Bronson Cave, Griffith Park

Bronson Caves


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  • Location: Griffith Park. From Los Angeles, take the 101 freeway to Gower Street (exit 8C), take the Beachwood Drive ramp, stay straight and go right on Franklin.  After half a mile, take a left on Canyon Drive, follow it to the end. There is a small lot by the Bronson and Brush Canyon trail heads. If the lot is full, park in a larger lot farther south on Canyon drive. From the Valley, take the Vine exit off highway 101 and keep left at the fork to get to Franklin and follow the directions above.
  • Agency: Griffith Park (Note that this hike uses unofficial trails whose conditions may change. Griffith Park does not take any responsibility for injuries incurred on these unofficial trails and neither does this website).
  • Distance: 1.9 miles
  • Elevation gain: 600 feet
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Best season: Year round (avoid after recent rains)
  • Dogs: Allowed on leash but not recommended due to the steep, rocky terrain and broken glass
  • Cell phone reception: Good
  • Water: None
  • Restrooms: Chemical toilet at first parking lot
  • Camping/backpacking: None
  • Recommended gear: Hiking poles
  • More information: Trip description (longer variation of this route) here; article about the cave here; Map My Hike report here
  • Rating: 5

Updated January 2019

In the 1960s, Bronson Cave, a manmade tunnel in the southwest corner of Griffith Park, achieved fame both as the Batcave on TV’s “Batman” and as the site for an iconic photo shoot of Doors lead singer Jim Morrison and his wife Pamela Courson. Located a mere quarter mile from Canyon Drive, the site is one of Griffith Park’s more popular destinations. This post describes a trip to the cave with an additional scramble up and down two unofficial but well-traveled and (for the most part) easy to follow use trails, forming a double-loop.

From the parking area, head south and uphill on a wide dirt road signed for Bronson Cave. You reach the cave in about a quarter mile. After exploring, look for a use trail south of the cave heading northeast up the side of the ridge. You gain 150 feet almost immediately before dropping down to follow the edge of a cliff above the cave. The optics of this stretch are intimidating but the trail is easy to follow and as long as you are reasonably careful you won’t have problems.

The use trail then climbs to an obvious bump on the ridge, picking up another 200 feet. In the distance, you will see your destination: another bump to the northwest. Beyond are the recognizable shapes of Mt. Lee (and the Hollywood sign), Mt. Chapel, Mt. Bell and Mt. Hollywood. Just as the trail descends from the bump, look for a faint use trail on the left (with the Hollywood sign directly in front); this is the return route.

The next 0.2 mile is easy and enjoyable as the trail stays more or less level, following the ridge. On the right you can see the Observatory with downtown L.A. in the distance. You reach a Y-junction where a use trail descends from the ridge (your return route) and a flat trail leading to the end of a service road. This is the former site of water tank 116 (still indicated on some park maps). Follow the wide road as it ascends gradually uphill, heading toward Mt. Hollywood Drive.

After about 0.2 mile, make a hairpin left turn on a use trail following the ridge (look for a sign that cautions against rattlesnakes). The rough but easy to follow use trail climbs to a bump, drops to a saddle and climbs to another bump. From this second high point, the use trail descends sharply to the left (easy to miss) and drops over 100 feet to return to the ridge. Retrace your steps 0.2 mile along the ridge back to the use trail (now on the right) that descends back to the cave.

Your exact route may vary as several different paths have been trod along the slope, but your route will have you skirting the edge of the cliffs above the cave, precipitously dropping over 300 feet to arrive at the entrance. Now that the hard part is out of the way, simply retrace your steps back to Canyon Drive.

Bronson Cave trail head, Griffith Park
Start of the hike off Canyon Drive
Bronson Cave, Griffith Park
Inside the cave
Griffith Park, Los Angeles
Start of the use trail south of the cave
Griffith Park, Los Angeles
Heading toward the higher bump on the use trail
Griffith Park, Los Angeles
Descent trail – Hollywood Sign (take a note of this spot for your return)
Griffith Park, Los Angeles
Approaching the junction with the trail to the Tank 116 site
Griffith Park, Los Angeles
Tricky terrain on the ridge
Griffith Park, Los Angeles
Dropping off the second bump on the ridge

Text and photography copyright 2019 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.

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One thought on “Bronson Caves

  1. Dude, I was going thru your blog to find some new hikes and then I came across this one. Coincidentally, I hiked here just two days after you did! What are the chances? You and I each hike quite a bit but the chances of us running into one another would be like hitting the lottery. I just thought it was funny so I had to share. Again, I appreciate your blog and I love that you support it with 2 pictures to keep me in suspense for when I venture off on your course. If your interested, check out my entry for when I visited Bronson:
    http://calihike.blogspot.com/2011/05/day-180-bronson-canyon-bat-caves.html

    -Take care,

    JJ

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