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Combining the massive sprawl we call home with the natural beauty surrounding it, Los Angeles and Southern California is home to some incredible views. Looking for a hike, or just your next Instagram-post? Either way, L.A. has you covered. These are 6 of the best viewpoints to take it all in.

By The Editors

Sun, May 2, 2021 08:00 PM PST

Please note that the typical hours for these viewpoints may have been altered because of COVID-19. Make sure to verify that your lookout of choice is still open. Please obey park rules and for the sake of wildfires, keep a leave-no-trace mentality when visiting. Keep our city wonderful!

Overlooking a vast piece of Earth is one of the most rewarding things a person can experience. With Los Angeles set in such a dramatic landscape, lookouts abound. Viewpoints almost act like a social media beauty filter, blending all blemishes seen up close into a beautiful canvas from afar. A view of LA is MUCH more beautiful from a mountainside than a traffic light.

Below is a list we compiled of our favorite lookout points around the city. Some require a bit of planning and execution to get to, while others are simply drive-and-you’re-there. All of them present our city as the vast, beautiful work of art we know and love.

The Secret Swing at Elysian Park

929 Academy Road, Los Angeles

Woman swinging from the Secret Swing in Elysian Park, the dry landscape of rural Los Angeles spreads out below.
Secret Swing in Elysian Park. Definitely Insta-worthy.

If you want to make an impression with your next Instagram post, this might be the best place to do it. The Swing offers stunning views of downtown and the surrounding mountains. The hike from the park to the Swing is steep and can be slippery, so we recommend you bring some good shoes. While the park feels safe during the day, it does get shady after hours. Parking is free and the park itself is open sunrise to sunset.

Mount Wilson

Mt Wilson Red Box Road, Angeles National Forest

If you prefer a viewpoint that takes a bit of nature exploration, look no further than Mount Wilson. A plethora of trails and lookouts dot the hiking system, but the Mount Wilson viewpoint is the most accessible. Take the Angeles Crest Highway up into the mountains and turn south onto Mt Wilson Red Box Road. Carve up some corners until you reach the Skyline Park Picnic Site and take the short hike to the viewpoint. On clear days, downtown LA is visible with the sparkling Pacific glinting in the distance.

Yamashiro Restaurant, Hollywood

1999 N Sycamore Ave, Los Angeles

View of Los Angeles from Yamashiro Restaurant in Hollywood.
Yamashiro Restaurant - Photo by @yamashirola

The original mansion was opened in 1914 and has since been a historic landmark in Los Angeles for generations. In the late 1920’s, Yamashiro was briefly home to the “400 Club”, a convention for A-listers from the golden age of Hollywood. After suffering post World War II anti-Japanese vandalism, it was restored by Thomas O. Glover in the 1950’s. Offering some fantastic views of the city, Yamashiro is also home to a 600-year-old pagoda and many styled rooms and buildings. Make sure to reserve a spot at Table 8, you won’t regret it.

Runyon Canyon Park

2001 N Fuller Ave, Los Angeles

Green metal park bench in Runyon Canyon Park
Have a seat! Runyon Canyon Park

Make sure to plan ahead on this one, but it’s well worth it! Runyon Canyon is very popular, and can get quite busy, but there’s a reason for that. Staggering views of the city surround you on all sides, including views of the Sunset Strip, Hollywood Sign, Pacific Ocean and Los Angeles Basin. We recommend arriving for an early morning trip to avoid the rush. Parking is also notoriously tricky, avoid any ‘No Parking’ zones because you’ll find a pesky piece of paper under your windshield wiper.

Hollywood Bowl Lookout

7036 Mulholland Dr, Los Angeles

View of the Los Angeles skyline from the Hollywood Bowl Lookout.
Hollywood Bowl Lookout - Recognize that skyline?

Set right above the Hollywood Bowl concert venue, the lookout is a perfect spot to behold LA in all its beauty. Perfect views of the Hollywood Sign and downtown await you. However, the parking lot is criminally small, and street parking might not be the best idea along Mulholland. The Lookout is also popular with tour groups, so plan accordingly and try and get there in the early morning hours.

Griffith Observatory

2800 E Observatory Rd, Griffith Park

Griffith Observatory, and the Los Angeles sprawl spreading out below - sun hag just set and the great purple hue is everywhere.
This view is massive, and oh so very Los Angeles.

Did you really think we forgot about this one? The Griffith is a true Los Angeles staple and an instantly recognizable landmark. The Observatory has had a vast amount of screen time since its completion, so put yourself in the footsteps of famous actors while you’re gawking at the views. The vistas at night are essential and the scintillating lights of Los Angeles are mesmerizing. Parking is $10/hr, which can add up quickly. We recommend that you visit during a weekday because weekends are a madhouse.

Editor's Note: This article was first published by Collin Morgan in the summer of 2020. Now, with the pandemic coming to an end (right?) we figured we all need to get out again.

This article was compiled by the editors of LACar.

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