Monday, July 22, 2013

Hike 2013.040 -- Griffith Observatory to Ferndell to Bat Caves and Back

Hiked Saturday, July 20. I'm going to roughly estimate this as 6 miles. It should be more, since I was walking for about three hours, but 6 is a fair ballpark. First serious hike in several weeks.

I started my hike from the Griffith Observatory. Getting there is pretty straightforward, and you can google those directions easily. Also, on weekends, there's a 50-cent DASH bus you can catch from the Sunset and Vermont Red Line station up to the Observatory

In a tree just northeast of the Observa-tory was a fair-sized raptor. He looked kinda large, but the tail feathers did not look reddish, so I didn't think he was a red tailed hawk. Looked too big to be a Cooper's hawk, though. I do know he kept a keen eye to his left, so something tasty must have been down there.

Meanwhile, in the shrubbery across the horseshoe from the Observa-tory, there are a number of flowers with really narrow buds. The hummingbirds were having a feast, and also being very territorial about their favorite buds.

As you approach the Observatory from the north, you may notice a trail comes up from the left.

If you go down that trail, then turn left, left at the major true junctions, you'd pop out on Vermont Canyon Road, near the Greek Theater. But if you go right, left, you're on East Observatory Trail, which is the shorter way down to Ferndell.

By "true junction," I mean on the wide, road-width dirt trails that are the official trails in Griffith Park. Most of the narrower ones are not official trails, even if they are often heavily traveled.

In the upper reaches of Ferndell, you've got a dry "stream" bed, flanked by trees. I'll have to come back again in the winter/spring to see if any water flows up here then. Because of the small watershed, I'm assuming not.

Continue going down-stream, and eventually, the bed becomes a seep, then stagnant pools, then trickling water. Earlier in the season, the water flowed nicely and the waterfalls fell. Now, it pretty much stays a trickle, and the smell of wet mud is strong.

Despite the low water, it was still a relaxing walk down here. A scattering of golden leaves on the water, coupled with the atypical (for July) clouds (which even dropped some water on my head on this segment of the hike), made it feel almost fall-like.

Also new since last time I was here, it looks like someone's "planted" some small koi in the water here. Not sure how long they'll last. If not captured by a cheap person's net, I figure once the raccoons figure out there are fish here, they'll be toast.

There's a cafe down near Ferndell, in the Park, but just a bit north of the watered portion of the trail, I think. I haven't explicitly gone to look for it, but maybe one of these days.

Meanwhile, I continued heading south. Once out of Ferndell, I took the paved walkway that eventually drops down and joins Los Feliz, just before that road ends, at Western. I went south on Western Avenue what seemed just a 100 yards or so, then headed west on Franklin Avenue. After a half-mile on Franklin, I turned north (right) on Canyon. From there, it was a longer-than expected 1 1/4 or 1 1/2 miles north before I reached the end of the road, in Brush Canyon.

My first hike in Griffith Park actually started right here, in Camp Hollywoodland. That was an amazing three years ago.

Then, as now, from the end of the road, you cross a small bridge (doesn't really qualify as a bridge, but it does cross a ditch), heading east, and take the dirt road the climbs up and to the south. After a short 1/2 mile (or long 1/4 mile, depending on if you want to round up or down), Bronson Caves (AKA "The Bat Cave") is on your left.

Someone was exploring the caves (or, actually, just standing by the entrance, staring at the wall), so I just snapped a few pictures from a distance and walked on to the north. There's a pretty serious ridge that way, and I was thinking maybe there'd be a shortcut from there back to the Observatory.

Turns out there's not. There is a large hangout for a huge murder of crows, who will send scouts to keep tabs on you if you get even kind of sort of near to them. Since I did not want to be the star of an impromptu reenactment of "The Birds," I decided to keep my distance. I also determined that there would be no shortcut, and retreated back to road level.

Once back down and on the Brush Canyon Trail, it's a long 3/4 of a mile, sweeping up along the east slope of the canyon, before you reach Mulholland Trail. Near the start, I looked back, at a large oak tree. Among its gnarled roots was a green box, which, I would suspect, was a geocache.

At Mulholland Trail, a left turn there would take you towards Mt. Lee and the Hollywood Sign. A right, on the other hand, would take me back to the Observatory. I went right. A 1/4 mile later, I reached Mt. Hollywood Drive.

From there, I headed south. There's a choice you need to make after another 1/4 mile: Do I want to climb up the "3-mile Trail," towards Mt. Hollywood, then descend from there into the north end of the Observatory parking lot? Or do I stay on Mt. Hollywood Drive, give up all sorts of altitude as I descend towards Vermont Canyon Road, then either regain that altitude by walking up West Observatory Road, or gain even more altitude by taking the short, steep spur trail that joins up with the Charlie Turner Trail?

Today, I decided to stay on Mt. Hollywood Drive. It's paved, which means bicyclist can come flying by you at 30 mph or more. It's also tougher on the hiking boots. But I took the "high road" the last few times this way, so it was time for a change of pace.

Along the way, I saw a gibbous, almost full moon rising. When I reached a point where I could capture it and an impressive looking yucca stalk, I stopped for a picture. I also got a nice view of the Observatory at twilight, with long lines on the front lawn and on the roof to look through the Observatory's telescopes.

About six miles for the day. Skip the little adventure up the ridge near Bronson Caves, and everything else is on wide dirt- or paved-road. No reason why a youngster who's able to walk significant distances couldn't do this trail. Also, dogs are allowed, though they should be leashed and picked up after. The leashed part is particularly important if you come across equestrians.


  1. I hiked this trail many years ago and really enjoyed it.

  2. I have read that there used to be more water coming down here--all condensation from the A/C units in the Observatory. Don't know if it's true, but the water is definitely low, now.

  3. Very interesting area. I've lived here all my life (63 yrs. so far!) and have never been in that area (except the observatory).

    That moon & yucca photo is wonderful!

    I believe that was a red-tailed hawk--probably a juvenile. Red-tails can be tricky to ID because they have a lot of variations in plummage depending on age and time of year.

  4. Thanks for the comment! Your observation on the hawk makes a lot of sense. He looked too small and not red-tailed enough to me to be a red tailed hawk, but if the younger ones look that different, then you're probably right!