Someone asked me the other day “Tally, where do you find all these cool hiking spots?”

Short answer: Google (“Hiking Spots in LA”), but I occasionally get recommendations from friends and Uber/Lyft passengers, one of which recommended the Culver City Stairs, located just outside of downtown Culver City.

“It’s a lengthy outdoor staircase with steps between one and three feet in height. It’s a pretty challenging workout, but the views over Culver City are amazing.”

It was a simple, but convincing pitch, and I immediately made it a priority to check out this hike within the Baldwin Hills Overlook:

  • Distance: About a mile
  • Overlook Elevation Gain: 400 feet
  • Staircase Elevation Gain: 715 feet

I prefer short and strenuous hikes over long and easy ones, so choosing this Stairmaster-of-hell that made my legs burn into oblivion was a no-brainer for me.

Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook – Culver City Stairs

There are two ways to start this hike:

1. You can park on the street (it’s off of a very busy intersection) and start hiking up the cemented pavement to the very top of the hill.
2. Be semi-lazy and drive past all those hikers on the same cemented pavement to the top of the hill, where parking is more accessible at a meager $2.00/hour fee.

I, of course, choose the latter, determined to accomplish the entire hike in 1 hour because I’m cheap.

Beyond the pay stations lies the first trail, which leads up to a beautiful glass building of some sorts (I later find out this is a visitor center).

Culver city stairs
Restrooms to the left, about 200 feet from the base of the parking lot (do you know how rare it is for a hiking trail to have “nice-looking” public restrooms?!)

Culver city stairs restrooms
I could tell right away that the upkeep of this particular hiking spot was second to none compared to most trails that I’ve been on (I didn’t see one beer bottle or ounce of trash).

Culver city stairsA “mini” staircase that leads to a small garden.

Culver city stairs

View of the Visitor Center behind me.

Culver city stairs
The trail from the small garden loops up to your first scenic view of Culver City (you can either drive or hike up the pavement in the photo, as I mentioned earlier).

Culver city stairs
I always silently chuckle when I see a single chair or bench on a trail, especially if the particular trail doesn’t pose much of a challenge.

Culver city stairs bench
You can get a sense of how close this trail is to the city, which reminded me a lot of Runyon Canyon in LA.

Culver city stairs view of culver city
The trail forks off and loops to a rounded-area, (my English skills are coming through guys) showcasing some “negative-space” artwork of animals and plants.

baldwin hills sceneic view
The start of another trail, just behind this “rounded-area,” which descends slightly into the abyss below.

Culver city stairs hike
About 300 feet later, you’ll reach a “playground” of some sorts (and by a playground, I mean a lengthy set of monkey bars to your left).

Culver city stairs

Culver city stairs trail
I continue the trail around to the left to reach a radio tower of some sorts (which kind of reminds me of the ones in Wildwood Canyon).

Culver city stairs radio tower
A sign depicting a synopsis of the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook.

Baldwin hills scenic overlook
I fork left to loop back around to the Visitor Center (I like to cover a hiking trail in its entirety).

Culver city stairs
Once I make my way back toward the Visitor Center, I figure it’s high time to head toward the infamous Culver City Stairs.

Baldwin Hills
But not before I make a quick stop to a gigantic banana-shaped metal contraption!

The Metal Banana of Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook

This tasteful piece of architecture is located about three-quarters up on the paved road that I drove on, so I had to descend a few hundred feet on another forked trail from the Visitor Center.

I always admire the determination in keeping a trail “closed” with a simple, yet effective wooden stick.

Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook trail
After a few easy switchbacks, you’ll hit a sign: Hetzler Road (the paved road) to your left, with the Scenic Overlook Trail to your right.

The banana is off of Hetzler Road, so head that way for some mild amusement.

A jungle-gym in the shape of a fruit. My life goals are officially complete.

metal banana Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook
This would make for a fantastic hammock.

metal banana Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook
The view from the metal banana.

Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook - Culver City
You can either continue down Hetzler Road for a downhill hike or continue back up toward the stairs (and we’re here for the stairs people)!

Hike to the Culver City Stairs!

A pano-shot of the trail from the metal banana, overlooking Culver City and the mountain range beyond.

Culver City Stairs trail
Now here’s where things get interesting:

This part of the trail loops through the Stairs, hitting different “levels.” You could theoretically ascend up the stairs once you reach the first level, but I would recommend you continue on the current trail to descend down to the base of the staircase.

The first “level” of the staircase.

Culver City Stairs

Another “level” of the staircase as I descend further down the trailhead.

Culver City Stairs
The trail is fairly easy and consists of a few switchbacks and mild elevation loss, which is perfect for beginner hikers.

baldwin hills scenic overlook
A quick off-trail that leads to…nowhere.

baldwin hills scenic overlook

baldwin hills scenic overlook trail
Some pretty cool graffiti on this off-trail (check out my post on Sunken City: The Lost Ruins of San Pedro for some epic graffiti artwork).

baldwin hills scenic overlook graffiti
I quickly turn back around to the main trailhead, which leads down to the initial streets of Culver City (the busy intersection I mentioned in the beginning).

baldwin hills scenic overlook
The start of the trailhead up the paved road.

baldwin hills scenic overlook
Like I said before, I like to cover a hiking spot in its entirety, so I decided to hike up the paved road to see what that’s like before (finally) tackling the staircase.

baldwin hills scenic overlook
The paved road is pretty strenuous but doable for even a beginner hiker.

A few hundred feet later, you’ll reach another Baldwin Hills sign (just in case you forgot where you were).

baldwin hills scenic overlook
I pass by the metal banana once more and loop back down to the base of the staircase, ready to tackle the gem of this hiking trail.

baldwin hills scenic overlook

The Culver City Stairs

It doesn’t look so bad from afar, but trust me when I say this was an a**kicker.

 Culver City Stairs photos
Let hell commence.

 Culver City Stairs hike
About a quarter of the way up. So far, it’s not too bad. The steps aren’t too high (no higher than a foot) and I’m moving along pretty swiftly.

 Culver City Stairs hike
One of the “levels” I mentioned earlier regarding this staircase, which is essentially a large gap or “checkpoint” between various parts of the stairs. (This is also connected to the main trailhead).

 Culver City Stairs hike
About halfway up; I notice some hikers opt to walk up the hill instead of the steps themselves.

This is where the tricky part began, where the steps decide to increase in height by about 1-2 feet (and being a whopping 5’4, I had to slow down and leverage my tiny little leg muscles to haul over each step).

 Culver City Stairs hike
The last leg of the staircase, where the steps go back down to normal (about 6 inches).

 Culver City Stairs hike
The view from the top of the staircase (the feeling of conquering a tough climb never gets old).

 Culver City Stairs hike
I make my way back to the Visitor Center and towards my car where I collapse from sheer exhaustion (a slight exaggeration).

 Culver City Stairs hike

Overall Thoughts

Total Time Spent:

  • Hiking: 1 hour
  • Climbing the stairs: 7 minutes (the record for hiking the staircase is supposedly just over 2 minutes)

What I liked the most about the Culver City Stairs hike was how difficult the staircase became. The steps not only changed in height but also became more uneven and rigid to provide an even greater challenge. It starts off fairly easy but quickly slaps you in the face with a 180° turn in difficulty.

I also appreciate how this outdoor staircase is in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Culver City, surrounded by well-kept grounds and easy trails that don’t really become too steep (aside from the Heztler/paved road).

The fact that there are also public restrooms and ample parking (albeit a $2.00/hour fee) at the top of the hill also earns this hike some brownie points.

However, if you’re not a fan of people in general, stay far away because this place is about as touristy as Runyon Canyon and Griffith Park.