Distance: 5.45 miles round trip
Elevation Change: 833 feet
Temperature day of hike: 60 degrees in the shade
Directions: Take the 5 to the Los Feliz Boulevard exit. Drive west on Los Feliz Blvd. to the first light and turn north on Crystal Springs Road. Drive north for 1.3 miles and turn left at the intersection following signs for the merry-go-round. Drive up the hill for a quarter mile and turn right at the barricade in the road into the parking lot. For GPS directions use, Trailhead address: Crystal Springs Drive & Fire Road, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA 90027.
Abby: Since our first two hikes were both in Malibu with incredible beach views, we thought we’d switch it up and find an inland trail. One of my favorite hikes has always been at Griffith Park, but each time I’ve climbed I’ve started at the Observatory, and gone up from there. This time, we drove behind the mountain (where there is a zoo, pony rides, and a merry-go-round by the way) and decided to start from that side. Sasha had done most of (all of) the research on this hike, so I really didn’t know what was about to happen. As we parked, she mentioned that it seemed pretty complicated, so we took screen shots of the trail we wanted to attempt before heading toward the trailhead.
Sasha: I felt like I needed to do more research before we started this hike, as there are over 50 miles of trails at Griffith Park and I have spent very little time on any of them. I’m into hikes with a nice payoff moment, and since we weren’t going to be getting any ocean views, I needed to hit at least one Griffith landmark. When I stumbled across this 3.8 mile hike, which takes you to the top of Bee Rock and through the old Zoo grounds, I felt like I hit the jackpot. I was slightly disappointed by the light mileage, but figured we could choose to extend on one of many trails afterwards if we decided we wanted to. Abby and I had joked that a theme of our hikes has been “how do we make this harder,” so I knew she would be game to explore other options.
When we first drove into the parking lot for the Merry-Go-Round, we were greeted by the sweet sounds of a drum circle. We were a little put off by the crowds of families, but quickly noticed that they seemed to be picnicking in the grassy areas in the shade of the mountains and that the trails seemed less crowded. On our last hike, we’d realized we couldn’t count on cell phone service to pull up directions, so 16 screen shots later, we got out of the car and started towards the path.
We headed southwest past the gate as directed and were immediately welcomed by at least four trail heads. I stared at my phone for a few minutes and with zero confidence, and pointed us ahead on a wide fire road. We knew we were looking for a set of stairs and after about 10 minutes of flat walking (and no stairs), Abby looked at me and said “I think we biffed it.” She was definitely right, but we decided to ignore the directions, head on and choose our own adventure. We took the first opportunity we could to cut up a narrow unmarked path to a slightly higher fire road (Mineral Wells Trail), and after about 20 minutes or so, we noticed Bee Rock above us to the left and felt confident we could figure out a way to get to the top on our own.
Eventually, Mineral Wells Trail ended, and we saw a much narrower trail that took a sharp left turn up the mountain. We continued onward and after a few switchbacks, we were pretty sure we were on our way to the top of Bee Rock. We eventually hit a fork in the trail, and luckily encountered a family on their way down. We quickly realized that the family didn’t speak any English, but the father pointed to our left and said to his daughter “dile que es muy feo.” I know enough Spanish to know that meant “go right,” which admittedly looked a lot steeper, and a little more “feo,” but we headed onward. After a few tight switchbacks, we saw we were approaching a chain link fence and a short set of stairs. We followed the chain link fence along a rocky ridge, and finally found ourselves at the top of Bee Rock.
Abby: I have to admit, when I came back to LA after a long holiday weekend of eating and drinking, I went a little overboard with the workouts, so my legs really felt that steep climb. I was grateful to take a few minutes to rest and look at the city views from the top of the climb. As we left the top of Bee Rock, we decided to try to make a loop of it, and scaled down the other side of the mountain, which was pretty flat for the most part. After a few miles on Vista del Valle Drive, we came to another overlook with views of downtown and at this point weren’t sure which direction would lead us to the right exit. This is where the MapMyHike app was incredibly helpful. Sasha was able to zoom in, and track where we had parked the car. As we made our final descent it became much steeper, which everyone knows I love. And by love, I mean hate.
Sasha: After our last hike, I was mostly excited by the stats MapMyHike generated, but didn’t feel we had taken advantage of all it had to offer. After abandoning our original hiking intentions, we attempted to make our own loop on this hike. At one point when we were a little nervous we would be stuck at the top of the mountain forever, I realized that several of the larger trails were mapped on the app. I was a little nervous to trust them, but soon enough we heard the sweet sounds of the drum circle still going strong and ended up referring to the app several times on our way down the hill. We even found those elusive stairs we had missed in the beginning! I’m definitely excited to use the app more, especially in less familiar territories like Griffith Park.
- There were a lot of other hikers along the trail, and since there are so many paths, it’s easy to get confused and having others there to help is comforting
- Options for sun and for shade
- Great city views
- Wide, well kept trails
- Lots of options to extend/amend your path
- Wasn’t clearly marked, which is why we sort of made our own hike up
- Horses also travel these trails, so watch your step
- You spend quite a bit on a flat trail, so don’t expect to break too much of a sweat
- Pay attention on the way up, as it’s not clearly marked
- Go during the day, as at night it would be really dark and hard to navigate
Holy Shit View Factor: 6/10 Great views of LA when you get to the overlooks, otherwise you’re just looking at the trail
How Good Your Ass Will Look Afterwards: 6/10 If you take the super steep path we took, you get a good 20 minutes of straight climbing
Post hike grub spot: We drove back to West Hollywood for lunch at Luna Park Café, because it is one of our favorite spots and they have incredible drink specials and the staff is very friendly.
Tracking the hike: We used MapMyHike again, and as mentioned before were able to navigate our way down the right side of the mountain with the zoom in and GPS options.