Climbing Los Angeles One Step at a Time

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Walk #40 : Santa Monica - Rustic Canyon Loop

Distance: 3 miles
Steps: 1,069
Difficulty: 4.5

"This is an athletic walk up the southern side of Santa Monica Canyon and back down bucolic Rustic Canyon, through leafy, eucalyptus-scented glades and past historic homes and architectural wonders. Along the way are hard bodies and ocean views." Taken from Secret Stairs by Charles Fleming.

This was an amazing walk! Exhausting and long and difficult at times, but it was really memorable. Great location, great company, great workout, and then an afternoon at the beach! It was a heck of a way to spend a Sunday.

We began this walk at the intersection of Chautauqua and PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) in Santa Monica. It was overcast (as it almost always is at the beach in SoCal) but as we say here "it'll burn off" and it did but like at 3pm! We had 2 new guests on this walk. I met Carlos recently at UCLA as we were both taking US Law and Interpreting classes. He is Colombian and so is Vlad and so am I so Spanish was heard throughout. Carlos and his wife Alice joined the walk as did two of 'regulars' - Willie and Vlad. Since Willie and Vlad participate so often maybe I should assign them to write some of these entries.

From left to right: Alice, Carlos, Vlad, Willie, Charles

I never noticed the large stairway while driving down this stretch of busy PCH - probably because if you are driving you had better be paying attention. Unfortunately, accidents are common on this highay.

Only 48 steps and we landed on a very quiet, upscale neighborhood. This was the first of our 4 Westside walks and it was great to leave the more familiar Silver Lake/Echo Park/Hollywood/Pasadena to discover new neighborhoods. I know the beach area and lived nearby while attending UCLA but I had never explored these parts of Santa Monica. On the Westside we have a Pacific Palisades stair walk coming up in addition to one by the more touristy area around the pier and a 'monster' walk high above the are in Topanga State Park. We'll be doing these before the summer ends which means we'll be done with them by October. If you want to join us we still have 25 more walks to go.
Our first stairway - 48 easy steps.

I don't get this front yard decoration scheme. Think Flintstones.

After the first easy one we encountered a very long stairway. It takes me a while to wake up in the morning and this one definitely woke me up and prepared me for what was to come.
169 steps.

It happened again! We took a wrong turn and had a laugh. Sometimes we get confused and make wrong turns and in this case we climbed the wrong staircase. It looked very inviting and we fell for the trap.
Rome has the Spanish Steps and Santa Monica has the 4th Street Steps. I had heard about these but never felt the need to drive across LA to climb them although it seems like everyone else does. There are 2 sets of them and they are not far from each other and both are clogged like the 405 Freeway on a Friday afternoon. I couldn't get a nice picture of them without people walking on them. Many people use these steps for workouts and trainers punish their clients by making them climb them again and again. It truly is a circus-type scene and I'm glad I finally was able to participate if only very briefly. 189 steep and grueling steps left us panting at the top but the payoff was worth it.
Vlad tackles the Santa Monica Steps in style.

Rustic Canyon as seen from the top of the stairs.

It seems the residents don't take too kindly to constant streams of sweaty people. You would tink that the well-heeld residents of this tony area would be able to have them closed off but according to the author of Secret Stairs, the reason they can't be closed is because they are part of a tsunami evacuation plan and must be kept open for emergencies.

How'd you like to see people doing push-ups in front of your house?

The beautiful Craftsman at the top of the stairs was built in 1905.
The views of Rustic Canyon were spectacular as were the homes on this street. We walked along this street for a while, passing the 2nd stairway before returning to it for our climb down.

The upper section of the 2nd set of the Santa Monica Steps is made of wood and they are much wider that the other ones up the street. I'm glad we climbed down.
Traffic jam on the steps.
We were soon headed towards a much quieter area - Rustic Canyon. I'd heard of it but never thought to explore it and I'm really glad we did because all 6 of us really felt it was special. On the way there we walked down an 'alley' but it was the nicest one I've ever seen.

We climbed 124 steps and no sooner had we reached the top than we saw the next staircase which would take us deeper into Rustic Canyon.

Willie taking the lead.

The Estenza house built in 1937 in the Streamline Moderne style.

Steep and uneven - I almost took a tumble here.

Mixing up the styles?

Our bucolic walk was nearly over and we wood soon rejoin the busy Chautauqua street and the bustle of the beach.
No comment!

Some may remember this place when it was the Friendship Bar.

Back on PCH and across the street from Will Rogers State Beach is Patrick's Roadhouse - a local landmark that has seen its share of Hollywood stars and where we had lunch.

Charles, Vlad and I made a day of it and after a long walk and a tasty lunch we crossed the highway to chillax on the beach. It was a perfect ending to a perfect walk.

Our Beach Condo

Charles, being a child.

Feel free to join me as I discover hidden parts of Los Angeles and tackle the remaining 25 stair walks.

Steps walked to date: 8,537

Follow me on Twitter: @ClimbingLA


  1. Another cool story and great pics. I love the mosaic mailbox! Super cool.

  2. Great write up of another great walk. We can now say we did the *famous* 4th street steps!

  3. west channel resident :)November 28, 2010 at 7:30 PM

    I have lived in this canyon for almost my entire life and one of my very favorite things about it has been discovering all of the hidden stairs. The canyon is filled with such beauty and mystery :) Thanks for posting.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. I live in Portland, Oregon and spend weeks during our cold, wet winters with friends in the canyon. One of my greatest delights is walking through the neighborhoods filled with blooming vines and chattering parrots, lush and green even in January. The stairs are always a highlight. Thank you for sharing all the images... makes me miss my little paradise.