When to catch the last glimmer of day in LA
In a land dotted with mountains, beaches and towering skyscrapers, Los Angeles provides an array of scenic backdrops for sunsets. Many locations also double as ideal spots to watch as the sun sets on the City of Angeles. Discover how different factors, from weather conditions to seasons, affect L.A.’s sunsets, and learn some helpful tips to make certain you’re always in the right place, at the right time.
What are the best times for viewing sunsets in each season?
In the early winter, the sun sets around 4:45 p.m. but by late winter it’s closer to 6 p.m. Daylight saving typically begins in Los Angeles near the start of spring and, with that, the sunset moves to approximately 7:00 p.m.; by the end of spring, it’s setting around 7:50 p.m.
The latest the summer sun ever sets in L.A. is around 8:00 p.m. in June and July, but by August and September the sun dips into the horizon between 7:45 and 6:50 p.m., respectively. Early autumn sunsets in L.A. typically take place between 6:00 and 6:15 p.m. With the return of standard time in early November, the sunset occurs around 4:55 p.m.
What other factors impact a Los Angeles sunset?
Sunlight is comprised of wavelengths in a variety of colors, including short blue wavelengths and long red ones. When it's windy, dust and pollution blow out over the ocean, creating clear skies for blue wavelengths to disperse easily and strong red wavelengths to shine through, resulting in vibrant pink, orange and auburn sunsets. In Los Angeles, these colorful sunsets usually occur during or following Santa Ana winds, which are dry, warm winds that sweep through Southern California between September and May, with particularly strong occurrences in October.
Even without the Santa Ana winds, similar sunset effects occur during certain seasons. For instance, during the late fall and winter, the air is naturally clean, dry and moves through the atmosphere slowly, making it easier for red wavelengths to pass through particles without dispersing, leading to bright orange sunsets.
Contrary to popular belief, L.A.’s infamous smog does not create sunsets with vivid red tints. In fact, large particles of pollution in the lower atmosphere absorb a lot of light and scatter the wavelengths fairly evenly, meaning the end result is a muddied sunset that lacks intense colors.
The best places to watch the sunset
Perched atop Mount Hollywood, Griffith Observatory offers sweeping views of the L.A. metro area. Parking is limited and difficult to find, but shuttle service is offered between the Vermont/Sunset Metro Red Line station and the observatory. The shuttle runs every 20 minutes, seven days a week, for a nominal fee. The observatory is closed on Mondays, but visitors still come to watch the sunset from the outdoor terrace. Each month the Griffith Observatory also hosts Sunset Walk and Talk programs, where hikers enjoy the sunset while hiking up a nearby trail as a park ranger and museum guide offer insight on the surrounding landscape and night sky. The hike is approximately a half mile and moderately steep so wear appropriate hiking shoes.
Watch the sun set into the Pacific Ocean from the iconic Santa Monica Pier. Parking in the region is expensive, but the Downtown Santa Monica Expo Metro Line station is just a 5-minute walk from the pier. If the sea of humanity on the pier is too overwhelming, watch the sunset from the roof of the nearby Santa Monica Place mall.
Located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, the US Bank Tower is the second tallest building in the city. Enjoy the sunset from atop the OUE Skyspace Los Angeles, the observation deck located on the building’s 69th and 70th floors. Featuring outdoor and indoor space, the deck offers a 360-degree view, from the mountains to the ocean. Sunset is a popular time on the deck, so be sure to buy your tickets ahead of time online, where you can select specific times.