Los Angeles boasts a diverse landscape that has no shortage of panoramic views. The choices are endless – from high in the Santa Monica Mountains to lesser-known city parks that offer memorable panoramas of the downtown skyline on a clear evening. During the day, take in the expansive city below and beyond that the Pacific Ocean. At night, thousands of twinkling lights make for an unforgettable view. It will be hard to narrow down where to go, but hopefully, this guide will help make the decision process easier. Here are the best Los Angeles view spots that should be on your list.
The Best Los Angeles View Points
The city’s largest park is located at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains and is known for its 360 views of the City of Angels and the mountains. One of the main sights is the Griffith Observatory, which offers stunning views of the Los Angeles Basin, including Downtown LA, and has increased in popularity since it was featured in La La Land in 2016.
One of the most popular activities in the park is hiking, with access to 53 miles of trails, including numerous vantage points of the iconic Hollywood Sign. A popular hike is from the Observatory parking lot to Mount Hollywood, the highest point in the park. The trail is 2.5-miles round trip and has a gradual incline with 500 feet gain in elevation. All trails in the park close at dusk.
There are several options for getting to Griffith Park. If you are driving, your best bet is the free public parking lot next to the Greek Theater (open when there is no concert) and you can make the trek up to the Observatory on E Observatory Rd. Public transportation is a great alternative with the DASH Observatory/Los Feliz public bus that stops at the Vermont/Sunset Metro Red Line Station and drops passengers off in front of the Observatory every 20-25 minutes. The bus also stops at Mount Hollywood Drive for easy access to hiking trails.
LA City Hall Observation Deck (Tom Bradley Tower)
One of the most underrated (and free) spots in the city to have unparalleled views of Downtown LA and beyond on a clear day. Nestled in between tall buildings is City Hall, a historic building with its art deco tower, neoclassical base, and stunning rotunda. The visitor’s entrance is: 201 N Main St Los Angeles, CA 90012 and you need to check in and get a visitor’s badge.
To get to the observation deck, you need to take two elevators. The first elevator in the rotunda is the “Express Car Only” that will take you to the 22nd floor and from there you need to take a second elevator that goes to floors 22-26 and then get off on the 26th floor (check out all the portraits of LA’s mayors) and walk up the stairs to the 27th floor (there is also a separate elevator).
Hours are 8 am -5 pm Monday through Friday. Parking can be tricky downtown, but there are some paid lots nearby. If you are taking public transportation, nearby Union Station is within walking distance (10 minutes) and offers numerous Metro lines as well as Amtrak and Metrolink options.
Address: 200 N Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Runyon Canyon Park
This popular spot to hike offers spectacular views of the city, Hollywood sign, and the Santa Monica Mountains. It is known for its frequent celebrity sightings due to its close proximity to the Hollywood Hills. There is a liberal off-leash policy that applies to over half of the 160 acres of the park.
There are five ways to enter the park: two gates in Hollywood at the southern end on Fuller and Vista Streets, a gate on Runyon Canyon Road and Mulholland Drive on the northern side of the park, a gate at Solar Drive by the trail on West Ridge on the northwestern side of the park, and a footpath from the top of Wattles Garden. The trailhead at Mulholland is the only one with a small parking lot, the rest only have street parking.
The most popular (and easiest) route is on the paved Runyon Canyon Road, which is accessible from the Fuller Street entrance. The other two trails from this gate: Star Trail and Hero Trail are medium and difficult respectively. Make sure to get there on the early side, since it can get quite hot later in the day.
Universal City Overlook
Built in 1984 for the Los Angeles Summer Olympics, this overlook is a great spot to view the San Fernando Valley, including Universal Studios Hollywood in the distance. It is located on Mulholland Drive, the famous road starts on Cahuenga Boulevard, winds through the Santa Monica Mountains, and ends up in Leo Carrillo State Beach in Malibu. The Universal City Overlook is one of the seven vista points on Mulholland that is maintained by the Mountain Recreation & Conservation Authority.
One of the best (and busiest) times is at dusk when the lights in the valley are turning on and the setting sun is casting a soft glow. Get there early and bring some takeout and be treated to one of the best views in the area. There is parking on both sides of Mulholland.
Address: 7701 Mulholland Drive, Studio City, CA
Mulholland Scenic Overlook
This is another famous Mulholland Drive overlook that is one of the best places to pull over and take in the view of LA below, away from all the hustle and bustle. From this vantage point, you look out onto Laurel Canyon and all the way to Hollywood and Sunset Boulevard. If you do not want to drive the entirety of Mulholland Drive, you can always drive up the mountain from LA through Laurel Canyon. Enjoy the day views or the city at night – both are stunning.
There is parking on both sides of Mulholland. If you come at night, be wary of the narrow, winding roads.
Address: 8591 Mulholland Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90046
Jerome C. Daniel Overlook above the Hollywood Bowl
If you are seeking the classic LA skyline shot, this Mulholland Drive overlook provides unforgettable views that include the Hollywood Bowl, the Griffith Observatory, Hollywood, and Capitol Records to name a few famous landmarks. On a clear day you can see all the way to Catalina Island. This stop is the easternmost vista on Mulholland and you can start here and then continue on down the road to experience the others.
Parking is relatively easy on the side of Mulholland. There is also a small parking lot, but it can be hard to find a spot at peak times. The overlook is open sunrise to sunset. Dogs are allowed.
Address: 7036 Mulholland Dr Hollywood, CA 90068
This easy 2-mile hike in Will Rogers State Historic Park (Pacific Palisades) rewards you with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, Downtown LA, Catalina Island, and the Santa Monica and San Gabriel Mountains. The trail has an easy grade (311 feet elevation gain) and is mostly on a well-maintained dirt fire road, making it ideal for families with little kids. There are picnic tables at the top of Inspiration Point, so you can enjoy a packed lunch once you reach the summit.
