One of the things I love most about Griffith Park is its range of hiking – you can take a leisurely, stroller-friendly walk along a fire road to the Hollywood Sign or do an intense firebreak trail run up nearly-vertical sections of ridge – sometimes both on the same trail.
For as long as I’ve lived here, I’m still finding new and fun routes in the park. It’s a great option for those times when you can’t really do a full-day trek in the San Gabriels but you still want to feel like you’ve earned your breakfast. Beacon Hill is a prominent peak on the park’s southeastern edge – on clear days it’s an absolutely killer photo-spot and on other days it’s still a very pleasant, moderately easy hike.
Park your car at the end of Griffith Park Boulevard where it splits into Shannon Road and Cadman Drive. You don’t need a permit and there is plenty of street parking – but always make sure you read the signs just to make sure there isn’t street cleaning.
Ignore the dirt road at this intersection and instead head toward the paved portion of Cadman Drive. You’ll pass some nice houses carved into the hillside before you hit the end of the pavement at the 0.2 mile mark.
When you reach the end of Cadman Drive, the road ends at a chain link fence. Walk through here and you’re on a shaded fire road that travels alongside a small gulch. At around the 0.3 mile mark, stay to the right where a use-trail ascends a neighboring canyon and meets up with Vista Del Valle Drive (a nice loop option if you’re interested!)
As the fire road starts to make its slow but steady ascent, the topography of Griffith Park will start to unfold before you – with the golf courses appearing directly to your east with the first inklings of the San Gabriels in the distance.
At just past the 0.4 mile mark, the dirt road intersects with the Mineral Wells Trail. Keep left at the junction to continue your ascent.
From this point, the trail is mostly out of the shade but unless you’re doing this route at high noon in the dead of summer, you’ll probably be all right. There is an incline here but it’s very gradual. By the 0.92 mile mark you’ll be at 870 feet – and you’ll start to have some really incredible views.
At the 1.3 mile mark, the Mineral Wells Trail hits a junction on a ridgeline firebreak. To the west, a series of trails splits and heads toward Vista Del Valle Drive. To the north, the Mineral Wells Trail continues, eventually meeting up with the Old Zoo trail. For this trip, head to the east along the fire break as it passes through some old eucalyptus trees.
At 1.41 miles the trail drops down a bit before reaching the very short but surprisingly steep final incline to the summit of Beacon Hill. Some of the dirt here can get a little dusty and slippery – especially when compared to the rest of the trail you’ve hiked so far – so just be sure to watch your footing. After this very short climb, you’ll be rewarded with some incredible panoramic views of the Verdugos and San Gabriels as well as south toward downtown Los Angeles. On clear days, it’s downright spectacular. I could even see Catalina when I went!
When you’re done soaking in the views, head back the way you came.
For a more adventurous return, you can descend down a firebreak / use-trail from Beacon Hill heading south, which eventually meets up with the eastern stretch of the Mineral Wells Trail. From there, just head west and you’ll get back to Cadman Drive.
This post was written by Casey Schreiner on March 20, 2014