People are just starting to discover the new Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook state park, which opened in June. It’s major news for those of us in the Culver City and Baldwin Hills area who like to run, exercise and hike – and it’s also for people who want to take in a dazzling 300-degree view without hiring a helicopter.
I’ve heard people say it offers the best viewpoint in the city, and even in the summer haze we’ve been having, it looks like a contender.
You can drive to the top, where there’s ample parking and a couple of swanky looking new buildings (a visitor’s center and a pavilion), plus gardens with native, drought tolerant plants and a pretty fair amount of bird life.
But you can also walk, run and hike to the top on some excellent dirt trails that intersect a sure-to-become-famous set of stairs. I haven’t counted these stairs yet, but there’s something wonderfully crude and challenging about them. They’re grey fieldstone slabs set at rough intervals into the hillside, and from the bottom, they remind me of the pyramids at Monte Alban in Oaxaca, Mexico. They at least look that long and straight up.
My first trip up was at mid-morning on a July day when the sun was already high enough to make me wish I’d come earlier. I had to stop and rest a couple of times, but I’m proud to say I made it up, and had energy to spare for some jaunts down the adjacent trails.
When you reach the top, you’ll come to a wide, railed pavilion for taking in the views — the climb from the bottom of the stairs to there is 315 feet, to 400 feet above sea level. Beyond that is the visitors center (also easily accessible from the parking lot, for those who drive up) where you’ll find bathrooms and a water fountain.
The good news is, you can take a jaunt back down the wide, winding fire road trails, rather than having to navigate back down the steep and uneven stairs.
In fact, you can avoid the steps entirely if you like, and just follow the trails up and down. They’re a mile from bottom to top so it makes a two-mile round trip for hikers ( four if you do it twice). Some of the people I chatted with were doing it multiple times, at a sprint.
Shade is very hard to find, so take that into consideration in timing your visit. Hats, sunscreen and water bottles are all good to have.
The park is open 8 a.m. to sunset every day. The entrance is on the south side of Jefferson, between Rodeo and Duquesne, and is well marked.