BEE ROCK & OLD LA ZOO - GRIFFITH PARK - LOS ANGELES, CA
I woke up this morning intending on taking a nice leisurely 4 mile hike - and by my own fault ended up with a long 7 miler. Good news is, I don't regret it one bit. I'm quite happy with the results of the two hours I spent exploring the trails of Griffith Park that I had never seen before.
This post is going to discuss two locations within Griffith Park - Bee Rock and the abandoned Old LA Zoo. Two must-sees if you haven't gotten around to it yet - I can't believe it took me this long!
Just a warning - as mentioned before - this is probably the longest possible route to get to Bee Rock. I'm pretty positive there is a more direct trail, but I missed a step in my directions and wound up hiking about 5 miles before found the rock. Still, I recommend this way - you happen upon so many great vistas of both downtown Los Angeles and Glendale/Burbank.
Anyway, I started my hike in the main parking lot for the Merry-Go-Round (I'll give precise directions at the bottom of this post). From there I headed out the entrance to the lot and hung a right on to the paved road. Not far from there you will come to a junction - one path will lead you straight ahead (this path is paved) and the other two will lead you past a caged water basin. Take the path to the left past the water basin.
Not long after you make your way down this path you'll come upon some stairs. I chose to take the stairs knowing that this nice little path that leads you to an old Boy Scouts Amphitheater - otherwise you can continue up the fire road and end up in the same area.
From this point I continued up the second set of stairs just behind the amphitheater - this is where I my hike went wrong (or right...). My directions told me to hang a right, but I for some reason I went left instead. I'm fairly certain if you DO go right, the hike is much shorter and you just continue to follow the fire roads up the mountain until you reach Bee Rock (you won't be able to miss it if you head up this direction). If you want to continue my way (which is obviously the best way, duh) take the left!
Once you make your left, you will continue up gradually ascending windy path. Here the trails were pretty busy with dog walkers and trail runners.
Continue to follow this path on and on and on until you finally reach a four way junction. This is where I started to do some exploring because I finally realized I had strayed from my initial directions and figured I should just make the most of it. Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos of this junction, but basically you will find a path leading to your left up a steep hill, a path directly in front of you leading downward, and then two paths to your right (one high and one low).
If you're interested in a nice view of downtown and the 5 freeway head left and up the steep hill rocky hill. When you reach the top you will not be disappointed by the awesome panoramic views!
After spending a few minutes exploring this lookout area I decided to head back down the way I came and back toward the junction. With my back to the steep hill, I continued to head straight on the higher path of the two that were originally on my right (hope that makes sense...).
This trail offered some shade from the intense sun which was nice. About a 1/4 mile along this trail I happened upon a water station and another large paved road.
Again, I was really just guessing at this point, but I decided to take a left and briefly follow what looked like an experience hiking couple. I'm glad I did - this route had some seriously great views of the West side as well.
This is where my hike started to feel never ending. After following the bend past the views of the Griffith Observatory I continued along the paved road. Other than a few cyclists and a hiker here or there, I was basically on this road for a good mile by myself. Luckily, there was a lot to look at through this area. Views of downtown, a few foot bridges above and some interesting rock formations. I even spotted a large hawk perched high in a tree. Eventually I made out what I was hoping to be Bee Rock off in the distance so I continued on my way.
I was probably on this paved road for about 1.5 miles before I finally reached the entrance out to the rock formation. There is a small trail, just past the trashcan and trail signs that leads down some steps and out along a ridge that is fenced in. Follow the path along the fence and you've reached the top of Bee Rock!
It's a bummer the whole thing is fenced in and graffitied - still offers great views and a nice place to rest and take it all in for a moment. Once you've spent some time here and taken all your photos head back up the same trail you that you came down. After you get to the top of the stairs hang an immediate right down the paved road. Soon you will come to an area where a dirt trail splits off from the paved road to the right (just before you reach the water tower) take the dirt road - this will begin your descent back down to the bottom of the park.
Just about here you'll be wondering, where the heck is this abandoned zoo (if you haven't seen it before)!? Yeah - those were my thoughts as well. At this time in the hike, you've already covered about 5 miles! It's probably about another 1.5 miles to the bottom - but luckily it's all downhill and smooth sailing from there.
As you near the bottom of the trail you'll come up behind a sign that reads "Bill Eckert Trail" (on the opposite side from you) hang a right there and then after a few steps make your way to the left where you'll find a fence beneath some trees - follow the little path along the fence until you come across a pedestrian doorway. This will lead you down to a pic-nic area.
When you reach the pic-nic area make your way to the right past the pic-nic benches and stairs and up the small incline. Here you will find the abandoned zoo! Here you can explore the old dens and cages that the animals used to be held in. It's a great photo opp. I only wish I hadn't been alone so I could get some more photos!
When you're all finished exploring here, simply make your way back down through the pic-nic area and out towards the parking lots. You may notice some Merry-go-round music! Follow the sound of music and pop on by this area for a quick ride, or reward yourself with some snacks and refreshments after your long hike!
How To Get There: Where Crystal Springs and Los Feliz Blvd. meet head north on Crystal Springs into Griffith Park. You will drive past the pony rides and travel down and then about 1.5 miles in, you'll see signs for the Merry-go-Round. Take a left onto the road toward the Merry-go-Round and park in the big lot. Try to find a shady spot so your car isn't scorching when you return!
Tips For The Trail:
- Bring a large bottle of water! You will need it.
- Load up on the sunscreen! The majority of this hike is very exposed!
- Pack some cash - there are concessions at the end of this journey!
- Wear a good solid pair of athletic shoes - if you want to crawl out to the tip of Bee Rock you will want to have a pair with good traction. It can be a little slippery and it's easy to lose your footing out there.