The Wisdom Tree & Cahuenga Peak - Los Angeles, CA
This has become one of my favorite trails in Griffith Park! This particular trail differs from many of the others you'll come across in Griffith Park. This trail is much more rugged, steep and rocky - so make sure you wear appropriate shoes. I can't tell you how many times I've seen people out on the trails with inadequate shoes and unhappy looks on their faces.
Anyway, to get to the trail head you'll begin by parking along Lake Hollywood Drive. You shouldn't have much trouble finding a spot. From your parking spot head east on Wonder View Drive and head up the hill with beautiful homes to your left and the reservoir below to your right. Continue past the yellow gate and then about .4 miles in from your start the paved road will dead end and you will see the trail head ahead marked by a plaque (only...the plaque seems to be missing these days).
As soon as you hit the trail it gets right into it. The trail is clearly marked and easy to follow, but you'll ascend nearly 725 feet before you've even gone a full mile. As I mentioned before, it's very steep and crumbly - so watch your footing and don't rush. Right off the bat you'll think you're getting some amazing views of the Hollywood Reservoir, and you are... but the views only open up and get better as you make your way toward the top. Eventually you'll be able to make out everything from the Observatory, to Downtown LA and all the way out to the Pacific.
Around 0.8 miles in the trail will switch back and take you west up the last leg of the trail. This area is the most strenuous - it is even more steep and the ground is extremely loose. Follow this trail to the top of the ridge. To the West on the ridge you will see the "Wisdom Tree" and from here you'll get some of the most spectacular views of the Los Angeles basin.
Heading west, follow the trail to the "Wisdom Tree". According to... everything I've read on the internet... this tree is pretty dang special. The story goes that the Wisdom Tree (or as some call it the Magic Tree, The Giving Tree or even the Tree of Life) on the summit of Burbank Peak was the only tree left standing after a crippling wildfire fire here in 2007. That fire burned hundreds and hundreds of acres in and around Griffith Park - but not that lone tree! Here you can take in some gorgeous views of Los Angeles to the South and the Valley to the North. We were up here during what I like to call "the magic hour" - that moment JUST before sunset - and the way the sun was hitting the San Gabriel Mountains and the haze (see: smog) that hangs just over the city buildings is really something to be seen.
At the base of the Wisdom Tree you'll find a couple of trail register boxes. These boxes are filled with notes from fellow hikes and travelers from all over! Find a blank space in a notepad or piece of paper and leave a note, a word of wisdom orrrr shamelessly promote your hiking website, like I did.
After you take it all in at the tree head east down the ridge trail toward Cahuenga Peak. Through this area you will notice that the northern slopes are still recovering from the 2007 wildfire damage. Scorched remnants of trees and shrubs line the trail. The Cahuenga Peak also holds a bit of history to it. In the 1930's it was purchased by Howard Hughes who wanted to build a home atop it for Ginger Rogers. She declined his offer, and some decades later a group of investors decided to try to build a housing development there as well. Thankfully the citizens of Los Angeles would not stand for this. In April of 2010, Cahuenga Peak was saved from further development by the Save the Sign Campaign. The organization purchased the peak and donated it to LA so that it could become part of Griffith Park. Pretty neat, eh?
Around the 1.5 mile mark, the trail reaches a small clearing which marks the summit of Cahuenga Peak.
From this point, you can continue to follow the eastward trail toward Mount Lee and check out the Hollywood Sign. We didn't go on from this point, which is why our trip only totaled around 3 miles - so if you DO continue on keep in mind, it will just about double your mileage.
If you decide that this is the end of the road for you, simply head back along the trail the way you came. I do warn, be especially careful on your way down!
How to get there: On the 101 Freeway you will take the Barham Boulevard exit and drive north for about .3 of a mile. Make a right at the light onto Lake Hollywood Drive. Follow this meandering road for about a half a mile until it intersects with Wonder View Drive. Park along Lake Hollywood Drive (check the signs) and begin hiking eastward up Wonder View Drive. (If head another quarter mile down Lake Hollywood Drive, you will find The Hollywood Reservoir trailhead)
Address: Wonder View Drive & Lake Hollywood Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90068