Los Angeles does not hold near enough parks or green spaces and they are far too infrequent to be convenient to most locals. Luckily, you are not a local, and Los Angeles’ parks like Griffith Park, Runyon Canyon and others will be a nice break from the urbanity of the rest of the city.
Griffith Park is one of the largest parks in the nation with 4,210 acres of land for recreation and the enjoyment of the city. There are 53 miles of hiking trails within Griffith Park and hiking is one of the most popular forms of recreation within the park. One of the most challenging and popular hikes takes you from the lower level parking lot, at 384 feet in elevation all the way to the top of Mt. Hollywood, the highest point in the park at 1,625 feet above sea level.
The LA Zoo is part of Griffith Park and it is at the entrance to the park that visitors catch the shuttle up to Griffith Observatory. There is a nominal entrance fee, but visitors must have a reservation to board the shuttle from the parking lot to the historic museum.
Griffith Park is also home to the Greek Theater, which was built as part of the donation agreement and trust fund that Griffith J. Griffith set up when he donated nearly five square miles of land to the city with the only stipulation that it be used as “a place of recreation and rest for the masses, a resort for the rank and file.”
In May 2007, a fire tore through the park, threatening the Observatory, killing wildlife, charring bushes and closing down many of the trails. Much of the park has reopened, although the destruction of many of the natural plants has led to thoughts that heavy rains will destabilize the dirt and lead to mudslides.
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Another popular park near Hollywood, Runyon Canyon provides the Los Angeles transplants waiting for their big break and inhabiting the apartments lining Sunset Boulevard a place to walk their dogs.
As a result you’ll find pretty people and their dogs jogging, running and largely ignoring leash laws. Runyon Canyon also provides a view of the city from the air, as well as views from the top into the multi-million dollar houses in the Hollywood hills. It’s a steep hike up, but the view is quite a pleasure.
Although not technically a park, the Huntington Gardens provides one of the largest and most immaculate green space in Los Angeles. Located in Pasadena and gifted to the city by Henry E. Huntington. There is a significant fee for admission, but the Huntington Gardens remain some of the most beautiful botanical gardens in Los Angeles and on the west coast.
One of the most ambitious parks in history is being planned for an area in Irvine, where the El Toro military base was located. Currently named the “Great Park,” there are plans for walking and hiking trails deep into the 2.5 mile long canyon running through the park and a 165 acre sports park, cultural terrace with a library, an air museum and a 3-mile long wildlife corridor to allow native animals to migrate from Cleveland National Forest in the north and Crystal Cove State Park in the south.
Elsewhere in the city of Los Angeles, Echo Park is known for its lake and numerous species of waterfowl and many other local neighborhood parks accent the local landscape.