Climbing Los Angeles One Step at a Time

Monday, March 7, 2011

Walk #42 - Pacific Palisades - Giant Steps

Distance: 3.6 miles
Steps: 1,117
Difficulty: 5
"Here is the monster step walk, a lovely, bucolic stroll through a secluded canyon that culminates in a hideous climb of over 500 steps, in a single staircase! Alone amont the walks in this book, it is over stairs not originally intended for public use, on a route that offers no cafe or restaurant and no public restrooms, and is not well served by bus or Metro. But it is a walk of staggering beauty, over public parkland, filled with historical interest. Plus, it has that 500-step staircase!" Taken from Secret Stairs by Charles Fleming.

We saved the best/worst for almost last! The best as in the longest staircase in Los Angeles; the worst as in the longest staircase in Los Angeles. I say "almost last" because this walk marked the 39th of 42 walks. If you have not participated and want to, act quickly! It turned out to be a perfect morning in the hoity-toity neighborhood of Brentwood. If you don't know where it is, it's where OJ Simpson lived... This swanky hillside neighborhood is also adjacent to Topanga State Park (Rustic Canyon) and within minutes of starting we were in the country. A strenuous walk yet very enjoyable.

From left to right: Ines, Willie, Charles, and Enrique.
We began this walk at the intersection of Amalfi Drive and Casale Road. After walking for only a few minutes we encountered views of the Pacific Ocean and a dirt path leading to the entrance of Topanga State Park.

The Pacific Ocean in the background. I think those are vineyards on the hillside.

Rustic Canyon
Charles and moi.

The canyon views provided a dramatic backdrop to what we were about to see. Several minutes after walking on the trail we found our first staircase taking us down to the the canyon floor.
The first one consisted of 40 steps.
A 'decorated' water tower .
In addition to steps we found long, paved paths leading to more stairs; 321 of them.

They were several landings and became very steep towards the end.


This path would lead us to a big surprise! It is said that in the 1930s a local heiress, Winona Stephens, invested a fortune to build a 50-acre self-containing compound which included water tanks, fuel tanks, and power generators. The man who persuaded her to build it was a Nazi sympathizer who believed that Hitler's army would eventually take over the US. He was accused of being a spy, arrested, and sent to prison and the compound fell into disrepair and was ceded to the State of California.
At the bottom of the Canyon and along a creek lies the compound. Very little remains intact and the structures we sawe were covered over in graffiti. Charles exploring the former power station with Ines in the window.

Seeing the creek was a real treat. I felt transported by it and truly it made me forget that I was only 25 minutes (there was no traffic) away from home. Ines, Enrique and I felt a little adventurous and continued along a path for another quarter of a mile while Charles and Willie stayed at the compound.
This path would lead us to the barn.
The path continues for many miles and leads to many other trails that lead to Mandeville Canyon and Temescal Canyon and even to Mullholland Drive! I definitely want to explore this area at a later time. Charles and I are getting used to our Sunday walks and are looking for more opportunities to hike whether in urban LA or in the wilds of the city. Just don't ask me if I'll be blogging as for now, the answer is a firm "no!"
On the way back from seeing the barn I heard my name being called. Charles wanted me to hurry up and join them as they had come across some fellow Secret Stairs walkers. This was the 3rd time this has happened and I did not want to miss the photo opportunity. The other 2 encounters have been included in previous entries. We quickly caught up to the group and one of them said we were an 'inspiration' when they found out we were nearly done with the 42; they were just starting.
What goes down must come up.. It was great going down to the canyon but there really was only one way up and it was the mother of all stairways. 512 steps with no breaks! They went on, and on, and on and I felt like the kid asking, "are we there yet?"
They went on like, forever!

Almost to the top.

Charles and Willie hoofing it up the final steps. We all eventually made it up in one piece.
The view from the top.
This house was in really bad shape; likely due to land movement.
Soon we were back in 'civilization' and walking among some serious real estate. One of these has various terraces with an infinity pool on one, a tennis court on the other and I don't know what else..
Our starting point.
After a serious stair walk it's only proper to grab a bite to eat so we headed to the little village at Sunset Blvd. and Barrington Avenue in Brentwood for lunch at the Bellwood Bakery. I lived down the road on Barrington Avenue my Junior year at UCLA and it brought back some memories!
Feel free to join me as I discover hidden parts of Los Angeles and tackle the remaining 3 stair walks.
Steps walked to date: 20,097.
Follow me on Twitter: @ClimbingLA


  1. This one was truly one of the more difficult walks! However, the area was so beautiful it was well worth it. I can't believe they're almost over... Thanks for leading these amazing stair walks.

  2. That´s what I call Good Health and exercise ! Congrats !

  3. Thanks Carlos! We are doing our FINAL walk next Sunday. I can't believe it's almost over...

  4. Our little hiking group did this hike last Thursday Jan 3, 2013 for the 3rd time. Our group has done all 42 hikes one time and about 20 or more of them at least twice. We estimate we hiked 25,000 steps in 2012 alone. We did one hike in reverse and might do all 42 of them in reverse just to change it up.

  5. My hiking group will be doing this soon. See We've hiked around this entire area (all the way to Mulholland) but never did these stairs. There are some nice short ones too, some with catwalks.