Week 188: Fern Dell Trail to Griffith Observatory

September 29, 2019

Walking Los Angeles, Adventures on the Urban Edge, 3.23 miles

Linking two classics of L.A. history into one gorgeous Griffith Park hike, Barbara and I set out from Fern Dell Drive off Los Feliz Blvd. to hike up to the Observatory. If you haven't been to Fern Dell in Griffith Park, go, it's timeless. In 1914, the city of L.A. began planting ferns around the natural spring at the southern end of the land that Griffith J. Griffith donated to the city in 1896 for a park. By the 1920s, Fern Dell's ferns, footpaths, and bridges had become a go-to destination for starlets and health-seekers, eager to sip from the spring, rumored to hold mystical powers. (Mystical thinking was a trend in 20s' L.A.) During the depression in the 30s, the Civilian Conservation Corps set up two outposts in Fern Dell and, along with residents of a camp for runaway boys, added river stones, faux-lagoons, and waterfalls. Portions of the spring have run dry, others are hanging on, but the ferns, bridges, and stonework remain inside a grove of redwoods, sycamore, and ash. At the top end is a picnic area, playground, and three trailheads. We started up the East Observatory Trail on our left to hike to the Griffith Observatory. The trail winds and curves, rising up with your heart rate. I have to say, this was one of, if not the most populated trails Barbara and I have hiked. A flurry of people hiking up or down the path with truly the happiest collection of smiling dogs, in all sizes. And why not? The sky was clear, the weather cool, and different views of the city at each turn. Halfway up, we stopped for water at a lookout point with a panorama of the city from DTLA to Hollywood, Century City, and Wilshire Corridor. Off to the side, the Hollywood sign in the distance. Back on the trail, we headed up to the Observatory, another gift to the city from Griffith. He donated the funds in his will, specifying the Greek Revival architecture, plans, and a provision that the observatory will always have free admission. Today, the Griffith Observatory is the most visited observatory in the world, a Los Angeles Historical and Cultural Monument. Barbara and I circled the Observatory (it wasn't open yet), taking in the unbelievable view, then stopping to watch a charm of hummingbirds feed on little red flowers at the foot of the Astronomers Monument. Taking the West Observatory Trail marked on the trailhead map, we hiked down the west side of the canyon to the Fern Dell picnic area for one last, magical stroll through Fern Dell. Perfect weather, perfect hike, with a little history, massive views, and good cardio. Loved this hike!

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