Dan's Hiking Pages: Hikes in the San Gabriels and Beyond
SimpsonCity Home   Hikes / Trails
  Hike Log
  Hiking Tips
  Dan's Hiking Pages: Hikes in the San Gabriels and Beyond

Griffith Icon
Griffith Observatory
via East Observatory Trail (#11)
Griffith Park / Los Angeles / Southern California

Trail Stats
Mileage (r.t.) 1.5
Trailhead 710'
Observatory 1131'
Total gain/loss 421'
Gain/loss per mi. 561'
Griffith Park stands as the largest urban park in the U.S., about five times the size of Central Park in New York. Visionary businessman Griffith J. Griffith foresaw the need for such open space and in 1896 donated 3,015 acres to the City of Los Angeles to be used as a park. And when he died in 1919, he left a fortune to fund the dreams he had for the park. Today the 4,071-acre Griffith Park is a treasure for Angelinos. And with its 53-mile network of trails, fire roads, and bridle paths, offers myriad hiking opportunities.

The hike is really short at only 1.5 miles round trip, which begs the question if it can actually be considered a hike. And certainly I'd say leave your hiking gear at home. Put on some causal clothes and comfortable tennis shoes, maybe grab a hat and sunglasses and bottle of water, and hit the trail. And don't forget the camera—the scenery is striking.

The hike starts near the famed Greek Theater and climbs a well-traveled dirt road yielding a spectacular panorama of the urban jungle of Los Angeles. Your ascent climaxes at the historic Griffith Observatory, one of the most widely recognized and beloved landmarks in L.A. And since it reopened in January 2007 after its four-year, 93 million dollar renovation, the observatory is better than ever, offering a thoroughly fascinating and enriching experience. And it's free (except for the Planetarium show)! One can easily spend three or four hours there without exhausting its offerings.

Mt. Hollywood extension: You can extend your hike by continue from Griffith Observatory to the top of 1,625-foot Mt. Hollywood to make an excellent 5.5 mile round trip hike. See Mt. Hollywood hike description

Season: All Year

Even though trails in Griffith Park can be hiked year around, the most enjoyable time is winter through early spring when the hillsides are green, temperatures are moderate, and when rain has cleaned the air and/or when an offshore wind has blown all the murkiness out to sea. Spring offers an array of wildflowers while fall provides some color with the leaves changing. On hot summer days the baking sun can be punishing, so go early in the morning or late in the day. See Seasons of the San Gabriels for a detailed description of minding the seasons.

Getting to the Trailhead:

Griffith Park is northwest of downtown Los Angeles, just west of I-5, roughly between Los Feliz Blvd. to the south and the Ventura Freeway (SR 134) to the north. From Los Feliz Blvd. turn north on Vermont Avenue and drive along a scenic street lined with regal mansions. At about 1.2 miles, just past the Golf course restaurant on the right, notice Boy Scout Road cutting to the left (if you pass the Greek Theater, you've gone a half block too far). The trailhead is on the right just after you make the turn onto Boy Scout Road). Park along the road but be aware of the restricted parking enforced when the Greek Theater is having a show (call ahead or check their website for show schedules). See map and directions provided by the Greek Theater.

Trail Description:

From the north side of Boy Scout Road near the intersection of Vermont Avenue, notice the wide path heading north (a sign used indicate the trail as number 11). Begin your hike on the wide, dirt path as it begins to aggressively ascend several switchbacks and then head westerly. Your first views will be of the park area below and of the adjacent ridge and hillside accented with homes. As you look east you'll begin to see the hillsides of the eastern section of the park that where charred with the May 2007 fire. The San Gabriel Mountains peek above the ridgeline in distance. Shortly you round a bend and get your first glimpse of the observatory.

Looking north at the Griffith Observatory from the five-way trail junction. View Large Image.
In a few more mintues you reach a paved service road. If you turn right unto the road, in about 30 yards you take a hard left to continue on the dirt road. Or you can directly cross the paved road and take the narrow path. A few steps later you achieve a ridge offering your first good look at the mass of urban sprawl to the south. In a few more steps, veer left onto the dirt road. As you climb higher the panorama becomes dazzling. After contouring westward you'll reach a main ridge with a five-point junction, 0.5 miles from the start. Here you are rewarded with a handsome view of the grand observatory, perched above you to the north.

As you face the observatory from this junction, you'll see three dirt roads heading northward, like prongs on a fork. The one on the left descends to Ferndell (see Ferndell hike descripton); the one in the middle goes a couple hundred yards and dead-ends at a large water valve below the observatory; the one on the right climbs to the observatory and is your route (there's also a narrow use trail descending the ridge southwest to Ferndell).

Follow the road north as it ascends to the eastern end of the observatory. In 0.25 from the junction you reach your destination, Griffith Observatory.

If you choose not to go inside the observatory, at least climb its steps to take in the views from its roof and balconies—the vistas are stunning!

Before returning the way you came, consider extending your hike to Mt. Hollywood (see below). icon

Continuing to Mt. Hollywood
If you plan on continuing to Mt. Hollywood, walk north from the observatory grounds past the parking lot and find the nicely landscaped Charlie Turner Trailhead for the Mt. Hollywood Hiking Trail. The wide path is lined with trees and a rail fence. This is your route. See Mt. Hollywood hike description.

Griffith Observatory Map

View Large Map / See also Griffith Park Maps page.
(852 K)

May 14, 2010 - Griffith Observatory Celebrates 75 Years
Observatory 75th Griffith 75 header

camera View Slide Show
(on my Google+ site)

Official Griffith Observatory 75th Page
Griffith 75th Griffith 75th Griffith 75th Griffith 75th Griffith 75th

Griffith Icon Related links on Dan's Hiking Pages and Blog:

camera Photo Albums:

Observatory Links:

  • Griffith Observatory - Official Website

  • Griffith Park - Official Website. Virtually useless for hikers—no maps, trail descriptions or any anything that provides a clue to where or how to hike in the park.

  • Greek Theatre - Official Website

Last Hiked: September 21, 2012

Home | About Me | Hikes/Trails | Hike Log | Photos | Hiking Tips |
Inspiration | News | Links

SimpsonCity Home

Contact Dan Simpson
Entire contents © 1999-2013 Daniel E. Simpson
This page was last updated November 23, 2013.