It’s spring and a great time to hike in Griffith Park. Most of my hikes in Griffith over the years have been on Thursday afternoons. Once a month I have an early Thursday morning meeting at work in Los Angeles, so I drive the car rather than taking the bus on those days. So with the availably of the car and an early-out day at work, I was eager to hit the trail for my first hike in Griffith Park this year. I’ve hiked virtually every trail in the park except for some on the north side. So I settled on starting at Travel Town and using Oak Canyon Trail, Toyon Trail, and Mt. Hollywood Trail and climbing a peak or two. In comparing the official Map and Guide of Griffith Park (AKA “The LaBonge map”) and aerials from Google Earth, it was clear to me that the map itself would be shy on adequate details for navigation, so I printed some screen captures of Google Earth to fill in the gaps.
From my office in Echo Park, I navigate to the small dirt parking lot on Griffith Park Drive (next to the large Travel Town parking lot) about 200 feet south of the intersection with Zoo Drive (exit Forest Lawn Drive from the 134). There are four cars in the lot and it’s a pleasant 74 degrees.
and mustard (of course…the ubiquitous weed). Elderberry
and tree tobacco are also in bloom. With the scant rain this year, the weedy grasses are already turning yellow and giving the feel of early summer rather than early spring. Equine deposits add aroma to the walk. Car traffic on the nearby road detracts somewhat from the natural feel of the setting. As the dirt road bends left (east), I ignore a route that splits right (not shown on the map and barely visible on the aerial), and in another couple minutes ignore another right-hand split. That’s thing about hiking in Griffith Park: There are so many roads, trails, and use paths webbing all over the place, navigational alertness is a must.
As the trail reaches a hip, there is a nice bench, drinking fountains for people and horses, and hitching rails. The trail bends south and provides an excellent but hazy view northwest toward the San Fernando Valley and its various entertainment studios. Signs along the road indicate, “Nevins’s Barberry (Berberis nevinii) / Endanger California Native Plant Species.” I’m guessing the signs are referring to the large shrubs on the hillside below the trail.
I’m glad for the signs since I would have just passed the bushes off as toyon.
I continue along the wide clearing on this side of the fence and shortly I’m glad since the narrow path next to the fence becomes overgrown with dead weedy grass.
I stop at several points to photograph blooms of California buckwheat, sticky monkey flower, California everlasting, black sage, and elderberry.
and some more Botta’s clarkia, AKA “farewell to spring.” Seems early to say good bye to spring but the abundant dead weeds say it’s summertime.
I reach the hip at 5:31 and enjoy the vistas of familiar trails and peaks. Across the canyon, a lone hiker stands on Hogback Peak. The 25-floor MTA headquarters building at Union Station pokes up over the ridgeline. I now traverse the southeast flank of Baby Bell.
Later I Googled it and found that Officer Lindenberg was killed when the helicopter he was training in lost power and crashed while attempting to land on a helipad “on top of a small mountain” here in the park. The the official online tribute lists Mount Bell as the location, but I wonder if it is actually Baby Bell and the octagonal pad on top.
I continue up the wide dirt road and take the southern road of the two parallel routes to the summit. The southern panorama toward Downtown Los Angeles opens up. Down at Griffith Observatory, some kind of large tent has been set up in the parking lot.
The grand summit of Mt. Hollywood stands in silhouette and invites me to it.
5:43 - Mt. Hollywood (1625’). I always enjoy this peak. On a clear day, the grand view south toward the Los Angeles sprawl is spectacular. Today it is somewhat muted by haze, but not bad. There are a few people here and some coming and going. To the west, Mt. Lee and the Hollywood sign stand in blurred silhouette against dipping sun. I don’t linger long. I leave at 5:50.
It’s pretty steep and requires both hands in places, but it’s the fun way.
At the saddle, I take the east approach by veering right unto the narrow use path that disappears into brush. As I am nearly to the top, the young man who was sitting on the rock passes me as he heads down.
6:15 - Mt. Bell (1582’). This is my most-visited peak in Griffith Park, probably because its central location makes it accessible from any approach around the park. Lots of good memories of hikes to here. And I almost always have it to myself. I enjoy the views in all directions. Tiny figures stroll along the various trails far below me. There is a cool breeze. The sunset is in about hour, so I don’t linger long here today.
6:23 - Leave Mt. Bell and descend the southwest approach. The narrow use path is slippery in places and requires careful steps. Eight minutes delivers me to the road. I turn right and head west to make this hike a loop.
I love the warm glow of the golden hour for taking pictures. Others are on road. A pair of young ladies behind me spoils the tranquility with obnoxiously loud voices. The eucalyptus trees beg the question as to why early guardians of the park felt the need to plant alien species rather than appreciating the indigenous beauty of native plant communities. The landfill sprawls out below me.
7:20 - Junction with Oak Canyon Trail (exactly at today’s sunset time). I turn left and saunter along dirt road enjoying the transition from day to night. Equestrians and a dog walker are also enjoying the trail.
7:39 - End hike. It’s 69 degrees and there are three cars in the lot aside from mine.
See Hiking Griffith Park at Dan's Hiking Pages
(includes links to my other blog posts for hiking in Griffith Park)
See Brush Canyon to Mt. Bell hike description at Dan's Hiking Pages
(includes more detailed description for the approaches to Mt. Bell)
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