Welcome to “What’s the Deal With...” a new column in which I do my best to explain the city of Los Angeles to my New York City coworkers.
Runyon Canyon is a park in Hollywood, California, known for its popular hiking trails. Much of this popularity stems from two factors:
- People in Los Angeles like to hike.
- Runyon Canyon attracts a lot of celebrities in fashionable activewear.
If you ever plan on spending an extended period of time in Los Angeles, know that physical activity is probably unavoidable. At some point, you’re going to end up in a 10 a.m. exercise class, hungover, probably pissed, but ultimately happy with the endorphin output and the promise of a post-workout smoothie. Related: You will probably also go on a hike.
Although I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and was forced into this activity on an annoyingly regular basis, hiking is not something I ever thought would be part of my regular life. But I have been converted. That’s what constant sunshine does to a person.
Hiking really is rather pleasant. It makes your heart healthier and allows you to enjoy the fact that it’s 77 degrees and sunny five days out of the week here. I have no idea who I’ve become, but I do know that my butt is looking great.
LA has tons of hiking destinations, but Runyon Canyon is easily the scene-iest of the bunch. It’s smack dab in the middle of the Hollywood Hills and, like I said: celebrities.
As far as I know, the person pictured here is not a celebrity.
However, I will say that the whole appeal of celebrity is a bit different in LA. I would argue that a lot of celebrities go to Runyon Canyon because a lot of people in LA go to Runyon Canyon and LA has a lot of celebrities in its population. The cross-contamination is unavoidable, like visiting The Grove. (I’ll explain The Grove another time.)
I’ve been to Runyon (what it’s usually shortened to) one time on my own and a second time to jog my memory for this explanation. My friend Rachael (of Vanderpump Crawl fame) and I went around 10 a.m. on a Friday morning, which she claimed was a rather poppin’ time to go.
So yes, let’s just get this out of the way: Yes, people in LA go hiking at 10 a.m. on a Friday. In some regards, Los Angeles definitely earns its reputation as sort of a lazy person’s city. But in this regard—the a.m. physical activity—it doesn’t. People in general are just doing what makes sense in a warm-weather environment: it’s 80 degrees in January so why wouldn’t you go hiking and then spend all day at the beach?
And of course, entertainment is a major industry here. Many of those jobs don’t operate on a normal nine-to-five schedule. If you’re an actress or you’ve just sold a screenplay or you’re a cameraman who works for a late night show and don’t have anywhere to be at 10 a.m., why not go for a hike, huh? WHY THE HELL NOT? (Oops—is it possible that all those think pieces about moving from LA to New York and vice versa made me defensive?)
Parking around Runyon is usually a bit of a chore, but I managed because I am no longer terrified of parallel parking. I rarely hit the curb anymore.
Now, when I say Runyon is a “hike,” what I mean is that you’re walking uphill on a dusty path. There is minimal engagement with nature beyond the dirt and air. There are a lot of people who go to Runyon to seriously work out, doing squats at the flatter parts and sprinting up the steep sides. But there are also people who call themselves Sheerios, so...
You will also see dudes running around in those creepy elevation training masks that make them look like Bane from The Dark Knight Rises. Most people, however, are sort of just actively chilling, which is probably the most apt description of LA I’ll ever come up with.
It is physically possible to visit Runyon Canyon by yourself, but it probably doesn’t seem like it. Most people are in groups of two to four people and everyone is wearing fashionable, coordinated activewear. (My wardrobe became 35 percent activewear when I moved here.) Aviators seem to be the eyewear of choice. Many of the men choose to go shirtless. You don’t do a 30-gram carb intake a day diet so that you can run around with your shirt on.
You can see the Hollywood sign from Runyon, but here’s an important Los Angeles hack: you can see the Hollywood sign from basically everywhere on the east side of LA.
Usually Runyon is a prime celebrity spotting locale. Here is a short list of celebrities Rachael has seen at Runyon Canyon:
- “The Kardashians. Khloe and maybe Rob”
- “Definitely Kathy Griffin”
- “Josh Duhamel”
On this day, we did not see The Game. Other celebrities go to Runyon Canyon but, for rather obvious reasons, I was hoping to run into The Game.
We do see about 50 dogs. Damn dogs everywhere. Runyon has a very liberal leash policy, meaning dogs can basically run free around most of the park and they totally know that they own the place.
Look at this fat little prince taking up half the trail.
Unfortunately, a trip to Runyon Canyon is not real if you don’t have the Instagram post to back it up.
At the risk of bragging, I must say that this is pretty great as far as the “LA hiking” genre of Instagram posts go. You can see my Nike logo. I have that carefree look of casual employment. You get some LA skyline and greenery and those beams of sun are clearly the los angeles of Los Angeles smiling down upon me.
When I posted this picture on Instagram with the hashtag #runyoncanyon, I got a bunch of likes from people I don’t know who I can only assume found me because of the hashtag and who thought I was One Of Them. You all seem nice but: absolutely not. Sorry.
If you’re feeling brave and/or in the mood to judge complete strangers, go ahead and click on the #runyoncanyon Instagram tag. In a way, you have to admire the shamelessness of it all. The selfie games are unabashed and no one is hiding the fact that they’re in this, at least in part, for an Instagrammable moment.
Like a lot of things in LA, you’ll probably hate it at first and then come around to it in the end. Good weather fries your brain. At one point after our hike, Rachael turned to me and said: “I want an açai bowl and I don’t even know what that is.”
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