Hiking the trails of L.A.


Brand Park trail

I find hiking to be a great way to explore the city while staying far above the chaos of the Angeleno’s everyday life. The fresh air and the serenity of the experience are all refreshing and inspiring — a wonderful way to end the weekend or welcome a new one.

As a frequent hiker, I recently decided to take on some of my favorite hiking trails in the Los Angeles area. I hiked through the paved roads of Griffith Park, Wildwood Canyon Park and Brand Park. Each park and hiking trail is unique in its own way, offering different views and perspectives of our beautiful city.

Griffith Park, a 4,210-acre landscape comprised of various plants, trees and shrubs, features the famous Hollywood sign, originally “Hollywoodland,” as well as the major tourist attraction, the Griffith Observatory. The park includes picnic areas, golfing, horsebacking riding trails and even tennis courts. Griffith Park offers about 53 miles of hiking trails; some routes lead to the Hollywood sign, others lead to the Observatory, and some of the less strenuous trails simply offer walks through the park.

According to Ranger Joyce of Griffith Park, the trail leading to the Observatory from Ferndell Park is a steep, one-mile trail of about 400 feet in elevation gain. As I hiked along the Ferndell Trail on a Saturday in October, I noticed many tourists hiking in groups, speaking their native language, “oohing” and “aahing” at various trees, plants, and the Hollywood sign. It was not a surprise. The Observatory is home to thousands of tourists from around the world.

What was surprising, however, was what I witnessed once I reached the Observatory and completed my hike. I walked over to one of rails to observe the city. I looked to my left only to see a group of Asian women sitting in a circle on the concrete, stretching and cooling down their muscles after a long hike. It was peaceful, inspiring and communal. They truly enjoyed the scenery and took time to breathe in the air and respect their surroundings.

It was also a bit humorous seeing a bunch of women stretching, hidden behind a huge pole in front of the Observatory. Nonetheless, it inspired my sister Lusine and I to do a couple of stretching exercises ourselves. Taking the time to relax my muscles allowed me take in the big city a moment longer and enjoy the people around me.

Although Griffith Park offers great scenic views and attractions, I often like to stay within the Glendale and Burbank area when hiking. Wildwood Canyon Park lies in the heart of Burbank, a park hidden away above the streets of the city and atop a long, winding road. It features a large golfing course and various picnic areas scattered throughout the park. “There are four trails from La Tuna Canyon and the north side of the canyon,” said Dana Bleitz-Sanburt, special recreation leader for the Burbank Parks and Recreation Dept. The park consists of about 75 trails, at the least, and allows people to mountain bike and even ride their horses.

The flora and fauna of Wildwood includes woodpeckers, deer, bobcats, grey foxes and coyotes. Mountain lions are very rare, as only four are estimated to be seen throughout the range each year. “We have a nice chaparral community of plants, sage, and oak woodland,” said Bleitz-Sanburt. Adjacent to the park lies a restaurant called Castaways, appropriately named “The Jewel on the Hill,” which offers a spectacular view of the valley and the surrounding mountains.

The trail I chose to hike in Wildwood was fairly long, but not strenuous. Being a two-mile trail, it may take a good hour or so to reach the end of it, but the view is certainly worth it. Once hikers reach the top, they can choose to sit down and have a picnic at one of the picnic tables, or simply enjoy the view of the city and relax under a tree. I enjoy this trail because it is a peaceful one. There are not too many people, and if there are, they are always quick to say “Good morning,” or smile politely as they pass by.

Sometimes as we are coming down from our hike, my sister will stop and tell me to listen to a bird nearby or admire a hawk as it soars through the sky. “Can you hear that?” she asks. “Look, it’s a hawk!” she’ll point. Wildwood Canyon provides a more serene setting for hiking, as it does not usually attract many tourists or large crowds of people, so one is able to appreciate the sound of a blue jay or notice a flower growing amongst the bushes.

In addition to the peace and quiet hiking offers, I also feel like I have done something good for myself when I reach the top of that trail; like I have done one meaningful thing for the day. Many will also agree that hiking provides a sense of fulfillment. Senior Vartan Matossian, a frequent hiker, admits that he enjoys what hiking has to offer in terms of achievement. “It brings the feeling of accomplishment and love of nature, getting to the top,” he said. To stay motivated throughout the hike, Matossian will often go with his friends or his scout group.

Another park that offers such sights and sounds is Brand Park in Glendale, which lies on the other side of Wildwood. Brand Park is a 31-acre park situated in the Verdugo Mountains. The park features a Japanese tea garden, a pond and a historic home known as the Doctor’s House, as well as the Brand Library, which is currently being remodeled. Brand Park consists of five trail heads which lead to various hilltops and sightseeing areas. The route I took is hidden behind the Miss American Green Cross Statue, which is a symbol for the environmental movement.

Brand Park is a popular area to hike among students of Clark and other Glendale schools. Freshman Edita Asiryan enjoys the scenery and view that Brand Park provides compared to that of Griffith Park. “The trail is narrow and there are more trees around you. In Griffith Park, the view is more of the city, and I like that, but I’d rather be surrounded by nature,” she said.

Asiryan likes the simplicity of hiking, and often goes on adventures with her friends during their free time. “You can get away from the city and explore. My friends and I like to go on random adventures and find different animals or find a secret place and call it ours,” Asiryan said.

I enjoy this park for the same reasons as Asiryan. The trail is humble, but special in its own way. The hike is physically demanding; however, the extra effort pays off when one sees the spectacular view of the valley, the mountains and even downtown Los Angeles all the way to the far left of the hill. I usually take this trail when I feel like I need a good kick start to the morning or simply want a short but beneficial workout. It is a great hike to experience with friends or family, and is full of friendly hikers along the way.

Hiking is a wonderful way to explore one’s city and become familiar with the people and the culture they are a part of. Every time I hike I am reminded of the massive world we live in, but I am also brought closer to the people, the culture and the history of The City of Angels.