I'd never managed to visit the park on previous trips to Los Angeles, but when I discovered the park was a mere hour's stroll from the Silver Lake neighborhood that my daughter lives in, it seemed the perfect opportunity to visit. Our walk took us along pleasant residential streets of the Los Feliz neighborhood lined with Jacaranda trees in full bloom. Needless to say, we didn't pass too many other walkers.
The park is named after a Welshman, Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, who made a fortune from gold mine speculation in California and bought a large parcel of land north of the oldest section of Los Angeles in 1882. In 1896 he donated almost five square miles of the land to the people of Los Angeles as a Christmas gift with a proviso that "It must be made a place of recreation and rest for the masses, as a resort for the rank file, for the plain people." He believed it was his obligation "to make Los Angeles a happier, cleaner, and finer city."
He had big plans for the park including an amphitheater and an observatory. When he died in 1919 he left a trust fund which enabled his dreams to be realized. The Greek Theater was completed in 1930 and the Griffith Observatory and Hall of Science in 1935.
Following further donations of land and city purchases, the park is now over 4,000 acres of natural wilderness and landscaped parkland. Set in the Santa Monica Mountain range and with elevations of up to 1,625 feet above sea level, the park offers not only magnificent views of the surrounding city but provides a wonderful respite from the hustle and bustle of city life.
We entered the park at the southern perimeter, where the Boy Scout Trail takes you up to the Griffith Observatory. It may be less than a mile walk, but it's all uphill.
Luckily, the path zigzags rather than goes straight up which does make the walk a lot easier.
Unfortunately, the early morning smog meant that the skyscrapers of Downtown Los Angeles were almost invisible in the distance.
But you can certainly see for miles. We got a good glimpse of how big the park actually is.
The observatory is an impressive sight. It offers exhibits, telescopes, and shows in the planetarium
Our walk up the trail was relatively quiet, with only a few other hikers making the trek, but the observatory is a popular stop on tours so the plaza out front proved to be a lot busier, even though the observatory itself was not yet open.
A monument to James Dean sits on the plaza. Key scenes from ''Rebel without a Cause" were filmed at the observatory, the success of the movie bringing it positive international recognition.
For our return, we took the West Observatory Trail which offered a view of one of Los Angeles' most famous signs. Shame the sun had yet to appear!
At the end of the trail. we discovered a delightful cafe, The Trails. I can personally vouch that their homemade apple pie is yummy!
Then it was time for a gentle stroll along Fern Dell Trail, which meanders alongside a stream surrounded by lush tropical vegetation. It was hard to believe we were still in LA.
We didn't have time to spend more than a morning in the park but with many more trails to explore and the option for horse-riding, the park would definitely be on my list of places to revisit on return trips to the city.
Mel writes contemporary fiction with a twist of mystery and suspense. Her latest novel in the Detective Rigby series "Old Habits Die Hard" will be released on June 21st, 2019.
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