garage onto Glencairn Road.
6. This is the end of a winding cul-de-sac, so turn right and follow it out until it meets North Catalina Street. Look for a peculiar canine-feline sculpture at 4840 and the extraordinary views of downtown L.A. from the vacant lot next door.
7. At Catalina, bear right walking uphill and stay right at Glendower Avenue, continuing your uphill climb with more good views of Hollywood and downtown.
8. Glendower winds around but at the crest of the hill, just past 2763, you’ll see a green sign on the right hanging crooked from a lamp post that reads “Public Walk.” These are the Glendower stairs, plunging 133 steps down to Bryn Mawr Road. As you descend look to your left, where you can see the Ennis House “crouched like a melting Mayan ruin,” says Fleming, which is a really good description.
9. At Bryn Mawr, cross the street, veering to the right, to find another set of curving stairs half hidden by shrubs. These 79 steps curve around a sun-dappled mosaic featuring an orange tree and the Griffith Observatory. It ends at Bonvue Avenue, where you should turn left, heading uphill. (A note here: If you need to cut the walk short, this is a good place to cross the street and take Glendower back down to Vermont Avenue and return to your car. Otherwise, we’ve got a couple more miles of hills, trails and views to go!)
10. As you walk up Bonvue, it veers to the right and becomes Glendower Avenue, home to some extraordinary residences. You’ll pass Bryn Mawr Road on the left and the exquisite 1924 storybook cottage known as the Hlaffer-Courcier House on the right. Then, a short distance later, the massive Ennis House begins to reveal itself on the left. The road will continue up and around the Ennis House property, so you can wonder at its forbidding concrete-block visage from many angles. As you round the bend, admire the charming Spanish-style house to the right and then continue your upward climb and Ennis House obsession, because on this side there’s a long, tall wall that gives you a closer look at the designs on the more than 27,000 specially made concrete blocks used to construct the house.
11. Glendower Avenue will continue winding along to the top of the hill, where you turn right on Glendower Road and walk to the end, turning left through the black gates onto a trail into Griffith Park. A warning: The gate is locked remotely from sunset to 5 a.m., and on the day we tried to get through, well past 5 a.m., it refused to budge. We called the Griffith Park Ranger Communications Center for help. They told us the gate should be open, and a short time later, the lock released and we were able to get through.
12. This dirt trail up to Griffith Observatory is long, hot and dusty, especially on summer afternoons, but the views are stupendous. Again, if you need to cut your walk short, turn right when the trail splits and take the Boy Scout Trail back to Vermont Avenue and the golf course area where you parked. But if you can keep going, take time to really savor the far-reaching views of L.A., all the way to the ocean and even Catalina Island on clear days, and then head up the trail curving behind the observatory until you emerge on the lawn at the far side of the building.
13. If the observatory is open, you can wander around or get a cool drink. When you’re ready to leave, walk downhill on the right side of the lawn, on East Observatory Avenue. This leads you down and to the right to North Vermont Canyon Road. Follow the road past the Greek Theatre on your right, and a little farther on to where you are parked across from the golf course.

Franklin Hills East — Lyric Loop

Distance: 2.9-mile loop
Intensity: Strenuous
Rating: Glute-buster — the exertion is more memorable than the scenery

The rating for this walk was a toss-up for me between a “Wowza” and “Glute-buster.” With 908 total steps and several steep hills, the climbs were often grueling — but the houses and greenery were lovely enough to (mostly) distract us from our bursting lungs. Also, there are several breathtaking views looking west, especially on the Prospect Stairs.

The houses were captivating on this walk, but even more wonderful were the many intriguing doors and gates. These houses basically hug the curbs of their narrow streets, but they have a lot of personality.

Bottom line: It’s definitely worth doing, but be prepared for a serious workout.

