I love it when by job intersects with hiking. This week at work I was responsible for helping facilitate meetings with leaders from around the country. Several of them enjoy hiking so it’s always on our radar to see if we can take a hike on one of the evenings. It worked out for Wednesday evening. The only one who is able to hike this time was Jeff. Griffith Park, as always, is our venue of choice, and we decide on the classic hike from the Observatory to Mt. Hollywood and beyond.
We leave the office in Echo Park at 6:21 and drive the five miles to Griffith Park. We are thankful to find a parking place on West Observatory Road just short of the Charlie Turner Trailhead. I’m pleased that a beautiful sign and map has been erected at the trailhead. Good job, parks people! Signage in Griffith Park has been horribly deficient for years. It’s labeled as Sign No. 19, so that suggests that there are more!
6:49 PM – Begin hike heading north on Mt. Hollywood Trail from the Charlie Turner Trailhead. The temperature is pleasant and haze mutes the views. There are lots of people on the trail. We stroll along and enjoy good conservation and the rugged scenery lit with the warm glow of the late afternoon sun. We cross the bridge spanning the Vermont Canyon Road tunnel and veer left following the main route. Soon I realize I neglected to turn onto the shortcut trail that climbs straight up the ridge. Oh well, I guess we’ll walk the long switchback. Views of the grand observatory open up.
As we approach the end of switchback leg, we hear wheels screeching below on Mt. Hollywood Drive. There is a strong smell of rubber. We go to the edge of the trail and notice it’s a yellow Hummer. It backs up and repeats the maneuver. We realize it’s a film shoot as we spot a camera truck. Griffith Park is used a lot for filming (and Mt. Hollywood Drive is normally closed to vehicular traffic).
At the switchback there are stone benches and a monument marker. It reads, “The Tiffany & Co. Foundation Overlook.” I’ve not been here since September 2013, so these are new to me (since I usually take the shortcut, the last time I was here was with Jeff and Loren coming back down in the dark; on that hike we hit Mt. Hollywood and Mt. Bell).
| The Tiffany & Co. Foundation Overlook
With visionary support from The Tiffany & Co. Foundation
and contributions from people worldwide,
Cahuenga Peak, the backdrop of Hollywood,
is preserved for generations to come.
Enjoy the view!
We switchback heading east. It’s always sad to see rocks defaced with graffiti. The parks department works hard at covering it, but one tag—painted over at least two previous cover-overs—begs to be abated. The horrific scourge of graffiti in our population centers in “modern” society is compelling evidence that humankind is not evolving. Homo sapiens are de-evolving into Neanderthals and there is seemingly nothing that science and modernity can do to stop it (perhaps a theological explanation should be considered).
We are enjoying good conversation as our view over the vast L.A. sprawl to the south expands. Above us, Mt. Hollywood is accented with tiny figures.
We reach the six-point junction south of Mt. Hollywood at 7:20. A new sign has been posted here as well: Sign No. 13. It points left and right to either main route to Mt. Hollywood at .4 mi (to the left through Captain’s Roost [.1 mi.], and to the right through Dante’s View [.2 mi.]). And it points left (west), back to where we came up (.7 mi to Berlin Forest; 1 mi. to the Griffith Observatory). What the sign doesn’t mention is the two routes heading south down the ridge (the shortcut to the bridge and to Bird Sanctuary, although one is shown on the new map). And it doesn’t show the steep route that heads directly up the ridge to Mt. Hollywood. The small print at the bottom of the sign reads, “You are in an urban wilderness. For you safety and to protect the habitat, please stay on designated trails.” I guess that means they would prefer we don’t use the popular shortcut. We’ll, that’s going to be our route, so sorry, sign.
We turn north and begin to climb the well-worn path straight up. A guy is playing with a remote control car. Lots of California buckwheat is in bloom, about the only thing I’ve seen blooming today. The route is really steep, but always a fun way to go.
