Hiked Wednesday, November 21. Occasionally, before a big holiday event, we get let off a little bit early. Since I already have an early shift, sometimes that doesn't really help me much. Today, the bosses decided to make it an even half-shift for everyone, so the folks who start early and/or have an eight-hour shift got a proportionate amount of time off. That meant I could get a nice early start on to my "holiday."
So, by very early in the afternoon, I was pulling into Griffith Park, getting ready for my latest hike. The trees in the lot had turned even more orange than they had been the week before.
From this lot, there are several trails. It was the same trail head I have used twice previously: the parking lot that's just south of the merry-go-round. From the Golden State Freeway (I-5), I exited at Los Feliz, headed west, then turned right (north) on Griffith Park Blvd. After about a mile, you reach the ranger station/visitor center area. There, I turned left, towards the merry-go-round area. I parked in the southernmost lot, which is where several trails begin.
I've noticed that I tend to be very systematic about my hiking some-times, returning several times in succession when there's a set of trails I'm trying to "do." In this case, the goal was to hike the Old Zoo area. In previous hikes, I got on The Old Zoo Trail, but it turns out that The Old Zoo Trail runs along ridge above the Old Zoo, and does not actually drop down into the actual zoo, itself.
Today, I started out by walking along the parking lot, due north, towards the Old Zoo picnic area. Once there, I walked to the left. A fair incline takes you along a slew of cage areas where zoo animals once lived. You also have some nice views up at Bee Rock.
Facing the cages is an access road, and across the access road is a large field. Picnic tables are scattered around the area, including within rock enclosures that once held zoo animals.
On the eastern end of this clearing is a restroom. Unlike many other restrooms in the park, this one has locking doors that would give you some privacy. However, the toilets are still prison-type toilets, so it's not the most attractive place to use, if you don't have to.
After following the access roads and keeping the cages on my left, the road reaches an apex, then starts curving back down towards the east. There's a break in the fence there, and a clear trail that heads up. Bear to the left and you'd reach the Bee Rock Trail. Bear right and you'll intersect the Bill Eckert Trail. I went right.
From there, it's a swift climb. A canyon is down below you, on the left. The Bee Rock Trail is also to your left, below you, but on the other side of the canyon.
With the gain in altitude come 180 degree views, from down south, towards Glendale Peak, to up north, towards the new zoo. To the northeast is the golf course I walked along on my last hike in Griffith Park.
Unfortunately, unlike last time, this day was much hazier than the last.
The more I hike around these hills, the more taken I am by how steep these hills are. They're not all that tall, topping off at well under 2,000 feet of elevation. However, they rise rather quickly to that altitude, so if you start from the base and head all the way to one of the top peaks, you've got a pretty good workout without walking a lot of miles.
In my case, I was starting at the base, but I was not really interested in making it to a top peak. I was just trying to cover some new ground. So my path kept me entirely to the east of the ridgeline. That meant I had several rather impressive views UP at the peaks and ridges. Given the haziness of the day, however, I had little motivation to head up there to NOT have a nice view.
I also got some nice views of Bee Rock from the north and west. It's much less impressive from those ends. You're above Bee Rock, looking down, so there's not much incentive to make the detour *down* to the fenced-in precipice. Even more so than Eagle Rock in Topanga State Park,
Bee Rock is a more impressive lookout if you're coming from one end versus the other.
As I passed to the north and east of Bee Rock, I eventually reached Vista del Valle Road. From there, a right turn would have taken me north, with a possible detour back to the peaks north of Mt. Hollywood. However, since I've been that way several times this year already, I turned left.
Vista del Vista is paved, with a double-yellow line dividing the road. Not sure when it stopped being a driving path and became a "trail," but I suspect not all that long ago. The pavement is still in decent shape. It provides an easy and hardened path for mountain bikers. In fact, I think most of the designated mountain bike trails in Griffith Park are either paved like this road, or at least a broad, dirt road. I don't think many (if any) of the single track is open to mountain bikers.
In fact, Vista del Valle, along with Mt. Hollywood Drive, basically crosses and loops through the entire eastern end of the park, so if you did want to bike (even on a road bike), this combination Vista del Valle and Mt. Hollywood roads would give you a nice workout, generally free of any motor vehicles.
After passing the Bee Rock trail, my paved path swept to the south, then to the west. It brought me to the base of one of those impressive escarpments, where you look up and marvel at how abrupt these hills rise. Earthquake country? Yeah, I'd say so.
This particular escarp-ment makes a hike from here to Mt. Hollywood a long detour. This exposed cliff face is apparently a favorite place for crows to hang out. There must have been two score of them circling as I passed below their rocky perches.
Once beyond the crow hangout, Vista del Valle loops back towards the east, where you can look across a small side canyon and see Bee Rock from the south. It looks much more impressive from this angle than it did on your approach from the north.
The road continues to the southeast. The Old Zoo and PaDTL Trails are to your left (or, if you turn and look back the way you came, as in this picture, then the trails are to your right!). Invisible to you but at times no more than fifty horizontal yards to your right (but well above you) is the Hogback Trail. You may occasionally hear voices from hikers up there.
You'll also pass quite near (but, again, well below) the short metal bridge that hikers take on their way to the hogback. All the while, you can look north and south along the east slope of the Hollywood Hills, with the Golden State Freeway cutting north to south, and the San Gabriel Mountains far off in the distance.
Finally, you reach a turning point. As you round the ridge, there's a small wooden DWP shack. A pair of dirt roads meet Vista del Valle here. The one requiring a sharp right continues up the Hogback, towards Mt. Hollywood. I took that trail as part of a different hike, earlier this year.
A softer right would send you down towards the Roosevelt Golf Course. You'd also pass the tennis courts and eventually pop out at Vermont, where you could take several paths either up towards Mt. Hollywood or towards the Observatory.
Or you can just pause for a moment, and enjoy the view to your west. The Observatory domes and parking area are to the west, less than a mile as the crow flies, but several miles of winding, up-and-down trail away.
So, after enjoying the view, I remained on Vista del Valle, towards the east. As the pavement reaches its easternmost point, a watering point (for equestrians) with wooden fences marks the point where a trail continues east, towards Five Points (where five trails converge). At Five Points, I made a soft left and headed north.
At the next junction, I turned left, then left again. I was aiming to get on the Fern Canyon Trail. Somewhere along the way, a couple of hikers popped up out of the brush. I assumed they took one of the indicated trails that climbs from near the merry-go-round. Didn't look like much of a trail junction from above, but obviously it must be passable (but also much steeper) from below.
This was the home stretch, and there are nice views along the east slope, again. You also start hearing the sounds of folks down on the flatlands, so, while the views are more impressive, the sense of solitude is diminished (not that the freeways and megalopolis below you ever really disappears, of course).
I neared my starting point, but decided to stay on the trail, taking the PaDTL trail back to the Old Zoo. So I again could look back at the parking lot where my car was located. The orange leaves of the ornamental trees below looked even more colorful in the late afternoon sun than they had looked under the noon sun.
I passed through the upper section of the Old Zoo (which I had bypassed on my way up), walked through an abandoned building, then returned to the Old Zoo picnic area. Once I reached the road, I detoured to see a sign confirming that the play area I saw was Shane's Inspiration (someone had asked about its location when I was still lacing up my boots, and I wasn't sure where it was), then walked back along the parking area, past the merry-go-road (not open on most weekdays, I think), and back to my car.
An easy hike, since I avoided most of the major climbs. Lots of new trails covered, too. I'd estimate about 6.5 miles, particularly given the two passes through the Old Zoo.