I love a good historical hike. Whether it’s to the ruins of a 100-year-old hotel, an abandoned bridge that goes nowhere, or the remains of a Nazi sympathizer compound, there’s lots of places to hike around Los Angeles where you’ll get a great workout and see something unique, too!
My friend Mat and I met up before Thanksgiving for a hike at a super-cool location in the Santa Monica Mountains. We started at San Vincente Mountain Park, off world-famous Mulholland Drive – actually, at the exact spot where it goes from being an unpaved, narrow mountain road to being accessible only on foot.
San Vincente Mountain Park has a fascinating history. Before it was a park, it was the site of LA96C, a military facility built in 1956 to protect Los Angeles from Russian bombers. The Cold War was raging, and this was the same year Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev had threatened to “bury” the US.
In response, the US built missile defense systems in many of its major cities, including Los Angeles. Multiple radar platforms, like LA96C, were built around the city. If one of them detected enemy aircraft, the coordinates were sent to a nearby missile launch site. (The Los Angeles launch site was in the Sepulveda Basin, a few miles north, in the San Fernando Valley.) A missile would be launched to intercept and destroy the enemy plane before it could drop any bombs.
There’s not much to see now. The facility was dismantled in 1968, because technology had rendered this system obsolete, but the radar platform still stands, up a few flights of stairs from the mountain below it. It kinda looks like a small helipad.
There are gorgeous views, because it’s on top of the highest mountain around.
Our hike began at the radar platform, and from there, we headed south, down the West Mandeville Fire Road, into the Westridge-Canyonback Wilderness Park. It followed a mountain ridge, which meant more gorgeous views.
We eventually got a great view of the Pacific Ocean. It was a gloomy day, and it rained for part of the hike, but that was actually a nice change of pace.
As we walked down the fire road, we noticed other hikers on a parallel trail, just yards away at times, that bobbed up and down the little peaks along the ridge. So, on the way back, we took that trail, and it was fun. Steeper inclines and declines, and a little more variety.
All in all, we hiked for 2 hours, covered 5.4 miles, and had an elevation gain of over 1100 feet. Fantastic! What’s nice about our starting point is that there’s other trails, too, so I could go back and visit the radar platform, and then have a different hike experience altogether!
A FEW OTHER FITNESS-RELATED UPDATES:
I must’ve pulled a muscle or bruised a rib a few weeks back, because my side has been hurting. The pain comes and goes, as it has for a couple weeks now. It hasn’t stopped me from exercising, but it has limited my range of motion for some moves. Meanwhile, my foot, which caused me so much trouble over the last few months, has been absolutely wonderful ever since I bought those new inserts. Always something to celebrate!
Keep it up, David!
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