Car-Free Hiking in Los Angeles: Griffith Park

I had so much fun checking out Temescal Gateway Park and Will Rogers State Park that I wanted to check out some more car-free hiking trips in Los Angeles. I was having trouble finding ideas so I turned to my old stand-by, Yahoo Answers, where I got lots of good ideas (Yahoo Answers User Maliboo offers some great leads).

I really wanted to see if there was some bus or train I could take that would drop me off near the San Gabriels.

Yahoo Answers User T F shared this interesting story:

I have to concur with a couple of these responses. The San Gabriels don’t offer any public transportation. Funny story though. I’ve been hiking for many, many years and have been lost exactly once…in the San Gabriels. When I finally made it out of the canyon at around 7,500 feet (and at night) and started walking what turned out to be a six mile walk back to my car…a freaking CAB drove by, stopped and asked if I wanted a ride. BLEW MY MIND. There should have been 1 car every 15 minutes up there at that time. Some good hiking karma.

So, the San Gabriel Mountains seems a little daunting for a solo day trip. Another easy and accessible option to me was Griffith Park, practically my backyard and thus boring. but T F had this to say:

But don’t sell Griffith Park short. I’ve hiked there for years if I can’t get to the mountains on a weekend and there are some awesome hidden trails. I’ve hiked for a long time without seeing anyone. My guess is the bus goes to the observatory so you’ll need to do some fire road hiking to get away from the crowds by the trailhead but when you get in to the park there can be some awesome solitude.

I was sold. Getting to Griffith Park was easy for me and I imagine would be for many others. I entered on Fern Dell Road, which is off of Los Feliz Blvd. Parking is available if you travel by car. But if you’re travelling by train or bus, the Metro Red Line (one of L.A.’s subways) stops at Hollywood Blvd. and Western which is within walking distance, and there are lots of bus stops close by. The DASH bus even goes up to Griffith Obervatory on the weekends.

While it took a while of hiking on the fire roads, I did eventually get away from the crowds. In Griffith Park, I found out if you’re out of direct sight of the observatory and/or the Hollywood sign you can find some decent solitude.

I’ve discovered a huge number of paths which deviate off of the fire roads, many of which can get quite steep. On one trip, my girlfriend and I saw a path in the distance we wanted to try. We followed a path in the direction we wanted to head and quickly noticed that instead of seeing recent footprints of fellow hikers we were dodging deer droppings. We stumbled onto an animal trail! Deers are much more adept at scaling inclines than I was in my 5 year old running shoes.

Note: Hiking in my beat-up running shoes in Griffith Park has proven a bad idea. A lot of the small paths have steep inclines and the dusty dry dirt can get quite slick, especially with the soles on my worn out sneakers. But I’ve only fallen down a couple times.

I’ve been to Griffith Park several times and have enjoyed finding new paths everytime. You could even just stick to the fire roads and get a good workout as well as enjoying a lot of wilderness.

Wildlife¬†I spotted in Griffith Park: Coyotes, deer, crows, hawks, horses (there’s Sunset Ranch in Griffith Park where you can take a horse ride), lizards, and snakes. Be careful where you step!

What you should bring:

  • SUNSCREEN! There’s a lot of trees in Griffith park but not a lot of shade. I wear a long sleeve athletic shirt along with a hat and bandana around my neck.
  • WATER! Under the sun it can get hot and sweaty. Because it’s easy to get lost (see below) bring plenty of fluids. If you run out of water, it’s time to head home.
  • CELL PHONE! It’s easy to get lost in Griffith Park, it’s happened to me twice. Luckily for me the L.A. skyline was always in view but because of the unmarked paths and winding fire roads, I lost track on how to get out of the park.
  • FOOD! Bring food expecting to be hiking a few hours more than you expect in case you get lost.

I found that the best way to avoid getting lost in the park is to stick to the fire roads and if you do go down a path to circle back to the fire road you found the path.

Photos to follow.