Mt. Bell and Amir’s Garden (Griffith Park)
- Location: Mineral Wells Picnic Area, Griffith Park. From L.A. and points south, take I-5 to the Griffith Park exit. Cross over the freeway to Crystal Springs Drive, turn right and go a mile, just past the parking area for the merry go round, and turn left on Griffith Park Drive. Go 1.2 miles on Griffith Park Drive, past the golf course, to the Mineral Wells Picnic Area, and park on side of the street. From the 134 Freeway, take the Forest Lawn exit, go south and take the first right on Zoo Drive. Go 0.2 miles and turn right on Griffith Park Drive. Go 1.2 miles to the Mineral Wells Picnic Area.
- Agency: Griffith Park
- Distance: 3.6 miles
- Elevation gain: 900 feet
- Suggested time: 2 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG
- Best season: October – May
- USGS topo map: Burbank
- Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat
- Recommended guidebook: Day Hikes In the Santa Monica Mountains
- More information: Trip report here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 6
Griffith Park, of course, isn’t exactly a secret among L.A. hikers, but some of the trails here aren’t as well known as others. One is Mt. Bell, among the highest points in the park at 1,582 feet, with nice views of Cahuenga Peak, Mt. Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley and the San Gabriel Mountains.
The trip described here is the shortest route to and from the summit, an expeditious 3.6 mile hike from the Mineral Wells picnic area, but it’s also easy to extend the trip to other summits, such as Mt. Hollywood or Bee Rock. You can even visit nearby Taco Peak–a trip that’s known as the Taco Bell hike.
From the street, you face a three-way junction. Take the middle road, which heads steeply uphill, almost immediately climbing more than a hundred feet. The trail levels out and heads east. At a hairpin turn, you reach Amir’s Garden, a nice, shaded spot to get some rest. There are benches, a water fountain, and a few trails that dip down the east side of the hill.
Leaving the garden, the trail continues up an exposed ridge to a T-junction, three quarters of a mile from the trail head. Turn left and continue your climb. On the right is the Toyon Canyon Restoration Project, a former landfill now being landscaped with new plants. You also get a nice view of Cahuenga Peak and the antenna on Mt. Lee, although you can’t see the Hollywood sign.
After passing another water tank and a junction with the Toyon Trail coming up from the right, you reach a paved road, Vista Del Valle Drive. Turn left and almost immediately follow the single-track that heads uphill toward Mt. Bell.
At the intersection, take a hard right, climb around the northwest face of Mt. Bell, and soon you arrive at another T-junction. Turn left, heading toward Mt. Hollywood, and almost immediately look for a rough trail heading uphill.
There are two informal use trails that lead from the fire road to Mt. Bell. The first is longer and goes through more brush, while the second is shorter but steep and loose, requiring some extra caution (especially on the descent.) Follow either to the summit, where you can relax on the rocks and enjoy the nearly 360-degree view.
Text and photography copyright 2013 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.