Climbing Los Angeles One Step at a Time

Monday, November 29, 2010

Walk #4 : Glassell Park South - Taylor Yard

Distance: 3.2 miles
Steps: 401
Difficulty: 3
"Here's a nifty trip through the Mt. Washington-adjacent hills, with a starting point by the Los Angeles River and a stroll through an unexpected piece of Santa Monica Conservancy parkland." Taken from Secret Stairs by Charles Fleming.

This long Thanksgiving weekend coupled with crisp, clear skies made for amazing walking opportunities. Charles and I usually walk on Sundays and invite others along when we do so but on Saturday I woke up in the mood for exercise so I just picked a walk close to his home in Atwater Village. We were both truly surprised by the diversity of this walk and once again by the things you can see when you slow down and get out of your car! We began the walk at N. San Fernando Road in an industrial area that parallels the Los Angeles River and rail lines. I live in nearby Burbank and have driven by the area too many times to count and never noticed the Rio de Los Angeles State Park ( Neither had Charles. Yes, there is a large urban park filled with sports facilities, trails, and picnic grounds in what was once a large railroad yard (Taylor Yard) used for the repair and maintenance of rail cars! I know that I will return to use the well-maintained running/walking paths and fly my kite there. It is definitely worth a visit.
We parked inside the park and crossed the busy San Fernando Road and headed uphill.

You can see one of the entrances to the park from this street/alley.

This neighborhood is nothing to write home about but there was definitely the feeling that people know their neighbors. I might have blended in a little but not Charles! One man approached me (he saw my camera) and asked me in Spanish if it was okay for him to put his chair on the lawn and I was puzzled. He thought we were some kind of inspectors and I told him that he could put that chair wherever he wanted.
It is only a few short blocks before you start climb into the hill. I saw a Mt. Washington sign but perhaps it should read 'Mt. Washington-adjacent.' Everyone wants to say they live in that neighborhood and perhaps a bit of this walk was indeed Mt. Washington but this part of it is a stretch.
That's Griffith Park.

As we climbed the houses seemed to have a bit more character to them and better maintained.

The Tillie Street stairs are part of an actual walk street - one of the few true walk streets in LA. There are 135 steps and the only way to access homes on the street is by climbing up or down. Good for privacy but not so good if you left something in the car or have lots of groceries. I guess you know who your real friends are when they hoof it up to visit you.
The street is formed by several sections of sidewalk/street broken up by short stairways in a gentle climb.

Elysian Park can be seen in the background - on the other side of the Los Angeles River and the Golden State Freeway (Interstate 5).

The stairway seemed to go on forever but we finally landed on Kilbourn Street and walked for a long block before encountering our second stairway.

It's either mailboxes or gates that grab my attention. When I see a gate and nothing behind it I always wonder what surprises might lie behind the door.

A Ford Thunderbird in really great condition.

The next stairway contained 133 steps and afforded amazing views. This neighborhood is less than 5 miles from the center of Los Angeles yet you would never know it.

If you look very closely you will see the Griffith Observatory. Really.

Elysian Park with the skyscrapers of Downtown LA in the distance.
As we continued heading into the hills and getting closer to the Mt. Washington neighborhood we noticed a distinct rustic feel to the neighborhood and could not believe we were in the middle of the 2nd largest city in the US. Surprise turned to shock when we saw a Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Parkland smack-dab-in-the-middle of the neighborhood. I bet you've never heard of Elyria Canyon Park ( The Conservancy buys back land for public use but I thought the lands were all somehow connected. This park lies nowhere near the Santa Monica Mountains and is tiny but a very welcome sight. We met a very friendly Israeli family and the husband (Tal) told us about how lucky they felt to live in the area. It is very common to find chatty neighbors on these walks who are happy to point out hidden stairways or to chat. I so could live around here.

From Elyria Canyon Park you can see Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale.
It takes no more than 5 minutes to walk from the gate at the top to the bottom gate but you really do feel transported to another place far from the urban setting we inhabit.

I don't know what the purpose of this red barn/house is but we were told by Tal that it is used as some sort of community center.

Back in civilization we started our descent and encountered some great views on our way down.

From above we could see our starting point - the Rio de Los Angeles State Park.

Thankfully, only a little graffiti marred this unique piece of artwork.

One of the local street thugs: El Charlitos.

Moi, uncombed hair as usual.
A view of the Park from across N. San Fernando Road.

Once back in the park we sat down to a picnic lunch I spent hours preparing: BLT sandwiches, pickled veggies, and bbq potato chips. Who can forget my favorite pastime? - the LA Times Crossword. Can life get any better?

The train tracks are just right there to remind you where you are.

I never thought that a $12 book could give me so many memories and continue to surprise me at every turn of the page. This walk sure did present two amazing urban parks and ones I will be sure to visit again!

Feel free to join me as I discover hidden parts of Los Angeles and tackle the remaining 16 stair walks.
Steps walked to date: 12,361.
Follow me on Twitter: @ClimbingLA


  1. Love the 63' Tbird, thanks for the walk.

  2. Back to back walks! It was a walking weekend. As you mentioned, this one was one of the more rural walks which was magical. It was like going away for a few days. Too bad we had that run in with one of the locals (El Charlitos)!

  3. Nice post. Just to clarify though, the neighborhood you walked around that contains and is adjacent to Rio State Park is Cypress Park, not Glassell Park. And actually you may not have noticed it due to poor upkeep, but that neighborhood is almost entirely comprised of pre-1920's bungalows, as it was one of Los Angeles' first suburbs. This neighborhood is currently undergoing revitalization so stay tuned to see what happens!

  4. Cool write up. Now get over to Montecito Heights to see an even better example of great views and a rustic dirt roads feel.

  5. Hey there!

    I believe I saw you and a couple of companions at the foot of the stairs on Eldred in Highland Park a couple of weeks ago or so. The three of you were about to walk up the stairs which would lead you from Highland Park to Mt. Washington. Was that you?

  6. @Anonymous: The author of the book calls it Glassell Park but I too had my doubts. Thanks for clariying!

  7. @Above the city: We did the Montecito Heights walk a few months ago. Take a look; I wrote about the rustic feel. Thanks!

  8. @Garza: I haven't walked the area you mentioned recently but I do have one coming up in the area. Thanks for reading.