Modern Hiker Casey Schreiner

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When Casey Schreiner arrived in Los Angeles for a job in television more than a decade ago, he wasn’t impressed. In fact, he hated it, until he realized there’s more here than meets the eye.

“It’s easy not to look around,” Schreiner told an audience at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) Visitor Center at King Gillette Ranch. “Two and a half years later, I was driving home from work and saw mountains. I’d never seen them before,” he said. 

A friend invited Schreiner to go on a hike in his newly discovered San Gabriel Mountains. It changed his life. 

The former “indoor kid” and reluctant L.A. transplant went on to found Modern Hiker in 2006 as a way to document his outdoor adventures in Southern California. He’s now a trail expert and the author of the popular guide, “Day Hiking Los Angeles.”

Modern Hiker has become one of the most popular hiking websites. It’s also a source of regional and national news and increasingly covers trails all over the country. Schreiner has become a passionate advocate for parks, including the Rim of the Valley expansion, which would more than double the size of the SMMNRA.

Schreiner was at the Visitor Center to give a special talk on the best trails in the Santa Monica Mountains. The event, sponsored by the Western National Parks Association and the National Park Service, attracted a standing-room-only crowd. 

Schreiner selected Santa Monica Mountains-adjacent Wildlwood Park, in Thousand Oaks, as the all-around best hike in the area. “It’s not technically in the Santa Monicas but it has the best variety,” he said, citing the park’s mesas, canyons, waterfall and kid-friendly sandstone rock outcroppings that include a small cave.

“There are tons of trails and it’s bike and dog friendly,” Schreiner said. “If you call ahead, you can have a tour of the carbon neutral wastewater plant there, too,” he added.    

Schreiner’s choice for most photogenic park in the area is Upper Las Virgenes Canyon, including Chesebroro and Palo Comado canyons and Lasky Mesa.

It’s stunning in spring,” he said. “Often you’re the only person on the trail.”

Schreiner picked Charmlee Wilderness Park, off Encinal Canyon, for its spectacular ocean views and spring wildflowers, and Grotto Trail at Circle X Ranch off Yerba Buena on the Ventura County side of the mountain range, for families with energetic older children who enjoy boulder hopping and climbing.

Paramount Ranch, with its western movie set, was his choice for film history, while the San Vicente Mountain Nike missile site made his list for real world history. He recommends the Mandeville Canyon trailhead on a weekday. “Parking is very limited,” he warned.

Sandstone Peak, the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains was not just Schreiner’s first choice for overall favorite in the local mountains, it’s also on his list of top five hikes in Southern California.  

“It’s the best part of the Backbone Trail,” he said. “And, at 3,100 feet, there’s a chance of hiking through the clouds and seeing the peaks popping up through the marine layer. A friend calls it ‘Cloud City.’”

Schreiner is an advocate for exploration. He recommends expanding one’s horizons and hiking new trails not only in the Santa Monica Mountains, but in the Simi and Verdugo Hills and the San Gabriel Mountains. 

“[Our mountains] are accessible to everybody; they belong to you,” he said. “You have the right to go hiking.”


More information on Modern Hiker and trails in the area can be found at For upcoming events in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, including ranger- and docent-led hikes and upcoming talks, visit


Suzanne Guldimann

Suzanne Guldimann is an author, artist, and musician who lives in Malibu and loves the Santa Monica Mountains. She has worked as a journalist reporting on local news and issues for more than a decade, and is the author of nine books of music for the harp. Suzanne's newest book, "Life in Malibu", explores local history and nature. She can be reached at

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