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The L.A. Taco Guide To Hiking Griffith Park During Coronavirus

1:12 PM PDT on September 3, 2020

[dropcap size=big]C[/dropcap]ourtesy reminder: The parks and trails across Los Angeles are open and spending time outdoors in places like Griffith Park can be a wonderful break from non-stop Zoom meetings and doomscrolling all week. However, there are a few things to keep in mind to hike safely and respectfully during the COVID era. 

Keep Up That Social Distancing

L.A. City guidelines request hikers maintain social distancing on the trail—which means keeping about six feet away from your fellow hikers and no groups unless you’re hiking with the people you’re living with. Most of the trails in Griffith Park are nice, wide fire roads, which means hiking here and keeping up that distance will be easier than a narrow, single-track trail. Right now, as popular trailheads face periodic shutdowns due to overcrowding, I’d also recommend you have a plan B, C, and D. If the trailhead’s parking lot is full when you arrive—go somewhere else.

Masks On

While other places are only requiring hikers to use face coverings while passing other people on the trail, at the time of writing, the City of Los Angeles is still requiring face masks on at all times — even on a hike (and yes, that includes getting from the trailhead to the trail itself). While it’s not the most comfortable way to hike, remember we’re not talking about military-grade gas masks, here. A simple bandana or buff will do the trick. And no—you’re not going to suffocate, I promise.

Come Prepared and Be Chill

The usual rules of hiking safety still apply here, too. Remember to bring sunscreen, snacks, and more than enough water, and try to avoid the hottest part of the day by getting outside early or waiting until later in the evening. If you take something into the park on your hike, take it out with you — I’ve seen a lot of masks and gloves on the sides of trails lately. Don’t be surprised to find closed bathrooms, dry water fountains, or frazzled park employees trying to make the best of a very strange situation on a shoestring budget. Be prepared, be flexible, be calm. We’re all in this together!

Where To Hike in Griffith Park

Although Griffith Park can certainly see its share of crowds, you can generally avoid them by starting your hike early and by steering clear of the big attractions like the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood Sign. Remember — there are 70 miles of hiking and equestrian trails in the park, so we don’t all need to cram into the same three sites!

I just wrote Discovering Griffith Park, the very first in-depth guidebook for one of North America’s largest and most visited city parks, and I got to know the trails very well. In general, if you’re looking to dodge crowds, the northern and eastern parts of the park have much less foot traffic. If you’re quiet enough, you might even spot a bobcat in the chaparral. Here are some lesser-traveled trails worth checking out:

Glendale Peak

This prominent little bump sits just off the popular Hogback Trail but is only visited by a tiny fraction of that larger trail’s foot traffic. Take the wide Riverside Trail from near the Greek Theatre and turn onto the Hogback Trail. Right before that iconic footbridge (and the steep incline toward Mount Hollywood), look for the narrow Henry’s Trail and follow it to Glendale Peak. Henry’s Trail is thin and has some steep drop-offs, so remember to be aware of other folks nearby.

Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill is the easternmost peak in the Santa Monica Mountains, and it holds a prime position above the L.A. River near the Griffith Park Pony and Train Rides and the Mulholland Fountain. You can reach this point from a number of different trailheads, so you should be able to find an option that isn’t too crowded. Start from the Pony Rides, the Merry Go Round Parking Lot, or Cadman Drive—each one is a terrific hike.

Amir’s Garden

Just above the Mineral Wells Picnic Area, the handbuilt oasis of Amir’s Garden has been a favorite for countless Griffith Park hikers. You can reach it with a moderate incline on the North Trail. Take time to wander around the maze of dense vegetation and come down on one of the historic staircases cut into the hillside by Amir himself. Just remember—this is a historic garden, so don’t pick or pull any plants you see (that goes for anywhere in the park, but sadly this has been an especially bad problem at Amir’s).

Skyline Trail

The Skyline Trail travels the northernmost ridge in Griffith Park from Travel Town to the L.A. Zoo. It’s got some of the best views of Burbank and the Verdugo and San Gabriel Mountains and is a nice, wide fire road for easy social distancing. Connect with the Main Trail for a full loop or use the Rattlesnake Trail as a cut-off if you don’t have a lot of time.

Bird Sanctuary

The Bird Sanctuary sits at the north end of Vermont Canyon just before the road turns toward the Observatory. It’s an easy, gentle, short loop trail through an area that’s being restored to its former beauty after wildfires. The Friends of Griffith Park have been tending native plants in this small side canyon, and it’s a great place to find peace in an otherwise busy part of the park.

Discovering Griffith Park, a Local's Guide is available wherever books are sold. Get more information here.

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