To the trailhead
From the Foothill Freeway (Interstate 210) in Monrovia, exit on Myrtle Avenue. Turn left and drive 0.8 miles to Foothill Boulevard. Turn right (west) and go 0.25 miles to Canyon Boulevard. Turn left and continue 1.2 miles north. Veer to the right, staying on Canyon Boulevard for one mile and following signs to the park entrance. Drive 0.3 miles to the middle parking area, just after crossing over a bridge. Parking spaces are on the right to the east of the restroom building. A parking fee is required.
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Walk fifty yards up the road. As the road veers right, take the signed footpath straight ahead, veering left. Enter the dense forest under the shade of alders, bays, sycamores, and oaks. Follow the east side of the canyon, and pass a junction on the right, which leads up the hill among pines and oak to the nature center and picnic area. Gently wind up canyon and cross the creek just above a manmade waterfall. Traverse the west canyon wall above the stream, weaving past rock formations and through a tunnel of vegetation. Return to the stream and follow the canyon floor. Pass a couple more flood control dams with waterfalls. At just under one mile, cross the stream and boulder hop a short distance to Monrovia Falls and a pool in the rock-walled grotto at the end of the trail.
The 4,217-acre park (equal to five square miles) is the largest municipal park G G in the United States. It is nearly three times the size of New York City’s Central Park. This rugged urban wilderness contains ridges and peaks with overlooks, secluded canyons, creeks, springs, and gardens. Large portions of the park remain virtually unchanged from its original natural state. The mountains and steep interior canyons of Griffith Park, as well as the adjacent Hollywood Hills, are largely undeveloped and offer a natural haven for humans and animals.
Griffith Park lies on the easternmost tip of the Santa Monica Mountains.
It is surrounded by the cities of Burbank, Hollywood, Glendale, and Los Angeles. To the east, the park faces the Verdugo Mountains and San Gabriel Mountains. The preserved parkland is bound along its borders by major thoroughfares as well as the Los Angeles River.
Colonel Griffith J. Griffith donated over 3,000 acres to create this parkland in 1896. Griffith was a Welsh immigrant who made his fortune in gold and silver mining speculation. He deeded the land as a Christmas gift to the people of Los Angeles as “a place of rest and relaxation for the masses.” Additional land acquisitions since this time have expanded the park to 4,217 acres.
A 56-mile network of hiking and equestrian trails weaves across the semi-arid foothills, chaparral-cloaked hills, oak groves, and wooded glens. The trail system combines single-track footpaths, unpaved fire roads, and paved (but gated) roads. The park’s elevation ranges from 384 feet to 1,625 feet at the summit of Mount Hollywood. From the trails are some of the best views of the Los Angeles basin.
Numerous attractions are located with the park, in addition to the well- known Griffith Observatory and Greek Theater (see left). The next 10 hikes include some of these points of interest, including the historic merry-go- round, the Old Zoo, Mount Hollywood, Amir’s Garden, Ferndell Park, the Bronson Caves, and the HOLLYWOOD sign (arguably the best-known site within the park). For a complete list of events and attractions, go to the observatory (2800 East Observatory Road) or the visitor center (4730 Crystal Springs Drive).
Note: Leashed dogs are allowed on all the trails within the park.
Hiking distance: 5-mile double loop Hiking time: 3 hours
Configuration: double loop with spur to Beacon Hill summit Elevation gain: 650 feet
Exposure: exposed hills with short sections of shade Difficulty: moderate Dogs: allowed
Maps: U.S.G.S. Burbank and Hollywood Map and Guide of Griffith Park Hileman’s Recreational & Geological Map of Griffith Park
Beacon Hill is the easternmost summit of the 50-mile-long Santa Monica
Mountain Range. An illuminated beacon once resided on the top of Beacon Hill, warning aircraft of the mountains next to the Glendale Grand Central Airport, the main airport for Los Angeles and Hollywood during the 1910s and 1920s. From Beacon Hill you can see it all from the Pacific Ocean, across the Los Angeles Basin, and to the San Gabriel Valley and Mountains.
Beacon Hill is located in Griffith Park in Los Angeles, the largest municipal park in the United States. This hike begins near the park’s historic 1926 merry-go-round, then climbs up Fern Canyon en route to the 1,001-foot summit. The trail forms a large loop around the base of Beacon Hill along the southeast corner of Griffith Park. An additional one-mile loop leads to Vista View Point, which offers a bird’s-eye view of Hollywood and the Griffith Park Observatory.
