Walk LA’s secret stairways

By Meaghan Sands

The idea of hiking in Los Angeles may make some chuckle and others tilt their heads like curious canines. Others may say, “Have you tried Runyon Canyon, the trail to the Hollywood sign or Griffith Park?”

But unless you’re seeking trails crowded with Angelinos, out-of-towners and the occasional celebrity these are not always the way to go.

There is another way to enjoy L.A.

Individuals seeking a relaxing stroll or a peaceful hike are not usually hard-pressed to head to the heart of L.A., nor some of urban cities surrounding it. Heavy traffic on surface streets present a dangerous and noisy obstacle for pedestrians. Public transportation is subpar, limiting the distance that can be traveled on foot.

According to Charles Fleming, “[L.A.] has almost no pedestrian-friendly, car-free zones and offer[s] our citizens fewer public parks and less public green space per capita than any major city in America.”

In 1981 Fleming would discover a hidden gem that would help solve this predicament: “secret stairs.”

These stairs provide a look back in time to when cars were a luxury and most traversed from place to place with the help of trolley cars, streetcars, buses, light-rail systems and their own two feet.

“City planners and developers installed them as direct routes for pedestrians”housewives and children particularly”to get down the hills to schools, the supermarket and transit lines,” writes Fleming in his book “Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles.”

The staircases, though now semi-forgotten and unused, take hikers through an urban tour of stately homes in hidden L.A. neighborhoods with breathtaking views of the city along the way.

Fleming has mapped more than 275 staircases from Pasadena to Pacific Palisades.

Though some residents have taken the liberty of closing off staircases to outsiders, Fleming assures eager walkers that all the staircases are “public byways, on public property, built and maintained by taxpayer dollars, and are meant to be employed and enjoyed by everyone.”

In his book, stair walks are divided by city and then subdivided into various walks for that area. Each walk is rated for difficulty and lists the approximate time limit and number of steps involved. A major plus is that most begin and end near an eatery and all are accessible via public transportation.

What are you waiting for? Get out and start walking.

L.A. On A Budget

L.A. On A Budget

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