Ernest E. Debs Regional Park
- Location: Audubon Center, 4700 N. Griffin Ave, Los Angeles. From downtown L.A., take the 110 Parkway north to Avenue 43. Turn right and go a short distance to Griffin Ave. Turn left and go 0.4 miles to the Audubon Center entrance. From Pasadena, take the 110 Parkway south to Avenue 52. Turn left on Avenue 52, which becomes Griffin Ave. The park entrance is on the left at 0.6 miles.
- Agency: L.A. City Parks & Recreation
- Distance: 2.2 miles
- Elevation gain: 600 feet
- Suggested time: 1.5 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG
- Best season: October – May
- USGS topo map: Burbank
- Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat
- More information: here; Yelp page here; trip report (different, longer route) here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 5
If you think that downtown L.A. hiking begins and ends with Griffith Park, you might want to check out Ernest E. Debs Park. Although it’s less than a tenth the size of Griffith Park and only about half the size of Elysian Fields Park, it has as nice variety of hiking trails and provides a surprising amount of seclusion. On clear days, you get great views of downtown L.A., the Valley, the San Gabriel Mountains and more.
The network of trails running throughout the park includes paved roads, fire roads, single tracks and unofficial use trails and firebreaks. The route described here is a short but rigorous loop, easy to follow, taking in some of the park’s best scenery. You can easily add to it or shorten it as you see fit. Since no part of the park is very far from civilization, it can be a nice place to wander around without having to worry about getting seriously lost.
From the parking area, head toward the Audubon Center (a nice stop, with several interpretive displays) and follow a trail leading around the back side of the play area. The trail immediately enters a canyon that feels surprisingly secluded, shaded by black walnut trees. The trails soon split up and you can take either, although the left route is shorter.
You pass by the remains of an old car on the right side of the trail, and then the trails rejoin each other at a T-junction (0.3 miles.) Turn left and begin a steep climb out of the canyon, rising about 200 feet in just over a tenth of a mile. Some parts of the trail are quite loose so take caution.
The trail ends at another T-junction, where you’ll head left. You follow a ridge, with nice views of L.A. on the left and the Valley on the right. After a brief ascent, you descend to a junction (0.6 miles.)
Take a hard right, continue descending and then start climbing again, steadily though not as steeply as before. The fire road gains about 200 feet in 0.4 miles, reaching a paved road at the top of the ridge. Take a left and walk to a shaded area where you can rest on some benches. You’ve come 1.2 miles at this point.
After catching your breath, head back down the paved road and continue along the fire road, descending on the east side of the ridge. Stay left at the next two junctions (at the second, at 1.5 miles from the start, you get a nearly aerial view of the 110 Parkway below.)
The trail continues to a 4-way junction. The left and center forks both head back to the parking lot, but the left route stays farther from the freeway. You ascend briefly before taking a right on a trail which brings you back down to the parking area, completing the loop.
In case you were wondering, Ernest Debs was a former politician who served at the state, city and county level. He died in 2002 at age 98.
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.