As the largest municipal park in Los Angeles, Griffith Park protects 4,511 acres/1,825 hectares 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 an enormous urban area—and it’s also home to a wealth of culture.
Want to hike? Choose from more than 50 miles of trails lacing the chaparral-studded slopes, including one to the top of 1,625-foot Mount Hollywood, the park’s highest point. Another trail takes you to the site of the Old Zoo, where you can explore animal enclosures that have been abandoned and untouched for over 50 years. Unpaved roads also provide access for mountain bikers and trail rides; guided rides out of Sunset Ranch include great views of the Hollywood sign.
Give your little one’s legs a rest at one of the three novelty train hubs around the park. Travel Town focuses on the history of the Western railroad with dozens of vintage cars and a miniature train that chugs around the museum’s perimeter. Next door, you’ll find Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum. Only open on Sundays, guests can ride on little trains, which snake through tunnels and go by miniature towns. Near the park’s south entrance, Griffith Park & Southern Railroad offers rides on two mini reproductions, winding along a mile of track over bridges, past meadows, and grazing ponies.
Griffith 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 open-air Greek Theatre. Kids can get close-up looks at koalas and Komodo dragons at the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens. And high on a slope overlooking Los Angeles, the landmark art deco-era Griffith Observatory gives you a window to the cosmos.
The sprawling public park is now well known for its cameo in 2016’s smash hit La La Land—actors Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone begin their epic dance scene twirling on one of Griffith Park’s hilltops as city lights twinkle below. But the public park has been around for generations. It was an eccentric mining tycoon, Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, who in 1896 donated over 3,000 acres/1,214 hectares of his Rancho Los Feliz to the City of Los Angeles. It was a Christmas gift to be used as “a place of rest and relaxation for the masses.” Since Griffith’s original contribution, bits and pieces have been added to the park, which now attracts more than 10 million visitors a year.