Running enthusiasts have a lot of options around UCLA – don’t limit yourself to running around in circles at the track at Drake Stadium, or worse yet, the dreary treadmills at the John Wooden Center.
While the track and treadmills are convenient thanks to their proximity to campus, there’s something so lackluster about them. Although I’m somewhat new to jogging myself, I’ve found it to be a great way to get off campus and explore the different neighborhoods and areas around Westwood and the rest of Los Angeles.
Whether you’re looking for a refreshing escape from campus or just looking to add some variety to your daily jog, here are some of the Quad’s picks for fun and energizing running routes in the West LA area.
The campus loop
The campus loop is the default for many runners at UCLA. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like – to jog the campus loop, all one needs to do is run around the perimeter of campus. Starting from the Hill, students can run down Sunset Boulevard, turn right on Hilgard Avenue, right on Le Conte Avenue, right on Gayley Avenue, right on Veteran Avenue finally looping back to where they started on Sunset Boulevard.
This route is just under 4 miles , which makes it a decent length for a jogging routine. It’s also probably the safest of these four courses to run at night, considering the fact that pretty much every stretch of the route, except for a short distance on Veteran Avenue, is extremely well-lit with pedestrians everywhere.
Besides its safety levels and closeness to campus, there’s not much special about this route. It’s good for runners looking for a good leg workout, considering how hilly it is – anyone who’s ever had to walk from the Hill to Hilgard Avenue could tell you that – but if you’re looking for a stimulating off-campus excursion, this might not be the route for you.
This is one of the first running routes I ever ran off campus. It’s pretty straightforward – run west on Sunset Boulevard about a mile past the 405 Freeway and then loop around through the village on South Barrington Avenue. This run is approximately 4 miles – just a little bit shorter than the campus loop, though it’s marginally less hilly.
I prefer this run to the campus loop one, mainly because it’s far less crowded and you really get a chance to ogle at the beautiful, unaffordable architecture of West LA. While you often have to dodge other joggers and pedestrians in Westwood, you don’t really come across that problem much on this path. Sunset Boulevard doesn’t see too much foot traffic in these parts, thanks to the fact that it’s just so uneven elevation-wise.
The hills make for the perfect leg workout – what better way to combine cardio with leg day? Plus, once you get into Brentwood Village there are plenty of cute little shops and restaurants, so this is my go-to route for when I’m running with a partner on a Saturday or Sunday morning.
Students looking to run longer distances have plenty of options as well. The run to Beverly Hills is certainly a treacherous one, but it’s also one of the most rewarding scenery-wise. Generally speaking, I run this route starting as I would going on the campus loop route. Instead of turning right on Le Conte Avenue though, I keep going down Hilgard Avenue until I hit Westwood Boulevard, where I turn left and then another left onto Wilshire Boulevard, heading east.
Once on Wilshire Boulevard, runners have quite a few options. It takes about 2 miles of running past the upscale hotels and apartment buildings that line Wilshire before finally intersecting with North Santa Monica Boulevard and entering Beverly Hills. They can either stay on Wilshire Boulevard and extend their run for however long they want or, as I like to do, turn left on North Santa Monica and then left on North Beverly Drive and loop back around to Wilshire Boulevard to head back toward campus.
At about 10.1 miles, this run isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s one of my favorites because of how charming all the high rises and ritzy hotels on the way are – it’s hard not to fall into daydream mode and forget how far you’re actually running.
The longest route on our list, at about 12.7 miles , is just shy of a half-marathon. But while the other three routes are plagued with constant ups and downs, the run to Santa Monica is pretty much all downhill, except for the brief trek down Sunset Boulevard. Though the run is mostly downhill, that just means the run back to campus is that much tougher – it’s a constant uphill battle.
I must admit, I have been known to run about 10 miles of this course and call an Uber the rest of the way because it can be pretty challenging at times. But if you really want to get away from Westwood, this route is a perfect way to kill about two and a half hours and escape to the beach for a bit.
I particularly like to run this route for about an hour or so before the sun goes down because I can bask in the golden glow of the sunset on the beach. But that also means I have to run home in the dark – while Wilshire Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard are both pretty well-lit for the most part, runners should probably run this route with a partner just to be careful.