Some of Daniel Ventura’s earliest memories are of hikes with his family. He vividly recalls a childhood outing to Topanga State Park, where he climbed Eagle Rock, an experience that sparked his ongoing love affair with hiking. “Every hike had something cool at the end, and about a year ago I thought I should start taking photos and start to document that a little bit,” he says.
The Hungarian-born, SoCal-raised Ventura — now a 22-year-old student at California State University, Northridge — runs the LA Hikes Instagram, where nearly 14,000 people follow his outdoor adventures. Each post shows a scenic photo from a recent hike (usually taken by Ventura, but sometimes shared by another Instagram user), along with details about its length and difficulty level, and any extra information hikers might need. (Is parking a hassle? Is there any shade along the trail? Can I bring my dog?)
While outsiders quite reasonably tend to think of the City of Angels as a concrete jungle, it’s also a hiker’s paradise — if you know where to look. Even once you do, it can be daunting to find parking for the many trails that don’t have designated lots, or to locate a trailhead that’s a half a mile off the main road.
The beauty of LA Hikes is that Ventura provides all the information that would-be day-trippers need, while the often-surprising photographs (really, that’s near L.A.?) give followers the motivation to actually go. It’s simple, but it works: Comments on Ventura’s photos are full of Instagrammers tagging friends with notes like, “Dude, let’s hit up this spot,” and, “This one’s next on our list!” If they need more guidance — driving directions from a particular area, or advice on the necessary footwear — Ventura is quick to respond to questions in the comments.
Not surprisingly, he favors trails that offer something remarkable to see at the end, like a bridge, a waterfall or a spectacular view, so that hikers feel like they’ve accomplished something. He also loves hikes that highlight the area’s history, for which he has a remarkable aptitude: Asked about L.A.’s notorious Murphy Ranch — built in the 1930s, apparently by Nazi sympathizers hoping to create a self-sustaining compound — Ventura launches into nearly a century’s worth of background, culminating in the recent closure of the ranch’s most famous building, a powerhouse that hikers could, until recently, climb inside.
Ventura has created an LA Hikes website and Facebook page, and has also started organizing group hikes and activities. He has visions of eventually growing LA Hikes as a business — but for the moment he’s still just a college kid with an Instagram account.
“I just want to inspire people to hike new trails, be active, be healthy and explore the L.A. area.”
Hike photos and descriptions by Daniel Ventura.