There are two trailheads. The main one is located directly behind the entrance kiosk in the parking lot. There are bathrooms and water available here. The second trailhead is located near the edge of a lawn, next to a ranch house. This one has a much more gradual incline, but there is no parking available close by and you will need to cross the lawn to reach it.
Parking is $12. There is free parking outside of the park on Will Rodgers State Park Road. Open 8 am – sunset.
Address: 1501 Will Rogers State Park Road, Los Angeles, CA 90272
Santa Monica Pier
For some of the best views of the beach and ocean, this iconic pier never disappoints. The pier was built in 1909 and was the first concrete pier of its kind on the West Coast. It is now a National Historic Landmark and is home to Pacific Park, a small amusement park, as well as providing designated points for fishing.
One of the most notable sights on the pier is the Pacific Wheel, where you can get an aerial view of Santa Monica and beyond. This Ferris Wheel is the first solar-powered wheel in the world. Keep your eyes out for special light shows across the wheel’s surface, whether it is in honor of a Dodgers big win or celebrating holidays like Halloween and Dia de la Muertos. Single rides are $10.
Address: 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401
The views of LA rival the architecture and grounds of this famed art museum which houses an impressive collection of European historic and contemporary art. Get there after 3 pm to walk around for a few hours, before being treated to a spectacular sunset. Famous pieces include Vincent Van Gogh’s Irises and Rembrandt’s self-portrait Rembrandt Laughing. Center of Photographs is not to be missed, which features some of the earliest photography up to modern-day photos.
Outside, The Central Garden is a tranquil space to get fresh air and its plants change with the seasons. The Cactus Garden is a great place to take in views of the city.
Admission is free but requires a timed-entry ticket. Closed on Mondays. Parking is $20 per vehicle ($15 after 3 pm). Park underground and then take the tram up to the museum.
Address: 1200 Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90049
Founded in 1886, Elysian Park is one of LA’s oldest and largest parks. It is known as one of the best spots to take in views of Dodger Stadium and Downtown Los Angeles. Fun fact: the park hosted shooting events during the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The park is located right next to the baseball stadium but feels miles away with an expanse of green that is perfect for picnics and BBQs. There is a children’s playground, restrooms, and the popular 2.8-mile loop Elysian Park Wildflower Trail that leads visitors to more stunning views and has colorful wildflowers during springtime.
Parking is free at the on-site parking lot. The park is open from sunrise to sunset daily.
Address: 929 Academy Road, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Manhattan Beach Pier
Known for its iconic red-roofed Roundhouse Aquarium and turquoise railings, this pier offers great views of the surrounding Pacific Ocean and South Bay shoreline. Built in the 1920s, it is the oldest concrete pier on the West Coast. The pier is located at the end of Manhattan Beach Boulevard, the city’s main thoroughfare, making it easily accessible to visitors who are visiting Manhattan Beach.
Street parking can be a little tricky, but there are public parking structures a few blocks away that are metered.
Address: 2 Manhattan Beach Blvd, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Vista Hermosa Natural Park
Located in East LA, this park offers scenic views of Downtown LA from the south side of a loop trail. There are also picnic areas on the grassy lawn, a children’s play structure, and a popular bench for resting, taking photos, and admiring the view. This is a great alternative if nearby Echo Park is too crowded. Afterward, you can head to nearby Grand Central Market for some delicious food and drink.
There is a small parking lot by the west entrance, as well as street parking where you will need to take a short walk up to the park. Public restrooms are available. The park closes at sunset. Dogs are allowed.
Address: 100 N Toluca St, Los Angeles, CA 90026
Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook
This city overlook is located just southwest of downtown Culver City and is commonly known by locals as the Culver City Stairs because of the staircase that leads to the top and can be challenging for those not used to the steep incline. An alternative to the staircase is the hiking trail that winds along the hill and there is also an easy loop trail at the summit where you can see a good view of the Hollywood Sign, the LA skyline, and the Pacific Ocean. This moderately challenging trail takes on average just under an hour to complete and is around 1.3 miles round trip.
Parking is $2/hour or $6/day and is available near the top of the park by the visitor center. The park is open from 8 am to sunset. Dogs are not allowed.
Address: 6300 Hetzler Rd, Culver City, CA 90232
Echo Park Lake
A vibrant city park in East LA that is known for its swan paddle boats and view of Downtown LA in the distance. On weekends, the park is filled with locals BBQing and strolling along the lakefront. There are always vendors around the perimeter, where you can pick up elote to snack on as you people watch on the lawn. It’s best to get there on the early side to beat the crowds and heat. Afterward, head to Sunset Boulevard for brunch.
There is limited street parking in the surrounding residential neighborhoods. Reservations are required for the paddle boats. Rentals are $11 per adult, and $6 per child (17 years and younger). Night rides are also available from sunset to 10 pm (the last boats go out an hour before closing).
Address: 751 Echo Park Ave Los Angeles, CA 90026
Lake Hollywood Park
This Hollywood Hills park offers up excellent views of the nearby Hollywood sign, making it a great photo opportunity. The park is dog-friendly, where you will most likely see happy pups playing on the lawn. There are a few picnic tables on the edge of the park, as well as a small children’s playground. Bring food for a picnic and then afterward hike one of the nearby trails like the Innsdale Trailhead, that also boasts great views of the Hollywood Sign.
Street parking is available. There are no restrooms.
Address: 3160 Canyon Lake Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90068
Photo sources: Runyon Canyon, Universal City Outlook, Hollywood Bowl, Inspiration Point, Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, Echo Park Lake
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