As a Los Angeles local, chef Jason Park knows the ins and outs of the region’s best hikes.
Chef Jason Park’s vacations have always centered on food. As the owner and executive chef of Santa Monica’s Maru, his days are always filled with brainstorming new dishes or searching for the perfect ingredient.
With an extensive menu, featuring dishes composed of farmer’s market ingredients, steakhouse offerings – plus an omakase nigiri and sashimi program – Chef Park’s dishes are the perfect marriage of Asian cuisine and French culinary techniques. For the last decade, Chef Park has planned his vacations around the weekly Santa Monica Farmer’s Markets – flying out Wednesday afternoon and returning by Tuesday afternoon to ensure he’s ready for his mid-week shopping spree, in order to pick the very best and freshest ingredients. Even when he’s on vacation, food is never far from his mind. More often than not, his vacation days are packed from breakfast to dinner eating at a variety of must-try restaurants that are highly recommended by his foodie friends.
When he’s not in the kitchen, Chef Park likes to spend time exploring hiking trails around Los Angeles. As a Los Angeles local, he knows the ins and outs of the region’s best hikes – from private, permit-only trails, to well-known Angeleno favorites. Chef Park was kind enough to share his favorite hikes with us.
1. San Gorgonio
Distance: 17.3 miles. Time: ~10 hours. Difficulty: Strenuous. Elevation: 5,840 feet. Dogs: Yes. When to go: Jun-Oct
FYI! Permit required
This was one of the most beautiful hikes I have done. There is a portion that is lush with green and water running through a quarter of the way up the trail, as well as good cover through most of the hike. We also crossed paths with some rams at the summit. We’ve hiked this in the middle of a storm, where we had to trek through 2-4 inches of mild flooding on the trail. At the summit there were remnants of a hailstorm and it was incredibly cold. We’ve also done this when it was dry, but it was still awe inspiring – so beautiful! As part of our training for Mt. Whitney, this is a total butt kicker and not recommended for beginners.
2. Mount Baldy
Distance: 10.33 miles. Time: 7 hours. Difficulty: Very difficult. Elevation: 3,950 feet. When to go: Fall, summer
FYI! Adventure Pass required to park on the street or park at the ski resort up the street.
This is a great hike for anyone looking to conquer a challenge and is known to be a great primer for Mount Whitney. We hiked up the ski hut side, which is very lush and mostly covered. The last hundred yards have very little cover since it is above the tree line. When we descend, we complete the loop and head towards the ski lifts. I always run down from the summit and elect to take the ski lift down or run down the fire road. This was another one of our hikes to train and prepare for Mount Whitney, which is very difficult but incredibly beautiful with great views.
Distance: 5.8 miles. Time: 2-3 hours. Difficulty: Moderate. Elevation: 1,503 feet. Dogs: Yes. When to go: Year-round
This is a very fun hike to undertake, with zigzagging trails up the mountainside until you reach the summit. Moderately difficult, there are plenty of places to sit down and eat with your friends; the view is great, especially at night. There’s not much to visually stimulate you until you reach the top, where you’ll see an old abandoned hotel/resort; but when you do reach the summit, there is much to explore and enjoy. At the back of the property, you’ll find out exactly why it’s called Echo Mountain.
4. Parker Mesa
Distance: 7.28 miles. Time: 4 hours. Difficulty: Moderate. Elevation: 1,292 feet. When to go: Year-round
This is a great hike for families and is not too difficult. There are some portions that are not covered, but there is good coverage for most of it. Choose a cool day to go, unless you like the sun. It’s a good balance of beautiful, easy enough to have good conversation, and at the end there is a bench to sit and enjoy the view of the coast. We’ve even run into deer on the trail!
Distance: 4.6 miles. Time: 2.5 hours. Difficulty: Moderate. Elevation: 1,135 feet. When to go: Year-round
There’s a good view at the top as well as a bench located just before the summit’s top. We usually head up to the bridge and descend down the switchbacks. We’ve used this trail to train for the Mud Run. I hike this trail quite often, since it’s close by Maru. You can get a good amount of training done in an hour or so, especially if you run downhill non-stop after you’ve reached the peak.
Article written by JASON PARK, Executive chef/owner at Maru, (Santa Monica, CA.)