East Side Loop (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: 6.2 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,300 feet
- Suggested time: 3.5 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, steepness)
- Best season: October – May
- USGS topo map: Burbank
- Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
- More information: here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 7
L.A. hikers who take Griffith Park for granted might want to try this route out for size. The six-mile loop described here is challenging, very scenic and surprisingly rugged.
From the parking area, head uphill to the junction with the East Trail, as if you were headed to Bee Rock. At the T-junction, turn right and begin a vigorous climb, almost immediately taking in nice views of the San Gabirel Mountains and Burbank. Soon the trail levels out and you can see Bee Rock towering above. By the time you are done climbing, you will be about as far above Bee Rock as you now are below it.
At 1.2 miles, the trail to Bee Rock splits off. Stay straight on a trail that curves toward the right, and then almost immediately turn left onto the Bill Eckert Trail. You make a pleasant climb through a canyon, and soon arrive at another junction. Head right, and soon, where the road makes a sharp turn to the left, look for a trail heading uphill over rocky terrain (1.7 miles from the start.) The first few yards are a little tricky, but soon the terrain becomes easier to navigate, and you make a quick climb to a junction with another fire road. Head left and continue climbing to the Vista Del Valle, the paved (but closed to traffic) road that runs through the park.
Head right and soon look for a trail marked with a “no bikes” sign. This single-track climbs steeply (200 feet in a quarter mile) before reaching another fire road. Here, you head left and climb a little more before reaching the top of the ridge.
Now, your payback: the next stretch has great views on both sides. You can get a rare aerial perspective on Bee Rock to the east (left), a well as commanding views of the San Gabriels. On the right, look for the Hollywood Sign on Mt. Lee, and on clear days, you can see the ocean and the Santa Monica Mountains.
In a few minutes, you meet up with a five-way intersection. Head straight to access a spur that brings you to the top of Mt. Hollywood, where you get a 360 degree view of the area.
Heading back down to the junction, this time you take a hard right and head downhill. Stay straight at the next split, and you begin to descend steeply on a rough path sometimes known as the Hogsback Trail (the hiking poles will be helpful here.) As before, you have dramatic views on both sides.
After crossing a footbridge, you meet up with Vista Del Valle again. Head right and almost immediately, look for the Mineral Wells Trail heading off to the left. After the rugged descent, the shaded Mineral Wells Trail, which is moderately graded and lightly traveled, will seem like a welcome relief. Recent rains have made the grass very green as well.
In less than half a mile, you arrive at another junction. The straight route brings you to Beacon Hill, but to complete the loop, make a hard right and descend another mile on the fire road. Shortly before you reach the parking lot, you can make one last variation on the route by heading right on a single-track trail, down a staircase and past an amphitheater, and back to the starting point.
The route, of course, doesn’t have to be followed exactly. Griffith Park’s signage is slim to none, but most of the trails are easy to find and orientation is not too tough. It may seem hard to believe, but this route really only covers a small fraction of the 4,400-plus acres here. Even for veteran hikers, Griffith Park has much to offer.
Text and photography copyright 2011 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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.