Climbing Los Angeles One Step at a Time

Monday, May 31, 2010

Walk #28 : Los Angeles River Loop

Distance: 3 miles
Steps: 115
Difficulty: 2

"Here is a most unusual walk - a hybrid of gritty, urban stairs, and verdant, open wetlands. This relatively undemanding trek includes pedestrian bridges over freeways, secret paths through hobo camps, and nesting habitats of exotic waterfowl. While not appropriate for everyone - women walking alone, children, hobo-phobes, and others - it offers a dramatic look at a seldom seen part of Los Angeles." Taken from Secret Stairs by Charles Fleming.

While this walk was short on steps it was long on memories! This part of Los Angeles (Atwater Village/Los Feliz) is quite near my home in Burbank and Charles lives only blocks from the start/finish of this walk. We have walked along the riverbank and surrounding areas countless times and it is great to see this neighborhood included in Secret Stairs.

Many will recognize the river from television shows and especially from car chases further down the river where the water stream narrows. I like to remember the river as an urban habitat where plants and wildlife coexist with bike paths, walking paths, horses, and the homeless. It amazes me how so few people take advantage of what this area has to offer. The river was paved in the late 1930s after a series of disastrous floods.

The Los Angeles River at Los Feliz Blvd.

We walked along the Los Feliz bridge over the river and on to the bike path/walkway. As you walk/ride and head south, the freeway is on your right and the river on your left. We enjoy riding our bikes heading north where it ends in Burbank at the Victory Blvd offramp. Although the freeway is right there on one side you have the river on the other and you really do get to see numerous herons/egrets/waterfowl. There are also several types of fish to be found and we have seen many people down there with fishing poles.

If you go down to the water's edge it's really nice to see a live river and not just a flood control channel. Just stay away when it rains!

For several miles Interstate 5 parallels the LA River. When I was a kid I remember that all the storm drain covers were painted to look like cats. Very few of these remain painted that way.

We headed south and went to the water's edge. The trees grow IN the river and we saw numerous ducks and birds and of course, garbage. When it rains and the water level rises it is quite disturbing to see plastic bags, clothes, and all sorts of trash stuck in the foliage. We should all remember to NEVER use the storm drains on our streets as garbage cans!! It will end up in our river.

This 'island' appears to serve as a home for some homeless people. You see their encampments under the bridges, on these islands, and between the bike path and the freeway.

Between Los Feliz and the Hyperion bridge is this footpath. We crossed it to get back to Atwater Village. On several occasions we have stood in the middle of the bridge and enjoyed 4th of July fireworks from here.

It's Jacaranda season here in LA (they bloom in late May/June and again in December). While they are beautiful to look at, I have one on my front lawn and they can be a pain as the fallen flowers ooze a sticky substance and stick to the bottom of your shoes!

Jacaranda trees in bloom in Atwater Village.

The Hyperion Bridge
We crossed the bridge at Hyperion/Glendale Avenue and found our first set of stairs. As you can see, there are homeless in the area and it was a bit smelly climbing this first staircase!

The bridge with the Golden State Freeway (I-5) running under it.

The bridge was lined with US flags in honor of our Veterans.

Looking north from the Hyperion bridge.

After crossing the bridge we walked down this set of stairs and ended up on Riverside Drive approaching Griffith Park.

There were 2 parts to the sign pictured below. The top part reads 'Hotel' and lies on the ground behind this one. I suspect it read 'Hotel Californian' and graced the top of an old Los Angeles apartment house.

While this beautiful fountain located at Los Feliz Blvd. and Riverside Drive is called the Mulholland Fountain I have dubbed it the 'Quinceanera Fountain.' I rarely pass by this fountain on a weekend without seeing a wedding/quinceanera party taking pictures here!

Lucky Charles found $6 right here!
We crossed the street and found our last staircase leading to a swimming pool and tennis court complex.

The last staircase across from the Mulholland Fountain.

Just over the hedges is busy Interstate 5! Behind the tennis courts lies a short footpath which took us to a pedestrian bridge spanning I-5.

Crossing over I-5 towards Atwater Village

If I'm driving north on Interstate 5 I always know I'm close to home when I see this 'hump' which belongs to Griffith Park. I'm only 3 exits away.

From this entrance on Los Feliz Blvd. you can access the eastern side of the river. We like to walk on this side towards the Colorado Blvd. overpass as there are multiple horse stables. One can often see horses with their heads peeking out and riders enjoying the path. I'm surprised by how few people use this side of the riverbank.

At the end of the walk (back on Los Feliz Blvd.) there are some options...

It was too early to grab a drink at Bigfoot Lodge so we crossed the street and had breakfast at EAT (Loz Feliz Coffee Shop). It's a quaint little eatery with a back porch that faces the 9-hole golf course and was a perfect way to end our Memorial Day walk!

Feel free to join me as I discover hidden parts of Los Angeles and tackle the remaining 35 stair walks.

Steps walked to date: 3,130

Follow me on Twitter: @ClimbingLA


  1. I always love looking at pictures of my old neighborhood. I enjoyed looking at the cats as a child as well. I ran into someone who told me that she and her mother did that art work when she was a child. Later another artist took over. You probably noticed the change in style.

  2. Hermana, thank you for commenting. It's nice to know someone else remembered those cats!

  3. I REALLY liked this one a lot because it's my/our neighborhood. It was fun to see places we knew from Fleming's stair perspective. That and I'm $6 richer too. Where are we going next??

  4. I totally remember the cat paintings on the storm drain covers. I also remember riding my BMX bike on the dirt mountains above Riverside drive across from the 5 and the river in Silver Lake (where apartments now stand). Thanks for the post.

  5. who is the Lucky Charles that found 6 dollars ?

  6. Charles is my partner.. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Robert! Funny coincidence: I'm moving to Atwater Village and I was intrigued by the secret sets of stairs, and then I see Charles with the $6 and realize that my girlfriend and I met you two while looking at his condo! (and I think Charles knows this, but we truly loved it even though it didn't work out).

    We found a similar place nearby on Glenhurst and are really excited to be in your neighborhood. Enough about me. I enjoy the blog and look forward to possibly running into you at the Farmers Market or on the stairs! :)

  8. Hi Scott! Thanks for your comment and welcome to the neighbrhood. I think you will enjoy it.

  9. Hello, I came across your site looking for info on the LA River and then noticed that big California sign photo you had taken. Would you be able to tell me that location?! Would love to see it. Thank you!

  10. I almost can't believe all of this. You are so lucky to live in LA and be able to explore all of this.