Why you want to take a stroll through one of L.A.'s most famous cemeteries

A century ago, Dr. Hubert Eaton reinvented the American cemetery by turning what he called “unsightly depressing stoneyards” into manicured green spaces that celebrate the joy of life after death. Today, Eaton’s Forest Lawn welcomes visitors to explore the park, enjoy its substantial art collection and consider the possibility of returning for a more extended stay. A cemetery might not seem the most appealing place to take a walk, but this one is a delight.

1. Park on Glendale Avenue or one of the surrounding side streets. Then enter the park through the iron gates, walk to the first corner and turn right onto Westminster Road. The big building uphill to the left is the Great Mausoleum. Though park representatives will not disclose the locations of famous grave markers, this building is said to contain the last remains of screen legends such as Elizabeth Taylor, Theda Bara, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. Follow this link for a fairly dependable grave locator not supplied by the park. .

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2. Turn left onto Valley Way, and veer slightly left at the first corner. On the hill above you are monuments celebrating the lives of big-mouthed actor Joe E. Brown and pioneer female evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson.

3. Bend right onto Birch Lane. Ahead on the right you will find Lullaby Land, a burial space reserved for children. On the left is Baby Land, reserved for infants.

4. Turn left where you meet Westminster again, and begin to climb some Forest Lawn elevation.

5. Turn right onto Cathedral Drive and then immediately right again onto Arlington. Follow this as it traces the curve of the hillside, then turn left back onto Cathedral. The area around the turn is said to contain the graves of Walt Disney, Spencer Tracy, Errol Flynn and Nat King Cole. (Michael Jackson, inside a private, walled garden, is nearby.)

6. Follow Cathedral past one of the park’s many Michelangelo copies –David -- and walk on until you arrive at the top of the Forest Lawn property. Here you will find the elegant Church of the Recessional, and the park’s museum, which often houses collections of note.

7. Leaving the museum, turn right at the first intersection, onto Cathedral again, head downhill, and continue turning right at each corner until you reach the park gates.

The stats

Distance: 2 miles

Difficulty: 2 on a scale of 1 to 5

Duration: 2 hours

Details: Located at 1712 S Glendale Avenue, Glendale. Free parking. Open daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., 6 p.m. during daylight savings. No pets allowed. Accessible by buses 90/91, 94, 603, 794.

Fleming is the author of “Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles” and “Secret Walks: A Walking Guide to the Hidden Trails of Los Angeles.” Each month, he leads a free walk at one of his favorite spots in Southern California. Find out more at his Facebook page, Secret Stairs. He can also be reached at charles.fleming@latimes.com.

Twitter: @misterfleming

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