Climbing Los Angeles One Step at a Time

Friday, October 15, 2010

Walk #29: Los Feliz- Griffith Park Loop

Distance: 3.8 miles
Steps: 463
"This is a challenging walk that rolls from the oak-lined foothills of Griffith Park up into the park itself, winding around the famed Griffith Park Observatory. Along the way, gigantic city views, some extreme staircases, and Frank Lloyd Wright." Taken from Secret Stairs by Charles Fleming.
Many people think of Griffith Park as only a must-see stop on the tourist trail of Los Angeles. A quick picture of the Observatory and the Hollywood sign and then you're gone! To me it means so much more. Griffith Park is one of the largest urban parks in North America and is often called the Central Park of Los Angeles. Our park is much larger and more rugged than that other urban oasis. To me Griffith Park is: numerous hiking trails, a landmark observatory, a world-class zoo, golf courses, an open air music venue (The Greek), a shortcut when traffic is impossible on the 5, and sweeping views of the LA Basin and of the San Fernando Valley. Years ago a huge Colombian festival was held here during the summer but it got kinda rowdy and the event has been moved to private venues. I've been coming here for over 30 years and when we were forced to go as kids we thought it was 'ghetto' but with age my opinion has drastically changed. I forgot to mention that it's also a place where I have had multiple coyote sightings and where Charles and I ride our bikes as he lives nearby. In the winter we like to visit the Festival of Lights.
We began our walk near the Vermont entrance to the park. This is a very quiet stretch of one of the main thoroughfares of the City and is a grand approach to the park. It's a ritzy part of LA called Los Feliz and we admired the homes as we walked downhill.

A few blocks later we turned and went deeper into the neighborhood and soon arrived at a City-designated Historic Cultural Landmark. It is one of very few stairways to enjoy this status . I think the Music Box stairs in Silver Lake share this as does one of the stairways in the Beachwood Canyon neighborhood of LA. It was 181 very grand steps with a rest area in the middle and at the top.

Charles takes a well-earned break at the top.

We soon found ourselves at our second stairway. Shady and well-maintained with a dramatic arch at the top.

Only 70 steps - a piece of cake.

With hillside walks in LA city views are inevitable. This was one of many incredible views we encountered along the way.

Can someone tell me what this is?

We usually encounter unusual mailboxes along the way.

I knew that this walk would eventually lead us to the Observatory and we had walked uphill and taken some stairs but now we were headed downhill.

Los Feliz Boulevard in the distance.

On the way down these 133 steps you can see the famous Ennis House - one of several Frank Lloyd Wright structures in Los Angeles.

Ennis House.

We continued down a second staircase and encountered a large mosaic on one of the walls depicting famous LA landmarks. The one pictured below is the Griffith Observatory which we would soon reach.

The Observatory in mosaic form.

This 1920's house (Witches' Whimsy) is said to be designed to resemble the famous Tam O'Shanter Inn restaurant in nearby Atwater Village. We could have continued downhill and headed back to the car and I was tempted but I was talked out of it and we pressed on.

A closer view of Ennis house.

Ennis house was built in '24 and you may remember it from 'Day of the Locust' or 'Bladerunner.' The Maya-inspired textile-block house needs major repair work and is rumored to be on the market. As we approached the Frank Lloyd Wright house we came across rooftop solar panels. Why are they so rare in sunny SoCal?!

The entrance to the Ennis House.

Detail of a textile block.

A view of Downtown LA.

As we continued walking uphill the Observatory was in view and we would soon enter the park and continue on a dirt path.

Willie on one of the numerous hiking trails leading to/from the Observatory.

We finally reached the Observatory and sat on the steps to rest before heading downhill to lunch and our cars. Below is Charles resting with a view of the famous Hollywood sign. From the Observatory there is a path leading to the top of the mountain and spectacular 360-degree views.

Charles taking another break.

Charlie's Angels or what?!

We were soon heading downhill and walked past an LA landmark - the Greek Theatre. While not as well-known or as big as the Hollywood Bowl, it has nevertheless hosted world-class entertainers in the decades that it has existed.

Just down the road our walk ended at the Roosevelt Golf Course snack shop where we grabbed lunch.

A view from the '19th' hole. Willie and Charles posing in front of the restaurant.

Feel free to join me as I discover hidden parts of Los Angeles and tackle the remaining 20 stair walks.

Steps walked to date: 11,588

Follow me on Twitter: @ClimbingLA


  1. Okay, I am exhausted and sweaty all over again just from reading this. This was another amazing walk - it was so cool to see the Lloyd Wright house up close. And to have the observatory included in the walk. Thanks for another great walk, Robert.

  2. Hi
    That was great ... I will have to take that walk with my daughters. I didn't know it existed.
    Thanks again