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Hold the selfie stick. Runyon Canyon, Los Angeles’ most beloved Instagram backdrop, is temporarily closing to fix a mile-long stretch of aging water pipe in a $2 million repair job paid for by the city. Not since the shutdown of the 405 freeway in 2011 has L.A. gone into such a collective tailspin. Cue Runyon-geddon.
“We expected this level of response to the closure,” says Stacy Sillins, spokeswoman of the nonprofit Friends of Runyon Canyon Foundation, regarding the subsequent buzz, both on the trail and on social media. “But we’re thrilled to see how positive the response has been. The hikers understand that this closure is a necessary and temporary inconvenience in order to make sure the park remains a safe and viable hiking park.”
Beloved for its dog-friendly rules and central location sandwiched between Hollywood Blvd. and Mulholland Dr., the 130-acre park is a regular stomping ground for thousands of weekly visitors, including industry insiders looking to squeeze a convenient 45-minute outdoor workout into their daily fitness routine. Dramatic views of the city skyline further add to the appeal, enjoyed not only by hikers but residents whose properties flank the park, including Rosetta and Balthazar Getty (who rented their villa to Joe Jonas via Airbnb), Amanda Seyfried and Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball.
Come April 1, the likes of Charlize Theron, Jared Leto, Orlando Bloom and Lea Michele are amongst parkgoers to be left scratching their heads, wondering how to fill the void left by the temporary closure of a park so popular, it has its own social-media handles.
“Half the people going there [at Runyon] are just there for the Instagram, there to take the picture and geo-tagging it. But hey, at least you’re outdoors and you might get inspired and have fun. That’s why I started Cobra Fitness Club,” says Mark “The Cobrasnake” Hunter, the hipster nightlife photographer turned fitness guru who runs free group hikes at Runyon. “There’s all slices of life up there. It’s not the place you go for a Zen moment in the day. I was jogging the other day and there was Amber Rose doing her own thing, and Milk Studios had set up a Victoria’s Secret shoot there.”
Runyon’s popularity may have shot up through its onscreen and online cameos, but its cash-less valet parking (as of 2014) helped cement its status as Hollywood most convenient hiking spot. “We are not just relieving everyday hikers from that all-too-common situation where there’s a $73 [parking] ticket but also taking cars away from the immediate area where there’s all of these cars circling,” says Arya Alexander, vp business development for valet parking app CurbStand, which is permitted to be at the southwest corner of Fuller and Hollywood and shuttles cars to the Magic Castle and other nearby lots.
While parking is easy, the trails still offer plenty of challenges. “Runyon is good because there are trails that have a lot of hills. It’s not like a stroll in the park,” says celebrity trainer Allie Cohen, who works with singers, models and actors on the regular. Cohen doesn’t take her clients to Runyon, but recommend its hikes as part of their homework. She foresees an uptick in her Barry’s Bootcamp Hollywood classes when Runyon closes, due to its close proximity to the park. Meanwhile, trainer-to-the-stars Lalo Fuentes (clients have included Emily VanCamp) sees the construction as an opportunity to enhance the park’s fitness offerings (which include a yoga field that will remain open to the public during repairs), such as the installation of pull-up bars. Also, “coming up with better ways to get rid of dog waste could be a good start,” he says.
Indeed, pets (and their poop) are as integral to the park landscape as aspiring actors practicing lines, and nowhere in the vicinity boasts the same off-leash rules that apply to the majority of the park. “There really aren’t that many dedicated dog parks,” says L.A. Pet Nanny founder Catherine Inglese, who, come April, plans on taking her four-legged clients (including an Oscar-winning composer’s dog) to Franklin Canyon in Beverly Hills, where rangers are “extremely strict” about on-leash laws, she says. “I don’t want to say where I’ll hike my pack,” says Annie Lever, who has worked with Reese Witherspoon, Steven Spielberg and Denise Richards’ pups in the past. “I have a few secret places on the low-down.”
Until L.A. can resume its regular dress-to-impress routine at Runyon on the scheduled reopening date of July 31, Hunter and his hiking friends, like many others, are headed east, to Elysian Park and Griffith Park. “I see how important the mountain is to everybody,” he says. “But at the same time, a few months isn’t going to kill anybody.”
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