High above Long Beach, Signal Hill gets the green light for a hike that delivers rich history, epic views, unique art, more epic views, and one of the best winter sunsets in Southern California. Start at Discovery Well Park, where in 1921 one of the biggest oil strikes in American history occurred (the wells are still active), for a 2-mile round-trip trek to Hilltop Park and back. The hike begins on a gravel road in the northwest point of the park near one of many oil derricks. When you quickly reach a dead-end, climb the stairs on your left and pause to admire the Unity Monument (honoring those who lost their lives on 9/11/2001) and jaw-dropping views of the greater LA basin and the San Gabriels to the north. Head north and uphill along paved Panorama Road, which soon connects with a dirt pedestrian path that hugs a future nature preserve, currently scattered with active derricks. It’s a one-of-a-kind view of LA, with green hills and oil derricks in the foreground, stretching clear to the downtown skyline and its mountain backdrop. Continuing on, you’ll pass workout stations and interpretive signs that tell about Signal Hill’s distinctive history.
After nearly a mile, you’ll reach Hilltop Park, a pleasant green space with a panoramic vista and, if you time it right, an awe-inspiring sunset. The descending orange glow blankets downtown Long Beach, the port of San Pedro, and beyond to Santa Catalina Island. Be sure to turn your gaze to admire the various art installations that offer intriguing framing opportunities for your photos. After you’ve satisfied your sunset selfie quota, head back the way you came—or linger after dark for a glorious display of city lights.
To get to Discovery Well Park from the north, take I-405 to the Spring St. exit. Turn left onto Spring and right onto Temple Ave., which becomes Obispo Ave. After 0.5 mile, turn right onto E. Hill St. After a quarter-mile, turn right onto Temple Ave. and enter the park on your immediate right.
From the south, take the Cherry Ave./Signal Hill exit off the I-405. From the exit ramp, make an immediate left onto Temple Ave., which becomes Obispo Ave. Then follow the directions above. Dog-friendly!