Western Canyon (Griffith Park)
- Location: Western Canyon Road, Griffith Park. From Los Feliz Blvd. (only 0.2 mile east of Western Ave and 2.5 miles west of the 5 Freeway) head north onto Fern Dell Drive for 0.7 mile (Fern Dell becomes Western Canyon Road). Pull into a large parking lot on the left side of the road (if you find yourself making a hairpin turn and ascending, you’ve come too far). The approximate coordinates of the lot are N 34.1174, W 118.0371.
- Agency: Griffith Park
- Distance: 2.1 miles
- Elevation gain: 450 feet
- Suggested time: 1 hour
- Difficulty rating: PG
- Best season: Year round but hot during the summer
- Dogs: Allowed on leash
- Cell phone reception: Fair
- Water: None on trail; may be available in restrooms or at Trails Cafe
- Restrooms: Farther south on Fern Dell near the Trails Cafe
- Camping: None
- More information: Trip description (slightly different route) here; trail map here
- Rating: 4
Griffith Park is not the place to go for true solitude, but if you know where to look, there are a few pleasantly quiet corners. One is Western Canyon, located above Fern Dell and below the observatory. No one will ever mistake this place for genuine wilderness, but it’s an enjoyable way to spend an hour or so, especially when you don’t have time to drive deep into the Santa Monica or San Gabriel Mountains. For those new to Griffith Park (or hiking in Los Angeles in general) Western Canyon makes a nice introduction and even veterans will be happy to find this lightly traveled section of the park.
From the parking area, cross Western Canyon Drive and begin hiking uphill on the fire road, past the sign and trail map. In about one quarter mile, the trail bends right and meets a T-junction. Turn left and continue climbing up the canyon, first north, then bending east. As you ascend, you’ll enjoy an increasingly wide view of downtown Los Angeles with the Palos Verdes Peninsula and Catalina Island behind (on clear days).
Three quarters of a mile from the start, you reach a spur leading to a vista point with picnic tables. In addition to the views of the observatory and the L.A. basin, you get a bird’s eye view of Western Canyon below. This is a good turnaround point, although you can extend your hike to Mt. Hollywood, 1.5 miles and 700 feet higher. After enjoying the views, retrace your steps downhill back to the junction. Continue down the eastern side of the canyon, underneath some gnarled oaks and sycamores, to the start of the Loop Trail. This oblong 0.6-mile loop explores a peaceful tributary of Western Canyon before bringing you back to the parking area.
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.