When you think of famous city parks, no doubt Central Park is the first to come to mind. But did you know that LA’s Griffith Park is nearly 5x larger? One of the best things about LA is that it’s a major metropolis, yet you can find nature scattered everywhere in and around it. Griffith Park alone boasts hiking trails, parks, picnic areas, a golf course, and horseback riding- just to name a few outdoor activities! This post is specific to a few of the more family-friendly trails that will also take you to a handful of Griffith’s most prominent landmarks and hidden gems.
4 FAMILY FRIENDLY HIKES IN GRIFFITH PARK
1. Old LA Zoo Trail
The Hike: The Old LA Zoo was built in 1912 and closed in 1966 with the opening of the new zoo just a few miles down the street, also in Griffith Park. The remains of the abandoned zoo stayed and became incorporated into Griffith Park. It now lives as the backdrop to a lovely picnic area and connects to a few different hiking trails. Once parked, you will cross a little picnic area to either take stairs or a fire road up into the old zoo. There is a slight incline but it evens out once you reach the remains of the enclosures.
The remains are super interesting to explore, especially for kids. Unfortunately, they can become overcome with graffiti, but the city seems to do their best to keep the area clean. Every time I have visited there are families, birthday parties, and usually someone filming or photographing the area. Once you head past all the enclosures you can make your way up to the lower zoo trail which will take you above the remains and into a view of the picnic area. If you want a longer trip you can also head up to the upper zoo trail or to Bee Rock! Otherwise after making your way back down the area is lovely to set up a picnic or to play with your little ones in the grass.
Distance: approx .5 miles, with options to extend
Parking: Use “Spring Canyon Griffith Park” in the GPS application of your choice. This will take you to the parking lot right near the trailhead that gets you to the old zoo! You can also type in “Old Los Angeles Zoo” and google maps will likely take you to the same parking spot.
2. Amir’s Gardens
The Hike: Amir’s Garden was started in 1971 by Amir Dialemeh after a fire ravaged the hilltop. He worked to make it a luscious garden whose 5 acres are now maintained by volunteers. The garden is meant to be a reprieve for hikers and riders on their way to Mount Hollywood or other Griffith Park vistas. Take time to explore the garden and secret trails that lead to picnic tables and viewpoints. I recommend doing this hike in the late winter or spring as that time frame finds most of the garden in bloom, while also allowing for cooler temps to enjoy the way up.
You’ll know you are at the trailhead when you see a big map letting you know you’re at North Trail Trailhead.
Fair warning- the first quarter mile is a tad steep and could be a bit strenuous for some. It’s only .4 miles up to the garden, but this trail sure makes your glutes work for it! The trail starts to level out once you reach the water tower. I encourage you to take your time going up and take in the lovely view into the valley every time you take a breather.
Distance: approx 1 mile round trip
Parking: When using google maps to get to this hike I use “Griffith Parking Hiking Trail 1”. This is right off of Mineral Wells Rd and Picnic Area. Please note there are many different ways and trails to get to Amir’s garden. I chose this one as it has the widest trail making it easy to take a stroller if needed, as well as the most accessible for little feet wanting to walk on their own.
3. Hollywood Reservoir
The Hike: If you’re looking for unique views of the Hollywood sign, look no further than the Hollywood Reservoir! While making this loop I consistently stop to catch a new glimpse of the famous sign in different ways. Hikers, joggers, cyclists and strollers all enjoy the wide trail around the reservoir. You’ll not only see ducks and birds but deer frequent the area as well. On the south side of the Reservoir you’ll cross the Mulholland Dam providing you with a completely unobstructed view of the Hollywood sign. Although not strenuous, this is the longest of our recommended hikes so if you plan to do the whole loop bring a stroller for your little ones, who will surely tire out. This is also a great hike if you’re looking to get more comfortable with a carrier or backpack for them.
Parking: There are many different ways to start this hike! I recommend parking at the North Entrance. You can get there by punching in Hollywood Reservoir North Gate. It is street parking only, but usually there is plenty available. Just mind any signage for permits or street cleaning.
Distance: 3 miles round trip
4. Ferndell Nature Trail to Griffith Observatory
The Hike: The Griffith Park Observatory is an iconic LA landmark! It’s open and free to the public (during non covid times) and you can catch many educational events on top of the year round displays on any given day. This is a great place to take kids interested in space, movie buffs, or those looking for instagrammable moments.
You’ll start on the Ferndell Nature Trail right next to Ferndell drive where you will have parked. Head in the general direction of the observatory and you will hit a fork to the East or West Observatory trails. Both get you to the same place, but I recommend keeping to the right and taking the East Trail. Follow it up until you take a switchback to the right. This will lead you to a landing spot with beautiful views of downtown LA. Facing downtown, if you look to the right you can also catch the Hollywood Sign. On a clear day you can see out to Santa Monica. After taking in the view and snapping some pictures there’s one final push to the Observatory! This is another great training hike for carriers, but a stroller is also doable on the wide fire roads. Bring a picnic to enjoy on the great lawn in front of the Observatory.
Parking: Take the Southwest entrance of Griffith Park off of Los Feliz Boulevard. As soon as you turn in there will be cars parked alongside Ferndell drive. Unless you want to extend your hike, keep driving until you hit the Trails Cafe on your left and then find somewhere to park! You’ll enter the park and the trails will be right in front of you.Distance: Approx 2 miles