Text and photography copyright 2010 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.
Beacon Hill Loop in Griffith Park
- Location: Griffith Park near Los Angeles. From the south, take I-5 to the Los Feliz exit, turn left and cross the freeway and turn right on Crystal Springs Drive. Go 1.3 miles and turn right onto Griffith Park Drive. Park in the lot near the merry go round. From the north, take the Los Feliz exit and turn right, then immediately right onto Crystal Springs Drive.
- Agency: Griffith Park
- Distance: 4 miles
- Elevation gain: 800 feet
- Suggested time: 2 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG
- Best season: All year
- USGS topo map: Burbank
- More information: here; park map here
- Rating: 6
If the weather is clear, this hike can be a real treat. Expect great views of the San Gabriel Mountains and downtown L.A., and if you’re lucky, Catalina, Long Beach, Old Saddleback and even San Jacinto and San Gorgonio. Even if smog cuts down on the visibility, this loop offers a quick and convenient workout in Griffith Park, close to L.A. and the Valley. You may even see some wildlife: I saw a coyote and a garter snake on my trip here.
From the parking lot near the merry go round, head right along the paved road and pick up the Fern Canyon fire road (not signed, but it’s the only wide fire road leading out of the area). Stay straight as another road branches off to the left. The road climbs into the canyon, taking in nice views of the Valley, and after a mile, you arrive at a five-way split. The path to the left dips down briefly before climbing up to Beacon Hill (elevation 1,001), so named because the hill was once the home of a beacon used by Grand Central Airport in Glendale, the main air traffic hub in the pre-LAX days.
After enjoying the view, head back down to the junction. If you’re pinched for time, you can descend the way you came, for a total trip of 2.5 miles. To continue the loop, take the trail to the left and start your descent. Stay left at each of the next three intersections and begin a slight ascent. After the fire road takes a sharp “S” curve, you climb some more, now on the Lower Beacon Trail. After climbing a little more, the trail begins its descent back to the parking lot. While this last part of the hike does suffer a little from the noise on nearby I-5, it serves as a reminder that even on days when the visibility isn’t great, it’s better to be out in nature than stuck in a car.