Griffith Park’s charming surprises are just steps away

This is a short, vigorous walk that unites two of Griffith Park’s most charming features — the vintage 1926 merry-go-round and the ruins of the park’s original zoo.

Begin the walk at the parking lot off Crystal Springs Drive that serves the park’s merry-go-round. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

1. Begin your walk at the parking lot off Crystal Springs Drive that serves the park’s historic merry-go-round, whose calliope organ and hand-carved horses and figures have been in operation since 1937. Leave the parking lot from the driveway where you entered. Turn right, walk past the white gate, and look for a flat trail leading to your left up into a narrow canyon.


At the canyon’s end, past the sign for Fern Canyon Trail Amphitheater, climb a flight of stairs to a wide dirt road. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

2. A few hundred yards up, at the canyon’s end and past the “Fern Canyon Trail Amphitheater,” climb a flight of wooden stairs to a wide dirt road, and head to the right and downhill. Stay on this road for about a mile as it hugs the hillside for half a mile or more.

Woodrow Wilson Municipal Golf Course is visible from the path. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

3. You’ll begin to get fine views as you go, of big green spaces like the park’s Wilson and Harding golf courses in the foreground and Forest Lawn Memorial park in the background.


Eucalyptus trees shade a narrow trail on the right. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

4. At a sharp right-hand bend in the road, shaded by eucalyptus and sycamore trees, turn downhill onto a narrow trail that runs beside a dry creek bed. At the bottom of that trail, meet a paved road and turn right. (Or, if you feel like a bigger hike, stay on the dirt road a little longer, then take the next left turn up to great park views from Bee Rock.)

Park visitors take pictures in front of structures from the old park zoo at the Crystal Springs Picnic Area. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

5. Here at the Crystal Springs Picnic Area, you will find the remnants of the old Griffith Park Zoo, which opened in 1912 with a collection of only 15 animals and closed in 1966 to make way for the current animal park. Still in place are many of the original pens, cages and service buildings. This green space is also home to outdoor Shakespeare performances and classical music concerts in the summer.


A park visitor walks in dappled light behind the animal enclosures, near the end of the hike, which is back at the merry-go-round parking lot. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

6. Begin the route back by retracing your steps to the paved path behind the animal enclosures. Climb a little hill, then follow a wide dirt road as it hugs the hillside back to the merry-go-round parking lot.

More from L.A. Walks: Explore Los Angeles by foot

Fleming is the author of “Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles” and “Secret Stairs East Bay: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Berkeley and Oakland.”


The stats

Distance: 2 miles
Duration: 1 hour
Difficulty: 3, on a scale of 1 to 5
Details: Ample free parking. Dogs on a leash are OK.

View larger map on