Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Burbank Peak, Cahuenga Peak, and Mt. Lee - June 24, 2015

Griffith Icon Mount Lee and the iconic Hollywood sign in Griffith Park is always a rewarding destination. And add Burbank and Cahuenga peaks—the newest peaks to the park—the outing becomes a grand slam for my out-of-town guests. I really like those occasions when my job intersects with my passion for hiking. This week my job has me facilitating some meetings and we have participants from all over the country. Several of them enjoy hiking so it is becoming an annual tradition to head to Griffith Park for an early evening hike. And the fearsome foursome is back together: me (SoCal), Jeff (Kentucky), Loren (Kansas), and Dave (Washington). We have hiked Mt. Lee from Hollyridge, so this time I wanted to treat them to the fun approach.

We pile into my car at 5:20, jump on the 101 in Echo Park, and crawl to Hollywood. Lively conversation mitigates the traffic. We exit on Barham Blvd., take a right on Lake Hollywood Drive, and meander through elite neighborhoods to the trailhead at Wonder View Drive and Lake Hollywood. As we get out, a gal asks us if we are with the meet-up group. Hmmm, I hope this doesn’t mean a crowded trail.

5:57 PM - Begin hike. The paved street makes a nice warm-up for what is about to come. A nine-minute walk brings us to the start of the trail. Up we climb toward Burbank Peak, the westernmost point of Griffith Park. We get expanding views to the south. It’s steeper and rougher than I recall since I last climbed it in December 2011. Thankfully the temperature is quite pleasant. The scruffy chaparral is thirsty and wilting. There is virtually nothing in bloom aside from California buckwheat and dodder.

It’s amazing how peaceful and quite it is here being so close to such a massive human sprawl. Soon Griffith Observatory comes into view and we get a glimpse of the Hollywood sign’s edge. There are others on the trail but it doesn’t feel crowded. This is a good workout and definitely feels more like hiking than the wide dirt roads throughout the park. As the trail meets the ridge we are glad to have the tough climbing behind us, for now. We turn left and two minutes delivers us to our first peak.

6:43 - Burbank Peak (1690’). The iconic Ginger Rogers tree graces the summit. The guys are impressed with the views. Haze mutes the southern panorama over L.A. and out to the sea. The bright sun low in the sky obscures our view west. The Valley lies out to our north blocked partially by the immediate foothills. We can see and hear the pyrotechnics at the Water World show at Universal Studios.

We leave the summit at 6:49 and head east along the ridge. I lead along the high route over the knobs to give us maximum views north and south. Our conversation is always engaging and all over the map, from earthy to heavenly. Directly ahead, the pinnacle of the park calls us hither. We are really enjoying the sunshine, breeze, rugged scenery, and the aroma of the chaparral. Our finale climb gets stepper. I let Jeff lead us to the summit.

7:06 - Cahuenga Peak (1820')—the highpoint of Griffith Park. Quite an impressive panorama. The towering antenna across the chasm on Mt. Lee marks our final destination. We stay only long enough to snap some pics.

Leave the peak and climb down the east ridge. Gets pretty steep in places. The meet-up group passes us (not too many of them). We reach the saddle and begin to climb up again. We pass over the next knob and begin our traverse along the ridge to Mt. Lee Drive. We detour to the overlook to get a view down on the huge sign. We climb town to the paved road and make our final assault on the famed peak.

7:41 - Mount Lee (1680’)—The Hollywood Sign. It’s always fun to be here. The 50-foot letters are now completely in the shade. A vast human habitation sprawls out before us. The last rays of sun highlight our selfies on the summit. We don’t stay long. Jeff asks if we can call an Uber driver to pick us up. I explain that this paved road is closed to all except for official business.

7:50 - Leave summit. Sunset is at 8:08 today, so we need to be earnest in our pace. As we transition onto the trail, the sun disappears over Cahuenga Peak. We retrace our steps over the rollercoaster trail as dusk settles over the metropolis. I love watching the city come to life at night. Loren, a distance runner, sets the pace. We pick our way down the rough trail from Burbank Peak and the ambient light is sufficient to guide our steps. It feels good to arrive back on the road and have a leisurely walk back to the car.

8:48 - End hike.

Epilog - What a pleasure to host these gentlemen for a most enjoyable outing to L.A.’s most recognizable landmark! Hearty exercise, splendid scenery, sweeping vistas, three peaks, pleasant weather, great company. And topped off with the best meal in town—In-N-Out Burger! icon

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 Burbank Peak, Cahuenga Peak and Mt. Lee hike description at Dan's Hiking Pages (Detailed trail guide including driving directions, recommended season, map, notes, links, and photos)

NEXT > Griffith Park Teahouse, Mt. Bell, Mt. Hollywood - July 24, 2015
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