To the trailhead
Go to the intersection of Los Feliz Boule vard and Crystal Springs Drive in Hollywood in the southeast area of Griffith Park. (To arrive at this intersection from the Golden State Freeway/I-5, take the Los Feliz Boulevard Exit. Drive west a short distance to Crystal Springs Drive.) Drive 1.3 miles north on Crystal Springs Drive to the merry-go-round turnoff on the left.
Turn left and park in the first parking lot.
From Highway 134/Ventura Freeway in Burbank, take the Victory Boulevard exit. Drive south to a T-junction with Zoo Drive. Turn left on Zoo Drive and continue 2.1 miles to the merry-go-round turnoff on the right. (En route, Zoo Drive becomes Griffith Park Drive.) Turn right and park in the first parking lot.
From the parking lot, walk back to the entrance road and the vehicle gate.
The Lower Beacon Trail, our return route, is directly across the road. Walk 75 yards to the right on the paved road to the Fern Canyon Nature Trail on the left. Continue on the paved road for 55 yards (straight ahead) to a second junction. Leave the paved road and veer left on the Fern Canyon Trail, a dirt road. Pass two junctions on the right that form a loop through the Old Zoo (Hike 29). Pass a side path on the left that descends into Fern Canyon and the amphitheater. Steadily climb the west canyon wall, following the curvature of the mountains. Cross over to the east slope of Fern Canyon, reaching the 5- Points junction on a ridge overlooking the San Gabriel Valley and Los
Angeles at one mile. Straight ahead is the Coolidge Trail, the return route.
The two trails to the right form the smaller one-mile loop.
For now, bear left on a spur trail to the summit of Beacon Hill. Walk east along the eucalyptus-lined ridge at a near-level grade. Make a short but steep ascent to the rounded, 1,001-foot summit at 1.25 miles. Below is the Golden State (I-5) Freeway and the Los Angeles River. To the east and north are Glendale, Eagle Rock, Burbank, the Verdugo Mountains, and the San Gabriel Mountains. To the south and west are downtown Los Angeles and the entire Los Angeles basin to Palos Verdes.
Return to the 5-Points junction. To add a one-mile loop to the hike, take the second trail to the right. Traverse the mountain westward, perched on the steep slope. Climb to Vista Del Valle Drive, stretching along the head of Fern Canyon and directly across from Vista View Point. The overlook offers more sweeping views of Hollywood, Los Angeles, and the Griffith Park Observatory. Across the road is the Hogback Trail and Riverside Trail (Hike 32). Follow the path to the left, above and parallel to Vista Del Valle Drive. The path joins the road along a U-bend in Vista Del Valle Drive. Pick up the posted trail on the outside bend. Descend east, completing the loop at the 5- Points junction.
To continue on the large loop, take the Coolidge Trail to the right, descending on the south-facing slope. As the path nears the Marty Tregnan Golf Academy, look north to a great view of Beacon Hill. Descend to a trail split at the southeast corner of Griffith Park. The right fork drops down to Crystal Springs Drive. Veer left on the Lower Beacon Trail, skirting the east flank of Beacon Hill above the freeway on the undulating path. Curve left (west) and climb to northern park views. Descend to the park road, directly across from the trailhead parking area.
Hiking distance: 2.2-mile loop Hiking time: 1.5 hours Configuration: loop with spur to Bee Rock Elevation gain: 600 feet
Exposure: mostly exposed with sections of shade Difficulty: easy with moderate ascent to Bee Rock Dogs: allowed
Maps: U.S.G.S. Burbank Map and Guide of Griffith Park Hileman’s Recreational & Geological Map of Griffith Park
Bee Rock is a large, cavernous sandstone outcropping that is naturally sculpted into the shape of a beehive near the center of Griffith Park. From atop the 1,056-foot rock formation are impressive views across the massive park. The hike returns through the Old Los Angeles Zoo, which was converted into a park after the new zoo was built. The Old Los Angeles Zoo operated from 1912 through 1965 at this location before moving to the current location two miles north. The historic enclosures, walls, and grottoes, built in the 1930s to house the animals, are still intact. The trail winds past the abandoned animal cages with an eerie animal ghost town atmosphere.
The trails are on the old walking paths and expansive lawns. This hike begins at the at the merry-go-round and follows a dirt road that circles the back side of the Old Zoo to Bee Rock, then returns through the Old Zoo.
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