The largest municipal park in Los Angeles, Griffith Park protects 4,210 acres of mountains and canyons at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains. It’s a remarkable stretch of rough, hilly wilderness in the heart of such an enormous urban area (map).
Things to Do at Griffith Park & Observatory
Considering its sprawl and varied topography, it’s no wonder that hiking is of the biggest draws of Griffith Park. Choose from more than 50 miles of trails lacing the chaparral-studded slopes, including one that leads from the observatory parking lot to the top of 1,625-foot Mount Hollywood, the park’s highest point. Unpaved roads also provide access for mountain bikers and trail rides; guided rides out of Sunset Ranch include great views of the Hollywood Sign. While exploring, keep an eye out for such wildlife as deer, small rodents, and coyotes (especially closer to nightfall), and beware of rattlesnakes.
It's not all about hiking, biking, and other outdoorsy fun here—the park has a more refined side, too. Learn about American Western art at the Autry Museum of the American West. Leading musicians love to play at the Greek Theatre, regarded by many to be one of the best outdoor venues in the country. Kids can get close-up looks at koalas and Komodo dragons at Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens. And high on a slope overlooking Los Angeles, the landmark art deco–era Griffith Observatory presents mind-expanding planetarium shows throughout the year, plus film screenings, hosted telescope parties, and special events in the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theater (check the calendar for details). A nice perk: Admission to the observatory is free.
One of the more unexpected attractions within the park is Bronson Caves, a series of man-made gouges and a tunnel that have been used as a location in countless TV shows and movies (ever wanted to visit the Bat Cave?) and is accessible to the public.
Kids’ Activities at Griffith Park & Observatory
There’s plenty here to make for a great day out with kids. The Travel Town museum serves as a “railroad petting zoo” where children can imagine themselves as engineers. Visitors of all ages can clamber over vintage locomotives, freight cars, and cabooses. During summer months, the park’s pool, known as “The Plunge,” offers a place parkgoers of all ages to cool off in the water. Note: There’s one longstanding kids’ offering that visitors should no longer expect to experience. Since 1948, the park had offered pony rides to budding cowboys (and cowgirls), but at the end of 2022, the city announced it would not be renewing the operation’s lease.
Parking, Hours, and the Best Time to Visit Griffith Park & Observatory
Parking at Griffith Park can be a challenge, as it is often congested with traffic and there are limited dedicated spots. The area surrounding the observatory is all paid parking. If there is no show at the Greek Theater, it is possible to park in the theatre’s parking lot for free and take the DASH Observatory up the hill to the entrance of the observatory for 50 cents. You can also avoid parking altogether and board the DASH Observatory/Los Feliz shuttle, which runs every 15–20 minutes, from outside the park.
Griffith Park is open 365 days a year, from 5 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Griffith Observatory is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. during the week, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The planetarium is closed on Tuesdays. To avoid crowds, the best times to visit Griffith Park and the Griffith Observatory is mornings (or early afternoons for the observatory) during the week.