7:34 – Mt. Hollywood (1625’). I love this place. There are always people here; 13 right now. The massive human sprawl to the south is muted by haze. The grand observatory sits impressively on the mountain below. The soon-setting sun silhouettes Mt. Lee and the Hollywood sign to the west. To the northeast the majestic San Gabriels span the horizon with their sun-draped peaks. To the north Baby Bell calls to us. We linger for a few minutes and soak in the splendid location.
We leave the summit at 7:45 and head northeast on the wide dirt road. I’m hoping to get sunset shots from Baby Bell. That is about as far as we’ll get today. At the Captain’s Roost junction another new sign has been erected: Sign No. 11. And at the four-point junction north of Mt. Hollywood is new Sign No. 10. These are nice! The sun is nearing its disappearing point behind the peaks to the west. We continue straight along the ridge-divide and head north toward the Bells. The sun casts a warm glow over Glendale to our northeast. We’ve lost the sun behind Mt. Chapel but I’m calculating we’ll see it again once on top of Baby Bell. Our pace is deliberate now. We transition left unto the rutted path that skirts Baby Bell, then turn left to follow the ridge to the summit.
8:01 – Baby Bell (1570’). We’re just in time to photograph the setting sun as it dips below the distant horizon to the right of Mt. Chapel. There are two guys here and they snap our picture. Sometime I’d like to learn the story behind the hexagon-shaped foundation. This is Jeff’s first time on this peaklet (on our hike in September 2013 with Loren, we skirted Baby Bell so that we could have enough time to peak out at Mt. Bell with adequate light). We enjoy our 360-degree view over the rugged parkland and the vast megalopolis beyond. There is peacefulness as night falls on L.A. Looking north to the site of the long-gone Grand Central Airport in Glendale, and looking northeast to the zoo parking lot and the former of site of the Griffith Aviation Park, I share a little history with Jeff. Such aviation luminaries as Martin, Boeing, and Douglas had their roots here (see my Beacon Hill hike description for more).
We leave the summit at 8:13 and head down the northwest ridge route. At the dirt road we turn right and traverse along the north flank of Baby Bell. At the site of the short-lived Griffith Park Teahouse, I reminisce about its clandestine appearance on June 30, 2015. We continue around the peaklet then retrace our steps along the ridge-divide heading south. Lights twinkle in Glendale. Nightfall displays its beauty. I’m really enjoying Jeff’s enthralling story about a recent adventure he had on the Appalachian Trail…oh the lessons we learn while hiking!
At the four-point junction north of Mt. Hollywood (Sign No. 10), we opt to turn left (east). At Dante’s View there’s another new sign (Hogback Trail at Dante’s View, Sign No. 12). I encourage Jeff to drink from the fountain. He declines by saying he has water. I tell him he has to drink from the drinking fountain…because it’s here, and L.A. tap water is so robust. We take a short walk through Dante’s View before continuing on. It’s nearly dark now.
We reach the five-point junction at 8:52 and decide to go straight down the ridge shortcut. The ambient light is sufficient for our steps. I don’t recall if I have been down this route at night, but I failed to anticipate how tedious and precarious it is in the dark (I attempt to use my headlamp but I prefer the ambient light). A sea of lights covers our southern panorama. We safely negotiate the steep, slippery route and at the junction to Bird Sanctuary are rewarded with a reasonable path. Headlights stream up Western Canyon Drive. The observatory is bustling. Back at the bridge we retrace our steps past the Belin Forest and to the Charlie Turner Trailhead.
Epilog – What an enjoyable hike. I never get tired of this amazing urban wild place with its endless possibilities. In the nine years I’ve been hiking in Griffith Park, I’ve not repeated a hike. With the vast web of trails, I’ve been able to cobble together various trail sections and destinations to create a different hike each time. This hike was similar to previous hikes but distinctly different. Jeff was great company and it’s always a privilege to host our out-of-down guests.
See Hiking Griffith Park at Dan’s Hiking Pages
(includes links to my other blog posts for hiking in Griffith Park)
Relevant trail descriptions for this hike at Dan’s Hiking Pages:
- Mt. Hollywood (1625′) via Griffith Observatory and Charlie Turner Trailhead with options to Mt. Bell and more
- Brush Canyon to Mt. Bell (1582’) and more