1. Park as close as you can to the Lyric-Hyperion Theater & Cafe2106 Hyperion Ave. (corner of Lyric and Hyperion avenues), and then cross to the west side of Hyperion and walk south or downhill.
2. Walk past Udell Court onto De Longpre Avenue and then turn right again at the next corner to Mayview Drive, heading up. The climb is steep and there are no sidewalks, so watch for cars.
3. About halfway up the hill, find your first set of stairs on the right, 39 steps going down to Udell. Turn right, heading downhill, and at 3838 Udell, take the tidy set of stairs on your left, alongside a lovely mint-green home, this time heading up 111 steps.
4. Follow a narrow walkway across the Hyperion Gulch, follow the path to the left and climb another 96 steps to 2040 Mayview at the top, and turn right, continuing your uphill climb as the street curves to the left.
5. At the next corner, bear left onto Clayton Avenue. Halfway down the block, before 3819, find a short flight of 10 steps up and 27 steps down to land on the other side of Clayton, which winds like a big ribbon. Turn left on Clayton and walk about a half block to the next set of steps just past 3884. These steps head down 61 paces to a solid teal gate on the right and a walkway jogging left. Follow the walkway to another 65 steps heading down to 3949 Cumberland Ave., where you turn left.
6. Follow Cumberland down to a hairpin turn right onto Sunset Drive, and then walk to the end of the Sunset cul-de-sac and another staircase, heading 43 steps down to Sanborn Avenue.
7. Turn right on Sanborn and follow it again to its end, ignoring the dead-end signs, because — ha! — we are stair walkers, who can travel where vehicles cannot go.
8. At the end of Sanborn, take the 41 steps down to Clayton, turn right and once more start trudging, uh, walking uphill. After Clayton curves right, veer left onto Deloz Avenue, then turn right almost immediately onto Hollyvista Avenue, continuing your uphill climb. Brace yourself, because just past 1750 Hollyvista, you’ll face the Prospect Stairs on the right.
9. This is a great set of broad stairs climbing 168 steps to Franklin Avenue, with periodic shade and sturdy handrails on either side. As you climb, remember to keep breathing. One consolation: The views looking west are spectacular.
10. At the top, turn left on Franklin Avenue following the road to Radio Street. Ignore the stairs to the left — those are for another walk — and turn right on Radio and then, after a short block, left on Ronda Vista Drive.
11. Follow Ronda Vista Drive to the next intersection and turn right on Ronda Vista Place, heading down to Lyric Avenue, where you bear right and continue downhill.
12. Just after 2346 Lyric, look for a very steep and shady set of stairs known as the Radio Walk, going down 110 steps to Claremont Avenue. There are no railings here, so walk with care.
13. Turn right at Claremont and walk slightly uphill, past Entrance Drive, to merge with Lyric once more. Continue straight about a block to 2232 Lyric, where you’ll find your final set of stairs, the Scotland staircase — another steep dip down 137 steps back to Hyperion. (Scotland continues as a regular street across Hyperion.) Turn right on Hyperion and walk a long block back to Lyric, where the walk started.

Avalon-Baxter Loop walk

Distance: 3.5-mile loop
Intensity: Strenuous
Rating: Glute-buster — the exertion is more memorable than the scenery

Everything about this walk is difficult, from the steep streets and stairs to finding a parking spot near the starting point at the Valerie Echo Park cafe at 1665 Echo Park Ave. But this walk also takes you around the northwest edge of Elysian Park, which is filled with interesting homes. When I climbed these steps, the laughter and delicious smells of someone’s barbecue wafted up from the trees below. I recommend fitting this route into your schedule when you’re ready for a good workout.

