Climbing Los Angeles One Step at a Time

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Walk #39 - Santa Monica - Bluffs and Beach Walk

Distance: 3.5 miles Steps: 384-450 Difficulty: 3
"This is a great combination walk - big stairs, huge Pacific views, and long stretches of flat pathway filled with interesting historical bits. It can be very hot in summer and somwhat windy in winter, but the vistas are sensational." Taken from Secret Stairs by Charles Fleming.

We had to do this walk rain or shine as it was the next-to-last walk and the invitations for the party following the final walk were sent. We have experienced a very wet winter and we in parched SoCal should love this but not on my walk! This is the 2nd time it rained but we soldiered on and the payoff was a beautiful day spent with wonderful people! I had saved the four Secret Stairs walks on the Westside for summer or summer-like weather but we ended up going through the walks faster than we thought we would. 42 walks in 48 weeks!

We started this walk at the famous Santa Monica Pier which dates to 1909. I can say that in the 30-plus years of living in LA that I have never set foot on this beach and rarely visit the pier(except when we have guests) but sometimes it is fun and this was the case.
It was unusually calm for a Sunday on the Pier. Charles, Ines, Mark, Jessica, and Enrique.
Down some wooden steps and these concrete ones and we were at street level.
The underbelly of the Pier.
Back up some wooden stairs to the pier.
Looking towards Venice.
Just as soon as we were back on the pier we went down the other side to begin our walk along the beach.
While there was never a downpour it was coming down at the start of the walk but pretty soon it started to clear up and the weather improved as we walked. So much so that by the end of the walk it was a beautiful spring day. I remember when as teenagers we would go to the beach and being SoCal, it was always overcast in June and July and we would say, "it'll burn off," and it usually did!

As we walked along the beach the very busy PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) was a constant. This highway is so disaster-prone that it is a local running joke. It is a very busy highway and in addition to automobile accidents that can easily cause a shutdown of this major artery, mudslides after rains and fires in the warmer months are not rare.

An unexpected brick stairway once we crossed the overpass.
At the top of the stairs is a really beatiful promenade that is a buffer between the ocean and the city.
My friend Paolo used to cater and we did a party in one of these houses along this stretch but I can't decide exactly which one it was.
An old house on Ocean Drive.

We walked along the bluffside park for a short stretch before heading back to the beach side. There is a house directly in front of the stairway which I find kind of odd. I mean, you pay millions for a house and not only is it on a very busy highway but then you have a massive concrete post right in front of your bedroom window..
See what I mean?
This bikepath runs for several miles in both directions. On my list of things to do is to bike it this summer.
Charles on the path. You can see that the weather is improving.

We were about to go back to the bluffs and took this unusal spiral stairway leading to another overpass.
From the bluffs and from the overpass you can clearly see nature at work as evidenced by the erosion. We expected to climb the stairway pictured above but as we approached it was evident that it was in bad shape.

Glad we didn't climb this one - it's kinda iffy!
Closed. Now what?
There was a solution to the closure. We took a detour and continued up this famous incline and were back on the bluff (Palisades Park) and would soon return to the walk route.
A view towards Pacific Palisades and beyond that, Malibu.

I still don't understand it.
Charles and Mark smiling as we head (yet again) over PCH towards the beach.
Down some muddy steps.
I lost count of the overpasses covered in this walk.
Okay, someone tell me what this means. Should we be afraid of cats with Black Widos spiders?
Archeological evidence of a once grand building.

All that remains of a fancy beach club from 'back in the day.'

This one just stands out.

We were on our final stretch along the beach that would take us back to the pier and our starting point.

The Johnathan Club

Back at our starting point.

Lunch was a big surprise. Instead of the usual local restaurant someone suggested the Food Court at the newly-rebuilt Santa Monica Place. Genius idea! It was a nice food court as far as mall eateries go and the added bonus was the rooftop dining area with views of the ocean. Not a bad way to end our next-to-last walk!

Charles, Mark, Enrique, Jessica, and me.
Jessica and Ines at the rooftop dining are with the ocean behind them.
Feel free to join me as I discover hidden parts of Los Angeles and tackle the ONE remaining stair walk.
Steps walked to date: 20,897.

Follow me on Twitter: @ClimbingLA


  1. We got to go inside the camera obscura at Griffith Observatory on Sunday; pretty cool!
    I'll miss our walks!

  2. I liked the West Side walks because the area is so different from our usual East Side haunts. This one was extra special. Still sad that they are over but I know there's one more blog post to look forward to. Thanks for making this such a great project, Robert. You're a GREAT leader!

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  4. Hi Cruiser, thanks for you note. I will no longer be blogging as I have met my goal of doing all 42 walks in the book.

  5. The longest and good post I've ever seen. Thanks.