Griffith Park lies in the East Santa Monica Mountains, a 4,200-acre area about five miles from Downtown Los Angeles and fifteen from the Pacific Ocean. The park is not landscaped; rather, Griffith Park preserves the chaparral terrain native to California and provides a refuge from the city. The park is home to Griffith Observatory – a popular tourist attraction built in 1935. The observatory is an impressive sight with its white columns and grey dome. The views are of rippling hills and the landscape is largely native coastal brush land, with plant species including oak, redwood and eucalyptus trees. Park visitors may sight coyotes, hawks, rabbits and deer, some of the many animals that reside in the park. It is often cool in the shade, warm in the sun. The 53 miles of trail that weave through the park are popular amongst joggers and hikers and the iconic Hollywood sign can be spotted from certain trails, as can the Pacific Ocean and views of Downtown Los Angeles skyscrapers. A small café, The Trails, lies at the Fern Dell Drive entrance, offering pie, shortbread, sandwiches and hot drinks to hikers in need of refreshment – one can sit at a weathered picnic table under a canopy of redwoods and enjoy a large piece of homemade apple pie and cup of hot chocolate.
I visited this “refuge from the city” last week on a beautiful winter day:
The cool mountain breeze, laced with the sweet scent of eucalyptus and the musty aroma of redwood, rustled the oak trees as I made my way up a wide trail littered with pebbles and dusty footprints. The trail rose steeply ahead of me, winding through dappled shadow and late afternoon sunlight and into the rippling hills, where it became a golden thread, weaving through shrubs, cacti and eucalyptus trees to Griffith Observatory, perched majestically atop a hill and bathed in golden sunlight.
The Observatory was the sole structure in sight as I heard the call of a hawk, glimpsed the tracks of a coyote that had crossed the path and disappeared into the thicket that edged one side. On the other side, the path fell away into a gulley, green at this time of year and filled with bramble. At one point I sighted the Hollywood sign gleaming in the sunlight on a neighboring hill and framed by oak trees, their leaves edged with the gold of the setting sun. People exclaimed and talked loudly as they made their way down the path, liberated by nature like the invisible birds that chattered in the trees. I reached a point in the path, and turned to look over the sweeping view across city rooftops to the ocean: light blue streaked with gold and orange as the sun neared the horizon. It would soon be dark. I turned and walked down the hill toward a grove of redwood trees, starkly silhouetted against the clear blue sky. It was time to return to the city.