Here is an unexpected delight, perfect for a hot day: a Griffith Park walk that offers loads of greenery, a bit of elevation and sections of all-day shade. It takes advantage of pedestrian paths, equestrian trails and discontinued roadway, all within minutes of the Los Angeles Zoo and the 134 and 5 freeways.
On a recent weekday morning, I had the trail all to myself. There are some sandy sections, so closed-toe shoes are a good idea. Rattlesnakes have been seen on trails in the area, so be mindful and make sure your dog is on a leash. And, as always, slap on sunscreen and carry plenty of water.
1. Start this walk from the free parking lot adjacent to Travel Town, Griffith Park’s fine collection of vintage train cars and locomotives, located near Zoo and Forest Lawn drives. (You can use Travel Town’s lot, but be advised that it’s locked at 4 p.m. on weekdays and 6 p.m. on weekends.) Leave the parking lot, cross Griffith Park Drive carefully, and begin walking along the road away from Travel Town and the freeway. In about 50 feet, access the wide equestrian trail off to your right and continue to walk toward the mountains.
2. After a short distance, as you enter deep shade provided by oak and sycamore trees, bear right at the Y intersection and begin walking on Oak Canyon Trail. Climb a rise with a creek on your left side and the grassy lawns of Mt. Sinai Memorial Park on your right. Bear right when trails cross again, and continue walking uphill with Griffith Park Drive down to the left.
3. When you come to a paved road coming in from the right, cross the road and continue on the equestrian trail as it climbs a short, sharp rise. Then hook right at once at the hairpin and climb on the Toyon Trail, enjoying some Griffith Park and Glendale views — and the shade thrown by pine and eucalyptus trees bordering the trail.
4. As the trail begins to flatten, keep the water tank (No. 111) and the entrance to the Toyon Canyon landfill on your left. (That red and white tower way up there? That’s the back side of the Hollywood sign.) Keep walking until you meet a working water fountain for people and another for horses, plus a handy bench, to the right of the trail.
5. Continue on a short bit to the next Y intersection. Bear right — unless you want to head left and walk to Mt. Hollywood — as the equestrian trail descends.
6. Stay on this main trail until it runs directly into a paved road. (This was once part of a scenic route from Burbank to Hollywood, past the Griffith Observatory; for many years it has been closed to car traffic. It’s popular with cyclists.) Turn right and head downhill as this stretch of Mt. Hollywood Drive heads back toward Travel Town.
7. After a few minutes, you’ll approach a white barricade and Griffith Park Drive. Walk around the barricade and turn left onto the same equestrian trail you marched up earlier. This time, as you descend, bear right at the last Y intersection. A few minutes later, you’ll be back at your starting point.
Distance: 3 miles round trip
Difficulty: 3 on a scale of 1 to 5
Duration: 1½ hours
Details: Free parking. Dogs OK on leashes. Bicycles not allowed on equestrian trails. L.A. Metro bus 96.
Fleming is the author of “Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles” and “Secret Walks: A Walking Guide to the Hidden Trails of Los Angeles.” Each month, he leads a free walk at one of his favorite spots in Southern California. Find out more at his Facebook page, Secret Stairs. He is on Twitter @misterfleming.