There’s a lot of natural beauty accessible from Los Angeles. Journey south on the Pacific Coast Highway for stunning views of the coast. Head east to find Joshua Tree National Park or Mojave National Preserve. Drive a few hours north and you’ll hit Sequoia National Park and Death Valley National Park. Travel a little farther, and you’ll spot California’s beloved Yosemite National Park.
But many Angelenos take for granted what’s in their own backyard: Angeles National Forest. Sure, there’s no epic Half Dome or majestic redwood grove, but Angeles National Forest offers locals hiking, camping and biking galore, plus a respite from the honks and sirens of the city. Take Echo Mountain’s trail to Inspiration Point for sweeping views of the city (even on semi-smoggy days). Check out the Bridge to Nowhere historical landmark near Mount Baldy. Drive up to Mount Wilson Observatory to see the home of some of the world’s most historically important telescopes — and to explore where renowned astronomer Edwin Hubble studied the skies and discovered that the universe is expanding.
Or, you can try what I can be found doing most weekends: camping. Along with cabin rentals and group sites, Angeles National Forest is home to some 50 campgrounds. While drive-in sites tend to be more popular, a great way to feel like you’re “getting away from it all” just 30 minutes from home is to backpack into a hike-in campsite. On multiple occasions, my friends and I have loaded up our packs with the essentials, hiked a few miles into the forest and set up camp for a night of stories, s’mores and whiskey under the stars — all for the price of a quarter tank of gas and a bag of marshmallows.