Let’s Go for a Hike in Griffith Park, Shall We? (includes 34 photos)

by Tony Shea on October 23, 2012


One of my favorite things to do in Los Angeles is go for a hike. Out-of-towners almost always think of the beach and the ocean when they think of Los Angeles, but it should also be remembered that Los Angeles is surrounded by hills and mountain ranges that move out through a succession of peaks and valleys like ripples in a pond. Within two hours drive of Los Angeles are dozens of great hikes, from Malibu to Big Bear, and including the Angeles National Forest, as well as the Santa Monica Mountains.

When I lived in Hollywood, my favorite hike was Runyon Canyon, which is smack dab in the center of the city. It’s a weird urban/natural fusion that you can’t find in many other cities around the world. You just drive straight up La Brea Blvd and take a left, and you can usually even find a parking spot. Runyon is where you see all sorts of stars, and hot people looking for dates. The girls are ridiculous, in bikinis sometimes and skin tight compression hosiery. This is where all the porn stars jog. I guess you could say that it’s a fun hike with a banging view from downtown to the ocean. Problem is, it’s crowded.

These days when I take a hike, I’m looking for solitude. So now my favorite hike is what I call “The Backside of Griffith Park” and then I add, “Over by the merry-go-round.” Griffith Park, to my way of thinking, is a natural marvel. It’s absolutely massive, being three times larger than Central Park in New York City, and it’s riddled with all sorts of exciting nooks and crannies and interconnecting trails. It’s also filled with deer, coyotes, rattlesnakes, and the occasional mountain lion.

Also, the back half of Griffith Park seems virtually unknown to the citizens of Los Angeles and really does provide authentic solitude. Maybe you’ll come across a handful of folks during an hour walk, but not many more, which in Los Angeles is a small miracle. I suppose this is because it’s sort of tricky to figure out how to get to the back part of the park with all the lefts and the rights and the switchbacks along the way. Basically, you’re looking for the merry-go round. Above the merry-go-round are numerous interconnecting trails,  with three tiers of difficulty, flat, moderate, and steep going both left and right. I’ve done them all and they all have their merits.

Rather than starting at the merry-go-round, however, my favorite way is to go to the Great Lawn, then up past the old zoo, the rusty cages of which have a weird and haunted aura about them, through the hole in the chain link fence followed by a sharp left onto what I think of as Trail Number 2. If you go to the right you’ll usually end up at The Big Rock. A few of you who live in LA are probably imagining this right now and saying, aha! It’s a moderate trail, not too steep, but with some great vistas. And it’s a decent workout, and it’s quiet. It takes me about an hour as I zig back and forth, so I would guess it’s 3-4 miles. I do this hike once a week on average, usually on Sunday either in the morning or the late afternoon.

Therein: Let’s go for hike, shall we?

Here’s some music to listen as you walk along. I chose this song because I have been reading the great Warren Zevon’s oral history, “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead,” which is very much also a document about Los Angeles, and this song that he originally wrote features some great LA Details like “Alvarado Street by the Pioneer Chicken stand.” Also I love Dwight Yoakam records. The harmony vox on this are great, and it’s a big sound coming from just two guys. So take a listen.

So here’s the chain link fence you go through.

If you follow this road off to the right you end up at The Big Rock.

We go to the left for Trail Number 2.

By we, I mean Spanky and me. There he is.

He’s just a wienie dog. He’s almost exactly the same size and shape as a fire log. He’s a log dog.

But he’s brave and sturdy and strong.

The hike begins.

As always I am amazed and delighted by my dog’s legs which are no longer than a roll of Life Savers. How is it possible than he can walk on those things?

The Big Rock. Me and Spanks have hiked to the top once. The very tip of it is surrounded by another chain link fence to keep people from falling to their deaths, I suppose.


It’s strange how uphill can look like downhill when you take a picture.


In the winter, this is a creek bed filled with water. Now it’s dry as bone, and also filled with  bees that you can’t see that Spanky is barking at. I’m running fast as Hell to get out of there.


This is the city of Glendale, the next town over from Burbank, in the distance.




And still we walked on






We stop to take a breather.

Strange how downhill looks uphill in a picture sometimes.

Past some horse manure, which Spanky has eaten in the past, but no more. Now, he has his self-respect.

Down below you can see the parking lot near the merry-go-round.

These damn kids and their grafitti, why if I ever get a hold of them I’m going to….

The Sun makes an appearance over the mountain.”Morning, ” it says.

“It’s actually late afternoon,” I correct it.


“Really?” it asks. “I could have sworn that I was rising. ”

“Nope, you’re setting. For me, anyway.”

“Hunh? Well, so long,” it says.

Me and Spanks emerge onto The Great Lawn to find a Shakespeare festival in motion.




A Midsummer’s Night Dream.




Tony Shea ( Editor-in-Chief, New York)

Tony Shea is based in New York, having recently moved from Los Angeles after more than a decade on the sunny coast. His short films have won numerous awards and screened at major festivals around the world including Comic-Con. As a musician, he is the lead singer for Los Angeles rock n’ roll band Candygram For Mongo (C4M) candygramformongo.com who has been a featured artist on Clear Channel Radio’s Discover New Music Program and whose songs have been heard on Battlestar Gallactica (Syfy Channel) and Unhitched (Fox) among other shows and films.

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