This past weekend I was in Los Angeles for a friend’s graduation, and I got a chance to explore a different side of the city. Having grown up just south of LA, I avoided most of the tourist areas and somewhat unknowingly wrote them off. Griffith Park was one that I highly recommend stopping by if you’re ever in LA and want to take a quick hike!
Why Was There So Much Open Land Available? Griffith Observatory is located on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park just above Los Feliz neighborhood. The Land was previously part of the Spanish settlement known as Rancho Los Feliz; the land stayed within the Feliz family until Griffith (a wealthy mining speculator) purchased what remained in 1882.
Who is Griffith? (aka “Colonel Griffith”) Griffith J Griffith was an English journalist and mining advisor who made his fortune in Mexican silver mines and subsequently Southern California real estate.
Which Came First The Observatory or The Park? The park. After traveling throughout Europe Griffith discovered that every major city had a great park. Returning home to Los Angeles he decided Los Angeles needed to be a great city therefore it needed a “Great Public Park”. On December 16, 1896 Griffith donated 3,015 acres of Rancho Los Feliz to the City of Los Angeles.
Where Did The Observatory Idea Come From? Griffith had the Astronomical Section of the California Academy of Science to thank for his exposure to new research established at Mount Washington in 1904. Griffith believed that an individual gained an enlightened perspective when looking at the skies. Therefore on December 12,1912 Griffith focused on making science more accessible to the public, and he offered the City of Los Angeles $100,000 for an observatory to build on the top of Mount Hollywood. Sadly the construction of the exhibit hall, observatory, and planetarium, which Griffith donated, was constantly delayed. Griffith passed away in 1919 before construction was completed in Spring of 1930. However, formal opening was delayed when devastating 6.4 earthquake occurred in Long Beach in March of 1933 ($50 million’s in damage). This caused architects to abandon the planned terra cotta exterior in favor of strengthening and thickening the buildings concrete walls. On May 14, 1934, the Griffith Observatory finally opened.
What Does Griffith Park Have to Offer? Besides from the free admission to the Griffith Observatory, Griffith Park has some of the best hikes within Los Angeles. The park itself has multiple fire roads that are used as hiking trails.
- Distance: > 1 Mile
- Special Feature: “To the Bat Cave!”
- Getting There:
- From Franklin Ave. in Hollywood
- Go north on Canyon Dr. until the road ends, at the “Camp Hollywood land” parking lot (PARK HERE)
- Cross the small, red concrete bridge on the right (east) side of the road.
- Walk around the vehicle barrier, keep left
- Follow the unpaved road for the short walk into Bronson Canyon.
Trail: Griffith Observatory West Trail Loop
- Distance: < 2.5 Miles
- Special Feature: Views from Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood sign, and Panoramic views of LA Basin
- Getting There:
- The hike starts at the Fern Dell Picnic Area off of Los Feliz Blvd (PARK HERE)
- You can pick up the trail near the creek past the restrooms.
- Stay to the right and head uphill toward the Griffith Observatory