The Best Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles Hikes

When you visit Los Angeles for the first time, you don’t really think of it as somewhere you’d go hiking. The sprawling city feels so big. However, spend any time there and you’ll see that hiking in LA is a fun and popular activity and there are lots of places in the city to go and get your nature fix.

Whether you want a short hike or something a little bit longer, we know you’ll have a great time. There are acres upon acres of land to explore with the iconic views of downtown LA ahead of you – it’s pretty magical.

Go on a clear day, and you’ll be able to see Santa Monica and the Santa Monica Mountains, as well as the famous Hollywood Sign. One of the key areas is Griffith Park, and one of the most iconic areas within is Griffith Observatory.

We’ve spent a lot of time hiking in Griffith Park, so we’ve put together some of our favorite, most popular hikes to get to Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.

griffith observatory los angeles

Griffith Observatory is set within Griffith Park. Drive nearby and you may well see a white dome like building sat on the Hollywood Hills – we think it’s one of the best views of LA.

It’s also one of Southern California’s best places to experience and learn about the cosmos and the Observatory is open to the public to learn all about the night sky.

What’s more, you’ll have awesome views from the top where you’ll get an unforgettable panorama of the majestic downtown skyscrapers. On certain days, Griffith Observatory opens for special events where you can attend talks and viewings. However, the Observatory is also open for general admission Tuesday to Sunday, and what’s more, it’s free to look around.

We can’t recount the number of times we’ve visited the Observatory. It’s a great hike and it’s just a really special place to go and spend some time. We’re sure you’ll love it to!

griffith observatory

How to Get to Griffith Observatory

However you get to Griffith Observatory, and wherever you park, there are some sections that will need to be done without a car and on foot. The best option of getting to Griffith Observatory is by driving, and then hiking the rest of the way. Depending on the length of hike you want, it will depend on where you park.

The free street parking can be a little limited in places. On busy days, like weekends, it can be hard to find a space, so it’s a good idea to go early or late.

Though keep in mind that if you want to go into the Observatory, it may be closed if going particularly early or late. On a weekday, you will likely find a space. You just need to think about it before you visit!

Quite a lot of the local areas do have on street parking too, but there are restrictions in place on certain days, and some areas are restricted to residents only.

If you visit on a weekend, you’ll understand why. The Hollywood Hills are not designed for that many cars! We were lucky in that we lived around Beachwood and were able to hike straight up.

There is fairly ample parking at the top of the Observatory, but if you want to hike, this doesn’t really allow much of that (though you could always hike out from the observatory to the Hollywood Sign).

Another option is to take an Uber or similar, the only thing to keep in mind is that cell service can be a little patchy in this area, so you may need to walk a little further down from the end of the trail to order a return journey.

There is also the DASH bus public transit, which stops at the Observatory. You can find out more about this on the Griffith Observatory website. If you have mobility concerns, it’s good to keep in mind that whilst you can park very close to Griffith Park Observatory if you want a much shorter trail, there is still some distance between the parking lot and the Observatory itself.

The Observatory is wheelchair accessible, with ramps to access and a flat, plateaux like top from the top parking lot. Given that the West Observatory Trail is a fire road, with a wide, pretty well graded sandy trail, you should be able to access using a wheelchair too.

griffith park at sunset

Where to park for Griffith Observatory Hikes in Los Angeles

This really depends which trail you decide to do, but there are three main areas you’ll want to consider depending on your hike. There are various options, so we’ve outlined based on our hikes below.

Route one

Route two

Route three

fern dell griffith park

Best Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles Hikes

There are several hikes and various trails you can use to get to Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park. They really vary in length, and actually offer quite a few differences in terms of the specific angles and view points you get to experience.

One thing you’ll realize about Griffith Park really quickly is that its huge – it’s the largest municipal park in the area, and in fact one of the largest urban wilderness areas like this in the United States.

There are miles of trail to explore and plenty of incredible sights to take in. Whichever way you look at it, all of the hikes in this area are packed with stunning natural beauty, there’s something for everyone.

We’ve included a range of routes such as the accessible trail at the observatory itself. The slightly longer, but achievable for most trail from Fern Dell. And the more challenging Hollywood Sign and Griffith Observatory hike which will take most of the day.

hollywood sign

About our walking maps: We make use of Outdooractive maps that sit alongside our trail guides. This allows you to see the route you’ll be taking. If you click on the map, it will open in Outdooractive, where you can set up a free account and access their downloadable map feature. We’d always recommend downloading your map before hitting the trail to negate any problems with loss of signal. 

