Imagine a Los Angeles without freeways, cars, or traffic. What if we lived in a city connected by public transport and pedestrian walkways?
That Los Angeles actually existed for a time.
At the turn of the century, America’s love affair with the auto was only just beginning and emerging cities like LA depended on trolleys and railways to get people where they were going.
Without the need for garages and parking, many homes in the hillsides were built off the public streets and accessible only by a system of staircases connecting the trolley stops. The streetcars have vanished of course, leaving behind a sprawling network of half-hidden stairways in neighborhoods from Pasadena to the Palisades. Although largely forgotten, these staircases still exist, virtually unknown to even the savviest Angelenos.
These “secret stairs” are not only great mini-adventures in themselves, but they’re also great workouts to help you fulfill your 2017 fitness resolutions.
One of the best of these staircase walks is right in the middle of Beachwood Canyon.
Follow along as Sandi leads the way.
If you want to learn more about staircase walks in Los Angles, check Charles Fleming’s guide, Secret Stairs. Fleming organizes 42 walks from the 275 staircases he’s scouted out. Pick up your copy at Skylight Books in Los Feliz.
Happy climbing! (ed.)
I’ve often said that LA is a hidden city, easy to love if you know where to go. But sometimes even when you know what you’re looking for in LA, it’s hard to find.
The last time I went to Beachwood Canyon in search of an urban hike along its old Hollywoodland public staircases, I couldn’t find all of them. Ultimately, I got nearly hopelessly lost, despite the aid of a GPS that sent me walking in circles.
Soon thereafter, I went back, armed with a better guide, and my camera.
The first one, on Woodshire, was out in the open, easy enough to find…
…but others were a bit more enshrouded…
…and wedged next to private properties.
Some of the staircases were indicated by a post and reflector…
…but mostly I could only recognize them by their distinctive granite pattern.
Some of the staircases go straight up, with little to no breaks…
…and others have plenty of landings…
…though most of the time I was the only person climbing them (save for one runner).
Going up and down those stairways – sometimes up and down the same ones – I found myself still walking in circles in Old Hollywoodland, but this time on a distinctive path, cutting up and down the Hollywood Hills around which roads have been built to circumvent.
All the while, I got to walk through private backyards, under trees and past landscaping as the sun went down.
I love this Hollywood, this Old Hollywood, this Hollywoodland, that tourists never get to see, and residents rarely explore.
When most people think of “Hollywood,” the word – today a metonym for the American movie business – conjures images of smarmy producers, busty starlets, red carpets, and maybe hookers, drunken nightclubbers, and costumed street-walkers. But my Hollywood, the Hollywoodland that I continue to discover, is (still) full of rolling hills, coyotes, a vineyard, a lake, castles, and secret stairways that lead you everywhere and nowhere all at once.
*This post originally appeared on [Avoiding Regret](www.avoidingregret.com). All photos by the author.*