Week 156: Beacon Hill Griffith Park

December 16, 2018

Day Hiking Los Angeles #45, Beacon Hill, 4 miles

Sometimes Barbara and I coordinate hikes with holidays and, sometimes, like today, serendipity gifts us with coincidence. Griffith Park's 53-miles of trails never disappoint, but what we didn't know when we chose to hike the park, was that in December of 1896, gold and real estate magnate Col. Griffith J. Griffith donated 3,015 acres of land that became Griffith Park as a Christmas gift to the City of Los Angeles for a "resort for the rank and file." Merry Christmas, L.A.! Literally, the gift that unwraps itself daily along trails, parks, and golf courses, and keeps on giving. Our goal today was its 1,001-ft. easternmost summit in the Santa Monica Mountains: Beacon Hill, named in the 1920s for the beacon that shone at the top at night to warn aircraft of the hills as they approach Glendale's Grand Central Airport—the early 20th century birthplace of commercial air travel in SoCal (think Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes.) Barbara and I bundled up for 44-degree weather at 8AM, and started up Cadman Drive off Griffith Park Blvd. and into the mountains along Mineral Wells Trail. By the time we reached the curve a half-mile up, the hat and gloves came off and we got our first clear view of downtown LA. Surrounded by green, green, greenery and the golf course below, we followed hoof prints, greeted runners, hikers, and dog walkers up the trail, and when we hit the Vista del Valle Dr. intersection 1.3 miles up, my scarf was in the fanny pack and our jackets were tied around our waists. The air was clear, the sky was blue, the mountains lush, and the view guaranteed to clear your mind. We detoured west for a quick glimpse of one of our favorite landmarks—the Griffith Park Observatory on top of Mt. Hollywood, then retraced our path to scale Beacon Hill for the payoff. From the top of the summit we could see from DTLA to Elysian Park, Glendale, Burbank, and a full view of the 210, all framed by San Gabriels with a snow-capped mountain in the distance. Below us, the golf course, the 5 fwy. and the L.A. River. I'll bet we saw 50 hikers on the trail on our way up and back, and, you know what? Not one single person had their face buried in their cell phone. A Christmas miracle in the mountains. 

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