Route One – Shortest Hike: Griffith Observatory from East Observatory Road

Starting point: Griffith Observatory Parking Lot, CA 90027, USA
Difficulty:  Easy/accessible – accessible trail all round, including ramps
Length:  0.8km/0.4 miles round trip
Ascent/descent: 14m/45 ft. ascent and descent  
When to do it: All year round

  1. This is the shortest and quickest way to get to the observatory and is under a mile trip hike. From the parking lot, you’ll reach a flat plateau with a walk to the Observatory.
  2. You can walk either along East Observatory Road or West Observatory Road straight ahead of you to reach the Observatory grounds. From here you can look around or use this as an opportunity to take in any of the other longer hikes in the area.
griffith observatory building

Route Two – Most Popular: West Observatory Trail to Griffith Observatory

Starting point: Fern Dell Drive, CA 90068, United States
Difficulty: Easy/moderate – short trail but with some elevation gain and little shade 
Length: 3.2km/1.9 miles
Ascent/descent: 148m/485 ft. ascent and descent
When to do it: All year, but be mindful of summer heat as this trail is exposed. It’s best to do this hike either earlier or later in the day.

  1. This hike takes the Ferndell Trail from Fern Dell drive which you’ll park up on. You’ll start out on the Firebreak Trail near the popular Trails Cafe, which we always love to stop in and have a quick snack before continuing on to Griffith Observatory.
  2. This is a really pretty start to the hike through trees. You will cross a wooden bridge and come past a children’s park and then there will be two larger fire roads that will fork in front of you. This is a popular route so don’t expect to have it all to yourself!
nature in griffith park
  1. We’d recommend taking the left hand trail, which is West Observatory Trail. The other is the East Observatory Trail which just feels a bit more like a slog. At this point you will start to head uphill and on warm days, this can feel a little relentless! Very quickly though you’ve done a lot of the uphill and the views become pretty exceptional.
  2. Look out to your left and you will also see the nearby Hollywood Sign, and this is a great spot to stop and take a photo and rest a little after the incline. There are some amazing vantage points on this trail the rest of the way up.
  1. Just underneath the Griffith Observatory, the West Observatory Trail meets a fork onto the Boy Scout Trail and the Firebreak Trail. Take the trail slightly off to your left that looks to be heading up to the observatory.
  2. You’ll soon reach the Observatory where you can walk around and take everything in. There are some amazing panoramic views out from the viewing platforms at the front of the Observatory which are well worth checking out as well as the Observatory.
  3. Once you’ve finished, you can return the same way you headed out back down to the parking lot.

Route 3 – Longest Hike: Griffith Observatory from Hollywood Sign

Starting point: Beachwood Drive, CA 90068, United States. Parking here is much easier on weekdays. Though parking here can be restricted at certain times, especially weekends. Other than this, you can park at the bottom of Beachwood (which does add quite a bit onto the hike) or park at Bronson Canyon and do the hike from there.

Difficulty: Challenging, significant distance and ascent with very little shade. If you have to park further away, it does add more distance. This is a strenuous trail, and you should expect it to take you most of the day. 

Length: 18.7km/11.61 miles out and back
Ascent/descent: 609m/1998 ft. ascent and descent 
When to do it: You can hike this trail all year round but be mindful that it gets extremely hot in summer and in midday sun. We’d advise hiking either early on in the morning or later in the evening.

  1. This is one of the longer and harder hikes to get to Griffith Observatory, but one that’s really worth checking out. Starting from Beachwood Drive/Beachwood Canyon and depending on where you can find a parking spot, you’ll start out on the road.
  2. Keep heading up Beachwood Drive, which gets steeper as you go further up the hill. You’ll go past some amazing houses around here.
  3. You’ll then reach Linforth Drive on your left, which you’ll take. This quickly runs out of road and turns into a sandy path before meeting a wider road (the end of Linforth Drive) again. This is a great place to take a quick minute and take in the views as you get higher up.
beachwood drive hollywood sign hike
  1. As this road comes to an end, take a right onto Deronda Drive and follow this up until it meets Mt. Lee Drive. You will know you’re here as you’ll reach a gate on your right. Go through that and you’re into Griffith Park.
  2. At this point, you’re looking out and down into the canyon and there are some stunning views out over the City of Los Angeles toward downtown Los Angeles. Keep following this trail as it winds up the hill. It’s never steep but it is a consistent incline. There are various trails that intercept along the way, but stick to this wider, thicker trail.
  3. As you gain more height, the path will fork, and you want to take the left fork that takes you around the back of Mt. Lee where the Hollywood sign is. At this point you will be able to see the San Gabriel Mountains off to your right as well as Studio City beneath you, it’s pretty mesmerizing.
view behind mout lee hollywood
  1. Keep following the road around as it turns left to the other side of Mt. Lee and from here you can walk up to the back of the Hollywood Sign to take that iconic photo which makes a perfect memento of this fun hike! It’s one of our favorite views in this whole area. At this highest point, you can see so much!
  2. From here, retrace your steps back as Mt. Lee snakes back down the canyon side, until you see a path off to your left for Mulholland Trail. This will start to take you to Griffith Observatory.
  1. Keep following this along until the path stops at a cross section, you’ll then take a right onto Mount Hollywood Drive. Follow this down until you reach 3 Mile Trail on your right. Keep following this as it snakes down and reaches Mount Hollywood, goes past (but not to) the summit of Mount Hollywood, the Mount Hollywood Trail and the back of the observatory.
  2. When you’ve looked around the Observatory, you can either return on the path you came in on, or if you caught an Uber, you can follow route one above, but in reverse and get a pick up from there for a different return.

