Thursday, March 13, 2014

Old Zoo Park to Bee Rock and Mt. Bell - March 13, 2014

View west toward Bee Rock from Old Zoo Park
Griffith Icon It’s almost spring and a great time to hike in Griffith Park. Part of my job at work is to facilitate meetings, and this week we have meeting participants from all over the country in town. As the week unfolded it turned out that the meeting would end a half day early today. During weeks of previous meetings, I’ve had the pleasure of hosting Jeff (Kentucky) and Loren (Kansas) to hikes in Griffith Park. They were both up for a hike today and after mentioning it to Dave (Washington), he was in too.

So we pile into my car and head to Griffith Park. As we arrive at the Old Zoo parking lot, we found that the area is being used for filming a sitcom and the lot is closed off to cars. Thankfully there is a close-by parking place available.

Walking west through Old Zoo Park
2:35 p.m. - We begin our hike by walking west along the closed-off parking area. The production crew is up ahead so I decide to bear left and take the guys through the old zoo. It’s a worthwhile side jaunt as we enjoy walking past the zoo enclosures which housed the small assortment of animals from 1912 to 1965. Up on the mountainside 600 vertical feet above us, Bee Rock stands as an imposing mass. The warm sun, pleasant temps, and gentle breeze provide perfect hiking weather. Stately sycamores are now in full leaf after their winter hiatus. We enjoy good conversation as we stroll along.

We pass through the pedestrian opening in the chain link fence and transition unto Bee Rock Trail, a wide dirt road climbing west. I point out some of the plants along the way. This is Dave’s first time hiking in Griffith Park and he is impressed by the rugged beauty and remote feel right in the heart of Los Angeles.

On Bee Rock Trail from Old Zoo Park
The heavy rains we had two weeks ago have brought a freshness to the plants. There is nothing in bloom yet except for a lone eupatory. Soon the wide road ends and our route cuts left turning into a narrow path. Now this feels like hiking. We enjoy the views opening up to sprawling Glendale and beyond. I point out some of the landmarks. The marine layer from this morning has left hazy skies. Lemonade berry joins my blooming list. High above us, a couple ladies stand atop bee rock. We’re having a great time. We reach the ridgeline and turn left (east) for our final steps.

View east toward Glendale from Bee Rock in Griffith Park
3:19 - Bee Rock (1056’). I’m always impressed with the amazing views from this protruding pinnacle, aside from the horrid, rusty chain link fence. The abundance of graffiti is a stark reminder of how blighted mankind is. A cool breeze feels good. We take some pics and enjoy the scenery. I point out Mt. Bell to our west, our next destination.

We leave the summit at 3:29. A four-minute walk along the fenced ridge brings us to the paved Vista Del Valle Drive. It still makes me sad that the early guardians of the park felt the need to carve up this beautiful island of natural space with wide roads. We veer right and saunter west on the paved road. Shortly we arrive at trail junction 16, one of the very few navigation posts left in the park. We turn left (south) and begin our climb up the steep dirt road. I point out the tender young leaves of poison oak as it emerges from its winter siesta. We enjoy the warm sun and expanding views.

Climbing a use path on the east flank of Mount Bell
At junction 39 (yes, another sign post!), we turn right for a short descent. Within a minute we notice a steep use path heading west up the slope toward the summit of Mt. Bell. It looks like the path gets a fair amount of foot traffic, suggesting that it may be a doable route to the top. From my observations from Mt. Bell on previous trips, I’ve noted that there is a network of paths heading in various directions. I toss out the idea of an adventure and the guys are eager to give it try. So up we climb. It is quite steep and is still damp from the recent rains, making it slippery. Soon we reach a junction and veer right. Shortly the trail vanishes and we’re left on the brushy mountainside. I’m always amazed that so much foot traffic goes nowhere! We retrace our steps to the previous junction and try the route that heads south. Shortly it splits. I have the guys wait while I veer right to see if it’s a good route. It looks good, but Loren yells over announcing he’s found a doable path. I figure his route will join the east approach to Bell from the Bell/Baby Bell saddle. So I yell across and give him my blessing (and hope he realizes he’s not in Kansas anymore). Dave follows him and Jeff follows me. Soon our route gets crazy steep, slippery, and brushy. Not a good choice! After a few minutes of thrashing we finally reach a decent trail (the route coming up from the northwest). That was an adventure! Another couple minutes delivers us to the summit.

View east from Mount Bell
4:21 - Mount Bell (1582’). Loren and Dave are sitting here waiting for us and give us a hard time for our poor route choice. But they both have wounds on their shins, so their route wasn’t a walk in the park either! I love this peak. The views aren’t great today because of the haze, but it still provides a most satisfying panorama. I point out various sights—the ocean, mountains, peaks, cities, studios, buildings, and so on. We are having a great time. The weather is wonderful. I’m always amazed by the solitude on this peak. As I look south across the canyon, there are at least a dozen people over on Mt. Hollywood.

We leave the peak at 4:53 and head down the southwest approach and six minutes get us to the dirt road. A lady passes by...only our second human encounter since leaving Zoo Park (we passed three gals on Bee Rock Trail)…surrounded by a metropolis of 13 million people, and we have this splendid hike virtually to ourselves! Go figure.

Heading northeast on Bill Eckert Trail in Griffith Park
We turn right (west) then another right at the saddle heading northeast. This is the route we would have been on if we hadn’t taken our “shortcut” up the mountainside. At the next junction we take a left and in five minutes arrive at Vista Del Valle Drive. We turn right and saunter along the paved road in the late afternoon shade enjoying good conversation. We pass junction 16 (where we turned earlier) and shortly reach the junction with Bill Eckert Trail (jct. 14). I decide to lead the group down this route to provide a loop with some different scenery. Soon we are enjoying the direct sun. I love the “golden hour” for photography. After a half-hour walk down Eckert Trail, we arrive at its lower terminus near Old Zoo Park. We turn right, then left, then pass through the chain link fence. They are still shooting the TV show as we walk by the production trucks along the paved road.

6:05 - End hike.

Dave, Loren, Jeff, and Dan on Mount Bell
Epilog – What an enjoyable outing! Great company, near-perfect weather, beautiful scenery, good exercise, splendid trails, two fun peaks, solitude, adventure. And topped off with dinner at In-N-Out! Life is good! icon

camera  View photo album for this hike

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

Boot Icon See Bee Rock and Old Zoo Park hike description at Dan's Hiking Pages

Boot Icon See Brush Canyon to Mt. Bell hike description at Dan's Hiking Pages
(includes more detailed description for the approaches to Mt. Bell)

NEXT > Mt. Hollywood and Mt. Bell via Travel Town - April 9, 2015
PREVIOUS > Mt. Hollywood and Mt. Bell via Observatory - Sept. 19, 2013


  1. Looks like it was a beautiful day for a hike.

    1. Wonderful weather...but hazy. I love hiking in the springtime.

  2. Wow! Thank you for your thorough reviews and explanations of the trails in Griffith Park! I found your website after googling "hiking in Griffith park" which led me to your blog. Wish I had seen this sooner!

    1. Thank you, Jennifer! It sure is a great park to explore!