Los Angeles, California
Covering over 4,300 acres, Griffith Park is one of the largest urban parks in the country and the second largest City park in California. The park is full of attractions - an observatory that's free to the public, the batman cave from the original series, the Greek Theater, and of course, the Hollywood Sign.
Surprisingly rugged for an urban park, Griffith Park does not disappoint. However, the best time to visit the park is at night - this is when the wildlife comes out to play. I've seen rabbits, deer, coyotes, skunk and a number of owls. There's also a resident mountain lion, but don't worry - he's tracked and doesn't bother anyone. The nighttime views of the City are spectacular here. Most nights you can see downtown, Hollywood and even all the way to the coast. The City lights at night give a completely different perspective of the park than during the day and it's well worth any anxiety you might have about hiking at night.
There's one good hiking map out there by the City of Los Angeles which can be found HERE. Please note that there are no trail signs in Griffith Park, so it would be a great idea to print this map, highlight the route you plan to hike and bring it with you. I've also put together a brief description of the two best trails to take where you can see an amazing view of the City (like the photos on this page), while avoiding the crowds and the hassle of parking by the observatory.
- Park across the street from the Greek Theater and walk up the street (uphill) until you see a trailhead on your right - this is the Riverside Trail. Take this trail for about a half hour until you reach what looks like a small wooden outhouse. From here, take a quick right and walk out onto the paved area and you'll reach Vista View Point - the perfect place for a picnic and an even better spot for a date. This view is the closest and best view of downtown Los Angeles in the entire park. Be sure to keep an eye out and open ears for the owls on this trail - they like to sit at the very top of dead trees and you'll be able to see their silhouettes against the City lights.
- Parking at the same location as described above, this time walk all the way up the street until the street turns left and heads up the hill. Where the street turns, you'll see bathrooms, a trailhead and a fence. This is the Charlie Turner Trail. Take this trail up for about 20 minutes and you'll reach the exact view shown in the photo above. If you're looking for more of a workout and an even higher bird's-eye view, continue on up to Dante's View. Take a left at this fork in the trail and another left at the next fork. Continue uphill and within 5 minutes you'll reach one of the highest vista's in Griffith Park and another great view of the City. You'll know you've reached the correct area when you see picnic tables surrounded by a wooden fence. Don't forget your camera!
- Print the City of Los Angeles hiking map and the descriptions above and bring them with you - it's a huge park to navigate through.
- Take a headlamp, water and a phone.
- Pack some food and treats to enjoy while you take in the views.
- Check the online schedule for the Greek Theater; it's located in Griffith Park. If there's an event, plan to go to the park on a different night - it's not worth the time and stress from the traffic you'll have to deal with.