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Hiking among the hipsters: Strolling the Silver Lake Reservoir

Silver Lake has become known as the hipster capital of Los Angeles, or the state, or the universe.

Away from the cafes and boutiques of Sunset Boulevard, though, the twin reservoirs that give the community its name are a great place to take a stroll, walk the dog, do some bird-watching or have a picnic. And a new causeway over the water and a new pathway along the shore have made it all the more delightful. Go late weekday mornings to avoid the crowds, or evenings and weekends to people-watch.

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(Lou Spirito For The Times)

1. Start your walk near the corner of West Silver Lake Drive and Tesla Avenue. Walk up the ramp to the new pedestrian path and, keeping the water on your left, head south under the shade of pine trees. The water, the smaller of two reservoirs first put into service in 1908, is officially known as Ivanhoe Reservoir. Why Ivanhoe? An early settler thought the area reminded him of his home in Scotland. He called the area Ivanhoe Canyon and gave streets Scottish-themed names like Hawick, Angus, Ivanhoe and Rowena, with their nods to the writing of Walter Scott.

2. When the new walkway ends, transfer to the unpaved path running under eucalyptus trees along the larger of the two bodies of water. This one, like Lake Hollywood designed by William Mulholland, is called Silver Lake — not for its shimmering surface but in honor of Herman Silver, the city water commissioner who gave the project the green light. The lake is closed to boating and swimming, but it’s home to a wide variety of ducks, geese and birds. In season, you can see great blue herons nesting in the eucalyptus trees, which were said to be part of Mulholland’s original design. A plaque near the corner of Hawick Street has interesting facts about these majestic birds that can grow to 4½ feet tall and boast a wingspan of more than 6 feet.

3. As you near the end of the lake, watch for a paved path to your left. This will take you up and over the water, onto a new space recently opened to the public, and give you some fine views of the Silver Lake hills and beyond. (Note, bicycles and smoking are not allowed here, and this causeway is open during daylight hours only.) It’s nice to stand here and imagine the original Silver Lake, which was unfenced and bordered with small trees, rushes and other marsh plants. Down to your right are the Silver Lake Recreation Center — offering a gymnasium, play structures, grassy lawns and basketball court — and the area’s big, busy dog park.

A jogger stops for a photo of the lake from the new Ivanhoe pedestrian path west of Silver Lake Reservoir.
A jogger stops for a photo of the lake from the new Ivanhoe pedestrian path west of Silver Lake Reservoir. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

4. Across the water, as you approach Silver Lake Boulevard, bear left and continue on the unpaved path around the lake. As you go along, under pine, eucalyptus and even an occasional oak tree, you may see glimpses of some of Silver Lake’s many architectural homes. On your right, across the street, are homes designed by Richard Neutra, whose son Dion still has a studio here. High above the water, to the west, you may be able to see the lovely arched roofline of Silvertop, the 1963 organic modern masterwork by John Lautner.

5. Just past a lone palm tree, bear left onto the path into Silver Lake Meadow, a relatively new green space — won after years of wrangling between residents — that’s great for lounging, picnicking and more and is said to have been modeled on Sheep Meadow in New York’s Central Park. (Dogs are off-limits here. If you’re walking with one, continue straight ahead until these paths meet again.) Though the pathway isn’t far from Silver Lake Boulevard, it’s much quieter where it bends to follow the lakeshore.

A woman sits under a tree on Silver Lake Meadow, east of Silver Lake Reservoir.
A woman sits under a tree on Silver Lake Meadow, east of Silver Lake Reservoir. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

6. Turn left and uphill onto Armstrong Avenue on a wide concrete pathway, along a line of recently planted trees and shrubs dwarfed by older eucalyptus and some tall pine trees that have suffered badly through the last few years of drought. At the top, you will be treated to views off to the left of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory. Below, to your left, you may see buildings and vehicles that belong to the Department of Water and Power.

A jogger passes a small patch of California poppies as he goes up Armstrong Avenue around Silver Lake Reservoir.
A jogger passes a small patch of California poppies as he goes up Armstrong Avenue around Silver Lake Reservoir. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

7. Turn left again onto Tesla Avenue, just past signs for the Neighborhood Nursery School, which has been helping kids grow up here since 1952 — though its original location was at the other end of the lake. As you make the turn, you’ll find benches and a water fountain to refresh you. Walk two more blocks to return to your starting point.

STATS

Distance: 2.2 miles round trip

Steps: 5,500

Difficulty: 2 on a scale of 1 to 5

Duration: 1 hour

Details: Free parking. OK for pets on leashes — except as noted — and bicycles. Wheelchair and stroller accessible. Bus service via Metro lines 201 and 92.

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 is on Twitter @misterfleming

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