Life isn’t always go, go, go in Los Angeles. The parks of Hollywood Hills offer miles of hiking trails, vast tracts of mountain terrain, rugged canyons and distant skyline views. Swap Downtown for downtime and discover the natural side of Hollywood in our guide…
Griffith Park, the daddy of all L.A green spaces, is one of the largest municipal parks in North America. Covering a huge expanse of land north of the Los Feliz neighbourhood, its southwestern section borders the Hollywood Hills, with great walking opportunities in the mountains and canyons west of the Griffith Observatory. Highlights include Bronson Canyon – site of the famous Bat Cave from the 1960s Batman TV series – and Sunset Ranch Hollywood which offers guided evening horseback rides to Mt. Hollywood. Stock up on coffee and organic vegetarian food at The Trails Cafe before your hike.
Just east of Warner Bros. Studios is Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills, a bucolic memorial park and cemetery full of notable architecture and artworks, including replica colonial churches, super-sized statues of American presidents, a copy of the Liberty Bell and the world’s largest historical mosaic, ‘The Birth of Liberty’. While the park hosts various patriotic and high-profile events throughout the year – such as on Memorial Day and Veterans Day – it’s best known for its entombed celebrity inhabitants. No maps are provided by the park, but legendary stars like Bette Davis, Stan Laurel, Liberace, Telly Savalas and Buster Keaton can all be found here.
A designated ‘Urban Wilderness’, Runyon Canyon Park lies at the eastern end of the Santa Monica mountains. With so many film stars living in the surrounding residential areas, this is one of the best celeb-spotting locations in LA according to the Hollywood Reporter. Miles of hiking trails criss-cross the landscape, including some lesser-known and fairly strenuous stretches detailed on the park’s official page. Runyon Canyon’s northern entrance is accessible from the 7300 block of Mulholland Drive, and there are two southern entrances at Vista Street and Fuller Avenue.
Occupying an isolated spot to the north of the Hollywood Reservoir, Lake Hollywood Park offers a clear sightline to the Hollywood sign in one direction and watery views towards the Mulholland Dam in the other. As with almost all parks in the Hollywood Hills, the mountainous surroundings are perfect for hiking or running – or you can walk or cycle on the paved road that runs around the lake. There’s also a large lawn for barbecues, with a children’s play area and picnic tables. Find it just up from the Lake Hollywood overlook on Canyon Lake Drive.
Wattles Garden Park is a place Angelenos regard as their own little secret. Located in the heart of Hollywood, at the far southern tip of Runyon Canyon, the recently restored park is home to hiking trails, a 4-acre community farm, a Japanese garden and the stately Wattles Mansion. Former home of banker Gurdon Wattles and previously known as ‘Jualita’, the mansion is renowned for being the last intact Hollywood estate from its agricultural era before the film industry existed. You might also recognise it from starring roles in Rain Man and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Today, the park acts as a magnet for those seeking sanctuary from the buzz of Hollywood Boulevard, just one block to the south. The mansion itself is only open for private events, but the sloping lawns offer a peaceful retreat with views all the way to Palos Verdes.
Written by Maxine Sheppard
Downtown Los Angeles © iStock: Sean Pavone