LOS ANGELES–“L.A. is a great big freeway,” as Dionne Warwick famously sang. Except when it isn’t. You will, of course, find vast endless roads and expressways choked with traffic in Los Angeles, but you’ll also find parkland — sprawling, picturesque green spaces with magnificent views, meant to be enjoyed in sensible shoes.

Loews, my hotel in Hollywood, is right next to the TCL Chinese Theatre — formerly Grauman’s — on the Walk of Fame, where people dressed up as movie stars and superheroes pose for pictures with tourists. My room, though, looks out over the Hollywood Hills, where mansions stud the slopes and the Hollywood sign glows in the morning sunlight, somehow smaller than you may imagine, but still visible from nearly everywhere.

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I’ve had a hectic six months of travel, eating rich food and being driven everywhere, so I’ve come to Los Angeles to get fit and healthy, and after an acai bowl for breakfast in the hotel restaurant, my first hike begins in a parking lot in Bronson Canyon-Griffith Park. On a cloudless morning, the trail is full of prosperous-looking Angelenos, jogging or walking their many dogs.

The wide path up Brush Canyon hugs the side of the hills, a wide arc that begins with the city behind you and then, after a few tantalizing glimpses of the Hollywood sign, turns again to face downtown Los Angeles, spread out as far as the distant blue hills on the horizon. The air is remarkably clear, and it’s hard to believe you’re barely 10 minutes away from the guys in the Spider-Man and Transformer suits in front of the Chinese Theatre.

You keep climbing along a series of switchbacks until the sign and its companion radio tower appear in front of you. Just below it, you’ll find other visitors to Los Angeles in what can only be described as a designated selfie zone, where I meet a young couple who’d won a trip to appear on the Ellen DeGeneres Show that day. It’s a very L.A. moment, and not the first of the trip.

Later that afternoon, I make my way to a parking lot off Mulholland Dr. in the hills above Laurel Canyon. The Betty B. Dearing Trail loops up and down the slope of Fryman Canyon Park, overlooking Laurel, which was a hub for stars of the folk and rock scene in the late ’60s — everyone from Joni Mitchell and Carole King to Frank Zappa and Jim Morrison.

The sun starts to go down and the last dog walkers hit the trail. The TreePeople has its headquarters here. The urban environmental group has a 40-year history and blazed the trail for similar non-profits all over the world. The view from the side of Laurel Canyon over Studio City and North Hollywood has certainly changed since Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills and Nash partied here, but the view over the blinking street lights over the trees is remarkable.

Even more than Laurel, Topanga Canyon has retained its counterculture image, and the drive through the trees past houses tucked into the slopes is full of glimpses of hippie culture stubbornly thriving decades after Woodstock. My hike begins in another parking lot, just by the entrance to Topanga State Park, a vast (4,451 hectares) green space crowning stretches of the Santa Monica Mountains. Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush, recorded nearby in his home studio, is cued up on my headphones, but I forget to press play.

I take the Musch Trail, which begins in a sunny meadow and quickly plunges into tunnels through the brush, emerging every minute or two with a sweeping view of the canyon and the mountains beyond. I go from bush to meadow and back again until the path emerges near the worn rocky peaks of the mountains and a badland landscape. It all seems familiar, somehow, but then it occurs to me that Hollywood has been using these city parklands as film locations for decades, and that I’m revisiting memories of B-movie westerns.

At one point, I hear voices on the trail ahead of me, and two slim, ponytailed young men emerge from a bend in the path, twirling Baoding balls in their hands while chanting “hare krishna” in unison. This is, without a doubt, the most California moment of my whole trip.

My trip ends where the mouth of one of Topanga’s canyons empties, into the Pacific Ocean at Malibu. My last walk starts by the pier — shorter and less thronged than the one down the beach at Santa Monica, and somehow more perfect. The beach stretches for miles in either direction, past beach houses that range from palatial to scruffy, and it’s a good place to breathe deep, enjoy the sun, and contemplate this strange, unprecedented city.

Rick McGinnis was hosted by the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board, which didn’t review or approve this story.

Rick McGinnis was hosted by the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board, which didn’t review or approve this story.

When you go

Get there: Everyone flies to LAX, but Air Canada (aircanada.com) is partnered with United in Star Alliance and has multiple daily flights to Los Angeles.

Get around: You can rent a car, but I made my way from hike to hike in L.A. using Uber, which was even able to get a car to me way out by the entrance to Topanga State Park in less than 20 minutes.

Stay:Loews Hollywood Hotel (loewshotels.com/hollywood-hotel ) is the “Oscar hotel,” located right by Hollywood Blvd. and Highland Ave., next to the Dolby Theatre. Stay where the stars stay, within sight of the Hollywood sign.

Do your research:Discoverlosangeles.com

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