Night Hikes Above the Clouds in Los Angeles
Story by Ben Horton
It’s a common misconception that LA is just a city with nothing but desert surrounding it, that the only activities are shopping, star gazing (by that I mean celebrities) or going “out”. I don’t mind it so much because that means my forays into the nearby wild spaces are often solo, with very few people encountered along the way. There’s climbing, surfing, hiking, and exploring to be done, all within a half hour of city center.
Summer in LA can be the worst time to be an adventurer though. It’s too hot to climb or hike during the day. The ocean goes through long lulls between swells, and when they do come in, it’s often windy and blown out. I call it my fat season, because I hate gyms, and there’s nothing happening to keep me active.
There is one benefit to those hot days for those willing to become somewhat nocturnal. The days begin and end with a gloomy and monotone fog, but few realize that it only extends a few hundred feet upward. A short drive into the hills will place you above an incoming sea of fog that churns and crashes agains the Santa Monica Mountains just like a wave coming up against a sea cliff.
The fog is caused when the hot air of the city meets the cool air coming in off of the Pacific. Even on a clear, blue sky day, the moment the sun drops below the horizon the clouds begin to form. Most often I see the low lying clouds forming near Las Virgines road, where it depends through Malibu Canyon. The best viewing area if you’re not interested in hiking at night is from Piuma Road which rises up quickly directly above the clouds, but there are a number of hikes that can place you in epic locations to watch the clouds roll in. Nicholas Canyon is a good short hike, or Sandstone Peak if you’re willing to go a little farther and a lot higher.
For me this is a photography adventure, but there’s no reason not to get out and just take in the experience wether you have a camera or not. Next time the fog has you down, I recommend going up, and getting above the clouds.