Thursday, September 19, 2013

Observatory to Mt. Hollywood & Bell in Griffith - Sept. 19, 2013

View west toward Mt. Lee
Griffith Icon In June I had the opportunity to host three out-of-town work colleagues on a hike to Mt. Lee and the Hollywood Sign. They had a great time. Two of them were back in town this week for a meeting and so once again they just had to go hiking in Griffith Park. The classic hike from Griffith Observatory to Mt. Hollywood seemed ideal. And adding Mt. Bell took it beyond the normal tourist mode to being a real hike. I had just hiked to Hollywood and Bell early this mouth, but today’s hike will be very different.

Their meeting ran a little long, so we weren’t able leave our office in Echo Park until 5:40. After driving the five miles to the observatory parking lot, the lot was full, but thankfully a space opened up down the road pretty close to the trailhead.

View north from Charlie Turner Trail toward Mt. Hollywood
6:10 p.m. - Begin hike at the Charlie Turner Trailhead. The temperature is quite pleasant, even a little cool. Lots people on the trail. The sun is low in the sky nearing its. 6:53 sunset and casts a warm, yellow glow. The marine layer from this morning leaves a haze in the air limiting our visibility. After the bridge we leave the main trail and take the narrow path up the ridge, as is always my preference. We’re really enjoying ourselves as we climb higher. When we reach the junction of Vermont Canyon Trial, we decide to keep climbing up the ridge. Arriving at Charlie Turner Trail and the six-point junction presents another option. The guys are good with skipping the road to continue straight up the ridge, which I’m happy about because the sun is dipping rapidly. Up we climb. It’s really steep but fun.

View south from Mt. Hollywood
6:37 - Mt. Hollywood (1625’). What a great destination! There about 15 people here. I would have loved treating my guests to a spectacular view but we can barely see the downtown skyline today. We take pics of the three of us to memorialize our ascent. We’re having a great time. I talk the guys into continuing onto Mt. Bell, a real peak. We leave the summit at 6:45 and head northeast on the wide dirt road.

Photographing the sunset from the north side of Mt. Hollywood
As we reach the four-point junction and head north along the backbone, we get our last views of sun setting behind the distant Santa Monica Mountains. We think about Mt. Lee where we were three months ago near sunset. The Bells call us north. We veer left onto the use path but skirt Baby Bell for time sake. We now enjoy twilight views of Burbank and Glendale. We arrive at the saddle east of Mt. Bell and proceed up the steep, narrow path to the summit.

View east from Mt. Bell toward Glendale
7:05 - Mt. Bell (1582’). My favorite peak! The guys agree that this summit is well worth the extra effort. Night is falling and Burbank and Glendale come alive as a blanket of twinkling lights. A full moon rises as an orange ball on the eastern horizon. The beauty of twilight here is stunning. Pictures don’t quite capture it. We savor the experience. We leave the summit at 7:14,carefully climb down the steep, slippery path lit with the last lumens of daylight, and put our feet on flat ground in 4 minutes.

We retrace our steps and enjoy a pleasant stroll down the road as darkness brings out a sea of lights in the valleys below. We reach the four-point junction at 7:30 and choose to turn left (east) and take the route past Dante’s View. Still lots of people on the trail. A stream of headlights are coming up the roads to the observatory. The full moon glows brighter as it rises higher. I often hike solo, but there is also something special about sharing the experience with good company. We follow Charlie Turner Trail all the way down.

View south from the roof of Griffith Observatory
8:10 - End hike. What a delightful two hours! This place is swarming with people. The guys are surprised how busy it is. We stroll over to the observatory for a brief visit. A telescope offers us a view of Neptune, some 2.8 billion miles away! That’s amazing!! We drive away at 8:35 and head down Western Canyon Drive. Cars are parked along both sides of the road for at least a half mile. We cap off the evening at In-N-Out. It doesn’t get better than this!

Epilog - What a great time! It never ceases to amazing me at the new and special experiences that this remarkable park continues to serve up. icon

Griffith Icon  See Hiking Griffith Park at Dan's Hiking Pages
  (includes links to my other blog posts for hiking in Griffith Park)

Related hikes in Griffith Park:
NEXT > Bee Rock and Mt. Bell via Old Zoo Park - March 13, 2014
PREVIOUS > Western Cyn to Mt. Hollywood & Mt. Bell - Sept. 12, 2013


  1. Gorgeous sunset and moonrise shots.

    Ironically, I was working on Thursday night. Between 8-9 I was in the telescope dome, helping with crowd control. At 9pm, I was assigned to come out of the dome and prepare to shut down the line to the main telescope, which we do at 9:30pm. About 9:35pm, I made my way down to the lawn, to make sure the lawn telescope lines were being shut down. When I saw they were, I headed back in for the last 20 minutes or so of the night. Didn't know that one of the lawn telescopes was on Neptune. I might have tried to steal a peek if I knew that. ;D

  2. I've hiked to Mt. Lee but it took me a lot longer than the 27 minutes it took your group! I'm impressed! The photo you took of the skyline at night from the observatory is gorgeous. I blogged about my hike to Mt. Lee, Eaton Canyon and Switzer Falls here: Can you recommend any other great moderate level hikes? Thanks!

    1. See my waterfalls page for hikes to other falls in the San Gabriels: