You want to "escape" LA? Two words for you, Susan: Las Vegas. You'll get all the escapism you need there. But something tells me you're looking for something a little more rugged—and closer to downtown Los Angeles—than the high-roller's suite at Caesar's Palace. So here are some other suggestions.
The Santa Monica Mountains
Rising as high as 3,000 feet, this ridgeline of dusty peaks runs for 40 miles, from the Hollywood Hills to Point Mogu on Malibu's north coast. Much of it is contained within the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, a patchwork of local, state, and federal parks and protected lands. Running along spine of the mountain peaks is the well-maintained 68-mile Backbone Trail, open to mountain bikers, horseback riders, and hikers.
Will Rogers State Park
The Backbone Trail actually terminates here, at the 186-acre park in Pacific Palisades that houses the sprawling former ranch house and estate of the legendary Will Rogers. The land was donated to the state in 1994, nine years after his death in a plane crash. You can go for a trail ride by horseback, or hike the three-mile loop to Inspiration Point, where, on a clear day, you can see the city, Santa Monica Bay, and sometimes even Catalina Island.
Mount Baldy,Angeles National Forest
Standing 10,060 feet above sea level, Mount San Antonio—better known as Mount Baldy—of the San Gabriel Mountains is the tallest peak within the vast Angeles National Forest and the highest point in Los Angeles County. The side of the mountain is home to the Mt. Baldy Ski Resort, a mom-and-pop operation with more than 20 runs. In the summer, hikers challenge themselves by climbing the precipitous three-mile-long Devil's Backbone trail from the ski area lodge to the summit.
Home to the famed (and refurbished) Griffith Observatory, the Los Angeles Zoo, and even the Hollywood sign (though it's inaccessible to the public), Griffith Park is one of the country's largest city parks. The outdoor enthusiast may not be as keen on the two golf courses or swimming pool there as the 53 miles of trails over fire roads and horse paths through mostly untamed canyons and mountainsides. The most rewarding short hike in all of Los Angeles is the 2.5-mile round-trip trek to the top of 1,640-foot Mt. Hollywood on Charlie Turner's trail in the park. From the summit, the view spreads across the city, the San Fernando Valley, Burbank, and sometimes even to Catalina Island. Just be sure to hike early in the day, and don't even bother on weekends.