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Griffith Park Golf Course from Glendale Peak

Trees on the Riverside Trail

 South Side Loop and Glendale Peak (Griffith Park)

    • Location: North of the Greek Theatre on Vermont Canyon Road, Griffith Park.  From I-5, take the Los Feliz Exit and head southwest (turn right if you’re coming from the north; left if from the south) for 1.3 miles.  Turn right on Hillhurst, go 0.2 miles and turn right on Vermont.  Go a total of a mile, past the Greek Theatre (Vermont becomes Vermont Canyon).  Park next to the sign for the Bird Sanctuary, where the road makes a sharp turn to the left.  From Highway 101, take the Hollywood Blvd. exit.  Head east (turn left if you’re coming from the north; right if from the south) and go 0.4 miles.  Turn left on Western, go 0.6 miles and turn right on Los Feliz.  Go a mile and turn left on Vermont.  Go a total of 1.2 miles (Vermont becomes Vermont Canyon) and park by the bird sanctuary sign.
    • Agency:  Griffith Park
    • Distance: 3.4 miles
    • Elevation gain: 700 feet
    • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
    • Difficulty rating: PG
    • Best season: October – June
    • USGS topo map:  Burbank
    • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
    • More information: here
    • Rating: 5

This enjoyable hike is like a shorter version of the longer and more challenging East Side Loop. It takes in a lot of Griffith Park’s most famous sites, including the observatory, the Hollywood Sign and Bee Rock, and also visits Glendale Peak. Like the East Side Loop, on clear days, you can see the ocean, the Santa Ana Mountains, downtown L.A., the San Gabriels, and even the distant San Jacinto and San Bernardino ranges.

Start of the loop (Click pictures to see the full sized version)

From just north of the Greek Theater, head uphill on a single-track trail that passes by the currently closed Bird Sanctuary. You head uphill through a canyon, soon making a sharp hairpin turn. The trail hugs the side of a ridge, providing great views of the L.A. skyline as it climbs.

0:17 – Griffith Observatory (times are approximate)

After half a mile, you reach a junction, where you’ll continue uphill by heading right. Now on the west side of the ridge, you can see the Hollywood Sign on Mt. Lee, as well as Mt. Hollywood straight ahead. At the next junction, stay straight and continue north on a wide fire road that cuts around the southeast flank of Mt. Hollywood. You pass by Dante’s View, where you can sit on benches beneath shade trees and look out over L.A.

0:21 – Mt. Lee and the Hollywood Sign

A mile from the start, you join the dramatic Hogsback Trail. Head right and follow its rugged course up and down several steep inclines. On this stretch, which is shared with the East Side Loop, you get great views of the San Fernando Valley and the San Gabriel Mountains.

0:36 – Dante’s View

After 0.6 miles, the trail crosses a footbridge. A sign indicates Henry’s Trail, off to the left, which goes to Glendale Peak. The beginning is steep (the stairs can be tricky both on the ascent and descent, so be careful) but then the trail levels out, following a ridge to the 1,184 summit. From this vantage point, you get a nice panorama, including a nearly aerial view of the golf course, several hundred feet below.

0:55 – Approaching Glendale Peak from the Hogsback Trail

After retracing your steps, continue southeast along the Hogsback Trail, now a smooth fire road. When it reaches the paved service road (2.1 miles from the start), take a hairpin turn onto the Riverside Trail. This fire road descends moderately, providing nice views of Mt. Hollywood and the observatory. You make a slight ascent of about 100 feet, pass over the tennis courts, go through a four-way junction and finally begin your descent to Vermont Canyon Road. When you get there, turn right and head briefly uphill to return to your car.

1:20 – Downtown L.A. skyline from the Riverside Trail

Text and photography copyright 2012 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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