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Inman 300: The World’s First Urban Thru-Hike

Inman 300 - Worlds First Urban Thru-hike

If the shortest distance between two points is a line, the longest might be the Inman 300. What is the Inman 300? It has been called “the world’s first urban thru-hike.” There is no trail or signs to follow, but there is a more-or-less official route. The Inman 300 gets it’s name from it’s creator, Bob Inman, and (roughly) the number of public stairways incorporated into the route. In fact, Inman worked hard to incorporate as many of Los Angeles’ public stairways as possible, which in part accounts for the crazy zig-zag twists and turns in the route.

The route achieved initial publicity when Triple-Crowner Liz “Snorkel” Thomas completed the Inman 300 in 2013. At the time, the route was not publicly documented. Snorkel (her trail name) holds the FKT (Fastest Known Time) record for an unsupported thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail by a woman. She completed a 180 mile version of the Inman 300 (no official route had been defined) in just 5-1/2 days.

Liz "Snorkel" Thomas on the Inman 300. Photo: Kevin Steele
Liz “Snorkel” Thomas on the Inman 300. Photo: Kevin Steele

Last month, the first Inman 300 Guide Book was published, along with the “rules” and their recommended route. At 218 miles with 344 public stairways, it’s roughly the same length as the John Muir Trail. And though it follows sidewalks and streets, you can easily gain 2000-3500′ of elevation in a day.

Here’s a description from the guide:

“The Inman 300” is not a trail. It follows public streets (with and without sidewalks) interspaced by a set of stairways that the streets connect. There is no signage. Maybe someday we will have symbols along the way but in the context of the huge city that seems a ways off. This publication suggests a route which be followed using eleven sectional Google maps. Using this suggested route or your own, the stairways are the given: if you want to complete the Inman 300, you walk them all. You may change the direction of travel, the sequence, the streets and blocks to take to link those stairways as you like. There are some “rules” about doing this. Because route finding is a challenge to someone new to the Los Angeles hills, we think our suggested route will be your better bet for a good experience.

We encourage anyone to create their own route to do all or part of the Inman 300. There is an inherent flaw in the coverage offered in this handbook. We use the term “Inman 300” for the baseline activity: to walk 350 stairways in a sequence that does not repeat itself. We also use the same term “Inman 300” for our optional suggested route of how to best accomplish this.

Heading off to catch all the stairways in a non-repeating sequence is comparable to hiking cross- country; you need to be mentally processing constantly. The stairways that we recognize are scattered in 36 zip codes. A non-stairway, all sidewalk route that simply visited each of those zips would be about 130 miles; capturing the stairways along the way adds 70% more distance. All the “misdirection” created by following the stairs is a big part of why you do it.

Determining how it might be done can be an arduous and satisfying game. Perhaps you want to route yourself to be at your bedsite at a certain hour. Perhaps you want to climb out of the basin and into the Santa Monica Mountains and you link the Hollywood Hills to the Pacific Coast.

Our suggested route defaults to doing a stairway in the up direction if that choice doesn’t add distance merely for the sake of going up. Perhaps, however, for safety you are running the stairs and want to go only upwards on the really long ones. Dan Koeppel plots his routes to honor all the big stairs by doing them in the up direction; that’s a philosophy behind his day-long, massive “Stair Trek”.

The recommended route has been divided into eleven segments (roughly 20 miles or so). Each could be hiked in a day, either in segments or as a thru-hike.

The Inman 300 by the Numbers

This table shows the details for each of the eleven segments (A-K) and the total figures.

Total Miles19.619.72121.518.419.22022.621.722.516.2222.4
Mileage on Major Boulevards0.
On Avenues3.
On Small Residential Streets13.813.510.68.48.512.
On Paved Path (incl. stairways)
On Dirt Trails10.30.8000.20104.33.911.5
Number of Trails0440011205522
Freeway Crossings3074313140130
Pedestrian Footbridges or "POC"s0041500160017
City Parks Walked Through or Along6355723253344
Relative Total Elevation Gain**************************32000'

With a newly available guide, who will be the first to complete a thru-hike on this 218 mile route? It’s been done. On January 15, 2014 Kelley Wiley Lane was the first to thru-hike the final, published version of the Inman 300. Congratulations, Kelley! 

Bob Inman and Kelly Lane
Bob Inman and Kelly Lane

Do you want to hike the Inman 300? 

Here are some additional resources to get started.

UPDATED: June 2, 2016 with the latest links and data.


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