Ways to Extend Your Griffith Observatory Hike

One of the things we love most about a hike in Griffith Park is that it creates a great opportunity to check out some of the other things happening in the area.

The most obvious are the other trails in Griffith Park – this is one of the biggest areas of urban park land and nature in North America, and it is pretty special. If you spend any amount of time looking at a map of this area, you’ll see there is a lot to explore.

A favorite addition of ours would be the Widsom Tree hike and you can also do some pretty amazing traverse hikes too, as so many of the peaks connect up. There’s also a lot more just around and outside the park too. Below we’ve outlined our suggestions to give you some inspiration to make your hike and visit to the area even more special.

sunset hollywood griffith park

Visit Los Angeles Zoo

A short drive away from Griffith Park is Los Angeles Zoo, which we think is well worth the trip. When we visited, we weren’t expecting a lot, but we came away having really enjoyed it.

LA Zoo is home to a lot of animals – over 1,700 in fact and some species you may not get to see anywhere other than here. When we visited, we were lucky enough to see bears amongst other animals we’d never actually seen before, and it just really felt like the animals were well looked after.

You can easily have a trip to Los Angeles Zoo take a couple of hours to a half day, depending on how quickly you want to look around so it’s a really fun thing to add in after your Griffith Observatory hike.

la zoo

Have Lunch in the Beachwood Café

Nested on Beachwood Drive before the road takes a steep turn toward the start of one of the trails up to the Hollywood Sign is the Beachwood Cafe.

When we lived around here, it was our regular spot as it’s just such a nice cafe serving great (and large) plates and tasty drinks. It’s also warm and friendly and has a great buzz. It’s become popular in recent years and there is often a line and a wait for a table, but it’s so worth it and their menu is pretty extensive.

It’s a great place to go either before your hike for breakfast or after for brunch or lunch. They’re also open for dinner from Wednesday to Sunday. We’d recommend the Weid for breakfast and the Sophia Bowl for lunch. The pizza is pretty special too, and you can build your own. The basil mint lemonade is amazing too. Whatever your taste, you’ll find something that hits it here.

See the Hollywood Sign

If you’re heading up to the Griffith Observatory, checking out the Hollywood Sign is pretty iconic too. The hiking trail that is the shortest would be to park at the observatory and take the Mt. Hollywood Trail out (you can follow our route three in reverse for instructions on this).

You can hike right to the back of the Hollywood Sign, and we always love being up here to see Hollywood in front of you heading out to Downtown LA. Head up there toward sunset and it’s just amazing.

Hike Around Hollywood Reservoir

An often overlooked area is the Hollywood Reservoir, otherwise known as Lake Hollywood, which also has some pretty awesome views out over to the Hollywood Sign and the hills of Griffith Park.

The trail starts from Weidlake Drive, and you can follow the trail all the way round the Reservoir. We love to do this hike first thing in the morning – it’s just a great way to start the day. It’s pretty flat and relatively easy – here’s an AllTrails Map of the route we usually take.

hollywood reservoir

What to Bring with You for Your Griffith Observatory Hike

One of the most important things to remember is that there is very little shade on most hikes in Griffith Park. Pretty much every trail up to Griffith Observatory is exposed and it does get extremely hot.

You will want to make sure you go either earlier or later in the day in summer heat, but it can be hot at any time of the year. Here are some of the key things you need to make sure you take with you:

  • a hat for if it’s sunny (preferably something that covers the back of your neck too)
  • sunscreen (we recommend at least factor 30)
  • plenty of water (a 32 oz Hydro Flask or similar of cold water would be good for route two, but you’d want to double this for route three)
  • good hiking shoes (be sure to read our guide on the best hiking shoes out there right now)

Generally, you want to bring the essentials you would for any hike, whilst it is urban, it’s also a wild area so it is important to treat it as such. If you’re not sure what to bring, be sure to read our what to bring on a hike checklist.

what to wear griffith park

Enjoy the Hikes in Griffith Park

Griffith Park has so much to explore – it’s one of the biggest areas of urban nature around Los Angeles, and in fact in the United States. What’s more, it has some of the most stunning views and we really love the juxtaposition you get between time in nature and those far reaching views out to Downtown LA.

If you have time, it’s well worth adding on one of our suggestions from above to really make a day of it and see what Hollywood Del and the Hollywood Hills have to offer a little bit off the tourist trail. If you’re spending a few days in LA, you may also want to check out our best hikes near Los Angeles article for some other ideas.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to do a bigger road trip, you should read our best Western US road trip itinerary. These Griffith Observatory hikes are some of Los Angeles finest, and we hope whichever trail you decide to do, that you enjoy them as much as we do.

Disclaimer: This article contains Affiliate Links. You won’t pay any more for buying through these links, but we may receive a commission from any purchases made through them. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. If you choose to support us by buying through our links, we thank you as it helps us to continue providing the resources we do to help you enjoy the outdoors more!