Royce’s Canyon via Toyon Trail (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 to the Mineral Wells Picnic Area and park where available near the North Trail Head. 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 1.4 miles to the Mineral Wells Picnic Area and the North Trail Head. Park where available, noting posted restrictions.
- Agency: Griffith Park
- Distance: 3.4 miles
- Elevation gain: 600 feet
- Suggested time: 2 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG
- Best season: Year round but hot during the summer
- Recommended gear: hiking poles
- Dogs: Allowed on leash (exercise caution on warm days)
- Cell phone reception: Good
- Water: Fountain one mile into the hike
- Restrooms: None at Mineral Wells; several elsewhere in the park
- Camping: None
- More information: Trip descriptions here and here (different routes); video about the hike here; article about “lesser known wonders” of Griffith Park including the cave here; article about Royce Neuschatz here
- Rating: 6
Even for the veteran hiker, Griffith Park has a few unexpected surprises. One is Royce’s Canyon, named for activist Royce Neuschatz who was instrumental in stopping plans to turn the area into a landfill. The canyon is one of the few spots in Griffith Park that resembles true wilderness. It receives light traffic, being accessible only from Mt. Hollywood Drive and requiring a hike of almost a mile and a half in each direction. This post describes one of the shortest routes, an out-and-back trip from the Mineral Wells picnic area. Hikers with more time can continue up Mt. Hollywood Drive to Haunted Table 29 or make a loop by continuing around Toyon Canyon.
From the North Trail Head at the Mineral Wells picnic area, take the right most of the three trails leaving Griffith Park Drive (the middle route leads to Amir’s Garden and Bell Peak; it is one possible return route on a loop hike.) The Mineral Wells Trail follows Griffith Park Drive northwest for 0.2 mile, reaching a small picnic area. Beyond, the trail splits. Take the more scenic right fork which climbs out of the canyon and rejoins the other trail. You come up alongside Griffith Park Drive and then reach a Y-junction (0.6 mile from the start). Head left to stay on the Toyon Trail, climbing 250 feet in the next 0.4 mile.
At the high point of the hike, you reach a small rest area with a bench and a water fountain. From here, the trail descends gradually, taking in panoramic views of the San Fernando Valley. You soon reach a Y-junction where you can take either fork a short distance to Mt. Hollywood Drive. Once you reach Mt. Hollywood Drive which is paved but closed to motor vehicles, head south toward the signed entrance to Royce’s Canyon.
The trail to Royce’s Canyon drops 100 feet down from Mt. Hollywood Drive into an oak and sycamore-shaded woodland. You’ll see your destination, a thin hole in the granite rock wall known as Pocket Cave. The official trail ends in one quarter mile, but Pocket Cave can be reached by following a use trail through the bottom of the canyon. You’ll scramble under and over fallen trees and through overgrown grass before reaching the canyon’s west wall, where Pocket Cave looms above. If there have been recent rains, the rocks may be slippery and the terrain can be treacherous so exercise caution.
The cave itself can be reached with some moderate rock scrambling, although it is thought to be a possible hangout of P-22, so keep that in mind. Whether you explore the cave, this is a peaceful spot to sit and enjoy a level of solitude that’s rare in Griffith Park or indeed anywhere else near downtown L.A.
Photo Gallery (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)
Text and photography copyright 2017 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.