Wattles Garden Park reopens to walkers and hikers

The 1907 mansion still remains on the park grounds today, but is only open for private events.
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Wattles Garden Park is a bucolic, verdant garden in the heart of Hollywood. It's loaded with history, and a delightful place to have a picnic, watch a sunset or just hang out. This easy walk will introduce you to the many charms of this recently restored Los Angles landmark, closed for many years and opened to the public only this week.

Start your stroll at the front door of this 50-acre estate, the Wattles Garden Park gates at 1824 N. Curson Ave., one block uphill from Hollywood Boulevard.

L.A. Walks: In the Saturday section on Oct. 19, an article on walking in Wattles Garden Park in Hollywood listed the bus route to reach the park as Metro 271. It is the Metro 217 bus route. —

Down and to your right is the expansive Wattles Farm, a members-only 4-acre community garden of fruit, vegetables and flowers. Uphill and to your left is the majestic Wattles Mansion. Walk straight ahead and follow the driveway up and to the left until you find yourself on the mansion's porch.

This 1907 structure was the winter home of wealthy Omaha tycoon Gurdon Wattles, who surrounded his Mediterranean/Mission Revival mansion with avocado and citrus trees and a collection of formal gardens, which, like the home itself, are open only to private, permitted events. But its sloping lawns are free to all and give broad views as far as Palos Verdes and Catalina Island.

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Walk uphill from the mansion on the Wattles driveway, then continue a little further on North Curson Avenue, and enter the upper Wattles Park gates to explore the "American" garden, a recently restored semi-formal tract that includes a flowing stream, Japanese garden — dotted with imported plants and lanterns — and almost a full acre of lush lawn surrounded by palm, pine, oak, eucalyptus, sumac and bay laurel trees.

Climb the stepped concrete walkway, dotted with benches, that ends at a Japanese torii gate. Up and to the right, a dirt path gradually steepens and leads to a cut granite staircase that culminates at a traditional Japanese shrine.

The trail grows ever more faint as you climb into a narrowing canyon. Though it involves unsteady ground and some difficult hiking, the path is said to connect with the top of nearby Runyon Canyon — making theoretically possible a very aggressive loop for the very adventurous hiker. Unless you are that hiker, return on the stepped concrete walkway and enjoy a gentle grassy descent to your starting point.

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: 1 mile
Duration: 1/2 hour
Difficulty: 1 on a scale of 1 to 5
Details: Hours 5 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily. Dogs on a leash are OK. Wheelchair accessible. Ample free street parking. Bus route: Metro 217.

[For the record, 5:52 p.m. Oct. 20: An earlier version of this post said to use Metro bus route 271.  Actually, it’s 217.]