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Griffith Park

very early aerial view of nearlyu-completed Griffith Observatory, 1934 © Griffith Observatory

With over 4,210 acres of both natural chaparral-covered terrain and landscaped parkland and picnic areas, Griffith Park is the largest municipal park with urban wilderness area in the United States. Situated in the eastern Santa Monica Mountain range, the Park’s elevations range from 384 to 1,625 feet above sea level. With an arid climate, the Park’s plant communities vary from coastal sage scrub, oak and walnut woodlands to riparian vegetation with trees in the Park’s deep canyons. The California native plants represented in Griffith Park include the California species of oak, walnut, lilac, mountain mahogany, sages, toyon, and sumac. Present, in small quantities, are the threatened species of manzanita and berberis.

Over the years recreational attractions have been developed throughout the Park, however an amazingly large portion of the Park remains virtually unchanged from the days Native American villages occupied the area's lower slopes. Today's Griffith Park offers numerous family attractions, an assortment of educational and cultural institutions, miles of hiking and horseback riding trails, and an ideal environment for enjoyable recreation activities.

Originally a part of the Spanish land grant, Rancho Los Feliz, the park was named for its former owner, Colonel Griffith J. Griffith. Born in Glamorganshire, South Wales, Griffith emigrated to the United States in 1865, eventually making a personal fortune in Mexican silver mines and, subsequently, southern California real estate. In 1882, Griffith settled in Los Angeles and purchased a 4,071 acre portion of the Rancho Los Feliz, which stretched northward from the northern boundaries of the Pueblo de Los Angeles. On December 16, 1896, the civic-minded Griffith bequeathed 3,015 acres of his Rancho Los Feliz estate as a Christmas gift to the people of Los Angeles to be used as parkland. The enormous gift, equal to five square miles, was to be given to the city unconditionally - or almost so.

"It must be made a place of recreation and rest for the masses, a resort for the rank and file, for the plain people," Griffith said on that occasion. "I consider it my obligation to make Los Angeles a happier, cleaner, and finer city. I wish to pay my debt of duty in this way to the community in which I have prospered."

Since Griffith's original gift, further donations of land, along with City purchases and the reversion of private land to public domain have expanded the Park to its present size. Col. Griffith died on July 7, 1919, however, he had left a sizeable trust fund to complete the dreams he had for the park; specifically designating funds for the construction of a Greek amphitheater (the Greek Theatre, built 1930) and an observatory and hall of science (Griffith Observatory, opened 1935.)

Griffith Park stands today as a monument to the dedicated vision of one man--Griffith Jenkins Griffith, Park Commissioner, civic philanthropist, and fervent advocate of parklands, and recreation for the health of Los Angeles.

Griffith Observatory from the lawn, March 2006 © Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory has been the leader of public astronomy in southern California and around the world since it opened in 1935. More people have looked through Griffith Observatory’s telescope than any other telescope on Earth. In addition, its iconic façade has been featured in more than 300 films and television shows. The Observatory is a Los Angeles landmark and worldwide tourist destination for over a million visitors a year. Our mission, “Griffith Observatory inspires everyone to observe, ponder, and understand the sky,” is realized each day in the exhibit halls and the Samuel Oschin Planetarium and each night as visitors gaze at the cosmos with their own eyes through the historical 12-inch Zeiss refracting telescope or our lawn telescopes.

hiking trail

Hiking the Trails around Griffith Observatory

Hiking into the rugged hills and sparsely developed areas is perhaps one of the most popular forms of recreation in Griffith Park. Hikers are allowed to use the entire 53-mile network of trails, fire roads, and bridle paths. Maps of trails and current information on trail closures and special restrictions are available at the Ranger Station, (323) 913-4688. All trails in the park are closed at dusk. Open fires and smoking are not allowed. One of the most rewarding hikes in the park is the trail leading from the Observatory parking lot to the summit of Mount Hollywood, the highest peak of the park, which affords spectacular views of the entire Los Angeles Basin. Hikers should approach the park with caution; Griffith Park is a wilderness area with wild quail, rodents, foxes, coyotes, rattlesnakes, and deer.

Trail Map of Griffith Park

(Published by Tom LaBonge, Councilmember, City of Los Angeles, 4th District in association with Jon Kirk Mukri, General Manager, City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, copyright 2010 by Cartifact Inc.). This map is available from the Ranger Station and Visitor Center, 4730 Crystal Springs Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027 / 323-913-4688 or here View Full Map (PDF 1.83 M).