1. Starting from the cafe, walk up Echo Park Avenue past Effie Street and a little grocery market where a few men were standing outside, swapping stories over large cans of Modelo. This is a shady street with beautiful large trees, which means the sidewalk is heaving in several places, so watch your step. Continue walking past Paul Terrace on the right and just past Armitage Street, cross to the other side of Echo Park Avenue, where you’ll pass a lime-green metal fence with whimsical sculptures attached to the top and a few colorful shops and galleries beyond. Keep walking up Echo Park past Marsden Street until you reach Avalon Street, where you turn right.
2. Walk up the steep block to the end of Avalon, where a massive staircase climbs 192 steps up an open hillside. There are several landings on the way up, so take time to admire the view behind you or puzzle over the colorful, often philosophical graffiti on the steps and even the nearby plants.
3. At the top of the stairs you land on Lucretia Avenue. Walk uphill on Lucretia a short distance and then turn left on Avon Street and continue walking uphill. Follow Avon as it bends to the right and turns into Duane Street for a short block before it dead-ends at Park Drive. Look behind you for some gorgeous views of the unusual houses dotting the nearby hills and the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory beyond.
4. Turn left onto Park, which takes you along the top western edge of Elysian Park. Follow Park for a block and then turn left onto Ewing Street, heading downhill.
5. After a couple blocks, bear right onto Avon Street (the street sign was missing when I went) and continue walking downhill until you reach Baxter Street. There you’ll encounter the mother of all stairs in the Echo Park-Silver Lake-Franklin Hills area, the Baxter Stairs, snaking up a wild hillside dotted with trees. I passed a squirrel on the way up, tugging at something in the soil, but that did little to alleviate my grumpiness at walking 231 steps back up to Park Drive, where I had been just a short time before.
6. As soon as you can breathe normally again, turn left on Park Drive, where the road is flat and quiet. Once I stopped gasping, I was able to really enjoy the lovely views to my left (more Griffith Park) and right (Elysian Park and downtown L.A.)
7. At the end of Park, the road veers left and becomes Avon Park Terrace, and to the right, there is a private drive. At this strange junction, look to your right. You’ll see a small dirt path and a green sign announcing that the park is closed from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Follow this path into the park, heading left on the dirt road with lots of oaks, pine, eucalyptus and pepper trees along the way. On your right you’ll pass the Marian Harlow Memorial Grove, a quirky little garden with a hodgepodge of plants, maintained by Friends of Elysian Park (formerly known as the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park).
8. When the dirt road splits just past the garden, follow the road to the left, where you’ll see a huge water tower as you walk slightly uphill.
9. After the tower, the road begins to descend again. Follow the dirt road for some distance as it curves to the left, under a large oak tree and past a garbage can and sign so heavily graffitied you can barely tell that it’s reminding people to keep their dogs on a leash. (Maybe that’s why most of the dogs I pass are unleashed.) Walk a little farther and you’ll see a large, flat graffitied rock to the right and a path pocked by ground squirrel holes leading off to the left. Follow the path, watching for holes. Eventually you’ll see a few houses on the left (presently painted, in order of appearance, tan, blue and minty green). Keep walking until you emerge onto Valley View Drive, into a small residential parking area under some trees, across from 2343, where you’ll take a left.
10. Follow Valley View to Avon, where you take a left, and then almost immediately a right turn onto Cerro Gordo Street and then almost immediately right again onto Valentine Street, walking uphill.
11. Valentine is cracked and broken in places, so walk carefully a short distance until you see the next set of stairs on the left beyond a parking area and a line of garbage bins. This doesn’t make sense at first, until you realize that the beautiful homes along these stairs have no other place to park or put their garbage cans.
12. This is my favorite part of the walk. It’s 129 steps up, but the homes and mature landscapes are so lovely I don’t really notice the climb.
13. At the top, you land at the end of West Curran Street. Keep walking straight on this cul-de-sac toward Echo Park Avenue, past some wonderful old houses and an extraordinary gate on the left, studded with Barbie dolls, curling irons and other strange objects.
14. Turn left on Echo Park Avenue and walk downhill past Cerro Gordo Street. You could keep walking on Echo Park back to your car, but don’t wimp out.

Swan’s Way walk

Distance: 1.5-mile loop
Intensity: Moderate
Rating: Meh — Worth doing, but once is enough

This is a quick but challenging walk up some pretty steep stairs and down again, with a few pleasant views between houses, but unless you live in the area and want to make this route a regular workout, it’s just not worth the effort to drive there. Parking is always the big issue in Silver Lake, and it seemed particularly hard to find a spot here, at the corner of Silver Lake Boulevard and Effie Street. I was finally able to snag a space a couple of blocks away on West Silver Lake Drive.

This could be a fine walk if you are planning to have dinner in the area anyway and can arrive an hour early. You’ll definitely get your steps in, and feel smug enough to order anything off the menu.

1. I didn’t realize, until I walked all the way to Effie and Silver Lake Boulevard, that my route would take me a few steps up Effie and then veer slightly right back onto West Silver Lake Drive, where I got to pass my car and some intere