3 LA Hikes To Abandoned Ruins

Nuclear war escape tunnels, 127 year old mines, and abandoned zoos. This is what the LA mountains have to offer.

People have come and gone, but the remains of what they left behind can still be seen today. If you consider yourself an adventurer, we’ve got three abandoned places you can hike to this weekend.

Let’s jump right to it!

Shoemaker Canyon Road

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 5 miles

Elevation Gain: 1404 ft

While in the midst of the Cold War,, Los Angelinos feared a nuclear attack from the Soviets. Because there’s only so many exits out of Socal, they decided to build a road through the San Gabriel Mountains. This road is now known as Shoemaker Canyon Rd, named after the Shoemaker Mine.

The road weaves its way through precipitous mountain cliffs, abandoned bee farms, and of course two long tunnels. Construction on the tunnels began in 1956 and was completed in 1964. The project was permanently shut down in 1969 after conservationists and a limited budget dealt the final blow.

Although the tunnels remain a relic of an eerie past, they’ve become a popular hiking destination.

Two bonus drainage tunnels underneath the road add to the excitement, and the parking lot itself boasts a viewpoint of the San Gabriel River and Heaton Flats 500 feet below.

I highly suggest hiking to the tunnels in the spring, fall, or winter. If you visit in the summer, take plenty of water and a hat as there is no shade aside from the two tunnels.

You can also extend the trail by hiking up to Rattlesnake Peak via the same trailhead as Shoemaker.

Old LA Zoo

Distance: 2.5 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation Gain: 383 ft

Built in 1912, the Old LA Zoo housed about 15 animals, some of which included bears, bobcats, ostriches, and monkeys. By 1949, the zoo was home to over 1000 animals. However, all was not well.

The zoo was running on an extremely limited budget from the start. Cages were crowded, and some animals lived in less than ideal living conditions.

In 1958 a rally to increase the zoo’s budget was initiated, and in 1966, the Old LA Zoo was abandoned with the opening of the new LA Zoo we all know and love.

You can still explore the spooky Old LA Zoo, which has become a popular hiking destination, especially near Halloween season.

Multiple structures lay side by side in the woodsy hills of Griffith Park, the most iconic being the old polar bear cages. The easy hike consists of a dirt road that boasts amazing views of the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forest.

If you visit on a weekend, you can ride the ferris wheel at the trailhead which was built in 1926 and was the inspiration for Walt’s Disneyland!

Big Horn Mine

Distance: 4 Miles

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation Gain: 587 ft

The Big Horn Mine was founded in 1895 by Charles Vincent Dougherty (later known as Charles Tom Vincent after killing 3 men in Arizona and fleeing the state) while hunting for bighorn sheep.

The hike begins at Vincent’s Gap and proceeds via a single track crowded by tall pine trees and breathtaking views of Mount San Antonio. Be very careful if you visit shortly after a snowfall as there are certain sections on the trail that get very narrow. Should you slip it’ll be a long way down.

Once you arrive at the mine, you’ll notice the remains of what used to be the building. You can venture inside the structure, but the real fun is inside the mine. The portal (entrance) is located near the back of the building.

Inside the mine, tunnels split into different directions, huge pits litter the area, and the only thing you can hear is the sound of droplets falling from the ceiling. There’s a lake inside the mountain, but you can only see a small portion as the rest of the lake disappears into another adit (tunnel).

When heading back to the trailhead, don’t forget to take a detour and visit Vincent’s cabin which still stands today! Vincent lived by himself in that tiny cabin located about a mile away from the mine.