Hiking Runyon Canyon at Sunrise
Los Angeles Living, This & That

How to Hike Runyon Canyon Before Sunrise: 6 Tips From a Total Expert You Should Obviously Trust

I’ve been so excited over so many personal projects that I’ve not slept much this week. Today I woke up at 3:45 a.m. and thought, “I’m going for a hike.” There’s a lot that doesn’t add up about that. “It’s arithmetic,” Bill Clinton might have said mockingly of my suggestion.

Anyway, it’s now 6 a.m. and I’m at the summit of Runyon Canyon — writing you, dear readers, from the most perfect bench in Los Angeles County. Regular Runyon hikers will know it well.

Without ado, here are my tips for hiking Runyon Canyon before sunrise:

Tip No. 1 for Hiking Runyon Canyon Before Sunrise:

Hiking Runyon Canyon Before Sunrise

This is how the Runyon Canyon trail looked when I got started. Questionable.

Ladies (or maybe anyone) hiking solo: maybe don’t do it. This is like that time my big sister, uncomfortably drunk on her 21st birthday at the campus bar in Berkeley, slurred to 18-year-old me, “Don’t you do what I’m doing. I’m impaired. Do as I say, not as I do.” Later, of course, I would do it.

I sat in my car and waited until day seemed to be breaking, around 5:40 a.m. in mid-November, but it was quite dark when I started the hike and my adrenaline was pumping in the “Huh. I’m willfully walking into an unpopulated area of the Hollywood Hills by myself in the dark” way. I used my iPhone flashlight. I thought I would have enough cover of daylight to feel more OK when the iPhone eventually struck 6, which it did and I did. Husband may be furious about my decision making when I get home (after he wakes up). Moving on.

Tip No. 2 for Hiking Runyon Canyon Before Sunrise:

Related to tip No. 1: Shout “HELLO!” super loudly to everyone on the trail, which you may or may not be surprised to learn is a lot of people even at that hour. (Angelenos, man, I swear.) Their responses helped me suss out whether they were potential killers. I wagered that killers wouldn’t cheerily say back to me “good morning” necessarily, but maybe, I don’t know.

Tip No. 3 for Hiking Runyon Canyon Before Sunrise:

Bench at the Runyon Canyon Summit at Daybreak

Silhouette of the best bench in town if you ask me. Runyon Canyon summit.

When you get to the bench at the summit, you will experience urban peace so rare in your typical life in town. It’s so serene, vacationlike, dreamlike. Lights over Los Angeles from Century City to the Griffith Observatory to Downtown L.A. twinkling brightly, giving way to periwinkle daylight and a fiery remnant of sunrise to the east. It’s life affirming. Sit on that perfect bench, with the seat so high it feels like you’ve shrunk a la Alice in Wonderland, and breathe it all in. Take your time. The rest of your day will probably require more of you and may not pay as much peace or joy in return. This is your moment. (Again: Angelenos, WTF! Always doing healthy, life-affirming stuff in their gym clothes in the early morning like it aint no thing.) Then a pug trots up the trail snorting to let you know the day has officially (unofficially) begun.

Tip No. 4 for Hiking Runyon Canyon Before Sunrise:

Worth noting: The sign at the park entrance is labeled “open sunrise to sunset.” I entered considerably before sunrise and the gate was open. So evidently it’s just a suggestion versus an enforced rule, at least in my experience. Or maybe they use a liberal interpretation of “sunrise.”

Runyon Canyon Trail at Sunrise

Runyon Canyon trail at sunrise, looking toward downtown Los Angeles

Tip No. 5 for Hiking Runyon Canyon Before Sunrise:

This is more of just a thrilling concept than a tip, per se. But OMG you guys, driving at 4-something in the morning on a weekday in Los Angeles is amazing. It will change your life. Talk about life affirming. No traffic of any kind. Rock star parking. It’s kind of worth the whole experience just for the traffic-free drive alone, which makes me sound like a complete weirdo, but people who deal with the blight of urban traffic, in L.A. or otherwise: Holler if you hear me.

Tip No. 6 for Hiking Runyon Canyon Before Sunrise:

Guess what? In the early morning, you can literally park on Hollywood Boulevard. ON Hollywood Boulevard, like at Highland. Just park there! Because the signs say no parking is allowed from 6 a.m. onward. It feels like a magic trick! However, a pointless one: If you are trying to park there to get a coffee before your hike, you will not succeed because the Coffee Bean does not open until 6 a.m. and neither does Starbucks, as far as I can tell, as its chairs were stacked on the tables. So just proceed to park near Franklin and Fuller Avenues and enjoy the hell out of your morning hike in Runyon Canyon before you realize how tired you are.

Woman With "You are Perfect" Sign on Runyon Canyon Trail

…and then this happens. I swear.

GOOD MORNING, EVERYONE! HAVE A GREAT DAY! (See, I shouted that to assess whether any of you were killers.)

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  • Reply Anonymous January 7, 2013 at 2:37 am

    Go Certified Alice!

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  • Reply Eric September 26, 2015 at 5:42 am

    Loved this. I live at Franklin and Fuller and have always wondered about hiking at night. I’ll give it a try!

  • Reply Anonymous July 13, 2016 at 1:45 am

    I stumbled on your post because I got a ticket for being parked past sunset recently. It was still light out and I had not finished my hike by the time the weather app apparently says the sun had set. Forget that up on the summit, the sun hadn’t set yet. So – hikers beware. That ticket was $73… I contested it and lost.

  • Reply Erin November 9, 2016 at 2:52 am

    Does anyone know if they still lock the gate after dark? I’ve been locked in several times a few years ago. It’s dark so early now in the “winter”, that I’m afraid to bring my big dog with me. I can jump the gate if needed, but I don’t know how we would both get out!

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