This year, Los Angeles celebrates its 25th anniversary of sister cityhood with Berlin. Hikers can contemplate the similarities and differences between the two metropolitan areas from an aerie viewpoint in Griffith Park known as the Berlin Forest.
Similarities? Both cities are big, sprawling and auto-dependent. Los Angeles hosted the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics, Berlin the 1936 Summer Games. Both are cities with high immigrant populations, and are artistic and cultural trendsetters for their respective nations.
As part of the sister city program a couple of years back, our city officials established the Los Angeles Forest in Berlin, while Berliners planted the Berlin Forest in the heart of Griffith Park. “Forest,” at least until nature takes its course, is certainly an overstatement for the Los Angeles version at the moment; it’s more like a cluster of trees shading a viewpoint.
The Berlin Forest is reached via Mt. Hollywood Trail, as is the summit of Mt. Hollywood, Griffith Park’s second-highest peak (elevation 1,625 feet). On clear days, the entire basin is spread out before you, from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes, mounts San Gorgonio, Baldy and San Jacinto can be seen. Viewed from the peak, sunsets are terrific.
Directions to trail head: From Los Feliz Boulevard, take Vermont Avenue through a residential area into Griffith Park. Follow signs to the observatory and park in the north end of the lot (farthest from the observatory), near the signed Charlie Turner trail head leading to Mt. Hollywood.
The hike: A brief ascent brings you to the Berlin Forest on your left. Among the young pines is a whimsical sign pointing northeast to Berlin, some 6,000 miles away. The mayor of Berlin dedicated the forest a few years ago. Visiting German dignitaries sometimes stop atop Mt. Hollywood to plant additional trees.
The trail, a wide fire road, winds up the brush shoulder of Mt. Hollywood, swinging west, then east. A mile from the trail head, the fire road forks; the left branch loops around the west side of Mt. Hollywood, the right around the east side. At the fire road fork is a footpath leading south. (Keep this path in mind for an optional return route.)
The right (east) branch of the Mt. Hollywood Trail climbs to Dante’s View. Named for Dante Orgolini, an Italian immigrant, the view is a two-acre retreat of pine, palm and pepper trees. A water fountain and picnic tables welcome hikers.
Continue to the top of Mt. Hollywood and enjoy the view, then either return the way you came or descend the western loop of the Mt. Hollywood Trail past Captain’s Roost, a eucalyptus-shaded rest stop, to a junction with the east loop of the Mt. Hollywood Trail.
Adventurous hikers will join the narrow footpath leading south from this junction. The path, sometimes called Vermont Canyon Trail, descends steeply at first (be careful over one eroded, badly maintained 50-yard stretch), then more gently as it swings east to Vermont Canyon. The trail drops into the shady canyon bottom.
Up-canyon is a tree-shaded nature trail, but you head down-canyon on Bird Sanctuary Trail, which parallels Vermont Canyon Road. Pass the Greek Theater, and as you near Roosevelt Golf Course, cross Vermont Canyon Road. At the intersection of a paved spur road and Vermont Canyon Road, you’ll see the unsigned East Observatory Trail leading uphill. Follow it on a fairly steep ascent. You’ll cross an asphalt road and continue upward. At one final junction (with West Observatory Trail), you’ll stay right, continuing on East Observatory Trail to the observatory parking lot.
Hollywood Hills / Mt. Hollywood Trail
Where: Griffith Park.
Distance: To Mt. Hollywood, 3 miles round trip, with 500-foot elevation gain; return via Bird Sanctuary, 4 miles round trip.
Terrain: Brush-covered hills, shady Vermont Canyon.
Highlights: Grand metropolitan views from Griffith Park’s highest peak.
Degree of difficulty: Easy to moderate.
For more information: Call Griffith Park at (213) 665-5188.