You don’t have to travel far or aim high to reach one of the very best, and up-close, panoramas of LA’s iconic skyline. Tucked in the southeast corner of Griffith Park
, Beacon Hill is a shining example of LA’s less-traveled treasures. The backstory: A hundred years ago, before LAX existed, Glendale held LA’s principal airport. To warn pilots about the Santa Monica Mountains, engineers constructed a shining beacon on the range’s easternmost summit. The light on Beacon Hill is gone, but the accessible 1,001-foot summit still beams. Get to its summit in 2 miles with just 500 feet of elevation gain. From the top, downtown LA is only about 5 miles away, and views extend clear across the city to Santa Monica Bay, shining next to the Palos Verdes Peninsula. But wait, there’s more. Verdugo Mountains and San Gabriel Mountains tower to the north and east above Glendale and Burbank. Turn around, and Mount Bell and Mount Hollywood form the crown of Griffith Park. Complete the loop by hiking down Coolidge Trail and Lower Beacon Trail, which brings you even closer to downtown and the Los Angeles River. Glowing review!
Take I-5 to the Los Feliz Blvd. Exit north of downtown Los Angeles. Drive west to the first intersection and turn right on Crystal Springs Rd. After 1.3 miles, turn left, following signs for the merry-go-round. Go a quarter mile to a barricade in the road and turn right into the merry-go-round parking lot. Walk up the road a few hundred feet past the barricade to the third trail on the left (just in front of another barricade crossing the pavement). Stay to the left through two junctions at the bottom of Fern Canyon Trail, and hike 1.15 miles up to a 5-way junction. Turn left, and proceed 0.2 mile to the top of Beacon Hill. Return to the 5-way junction and turn left on Coolidge Trail to continue the loop. Drop one mile past the Tregnan Golf Academy Driving Range and turn left up Lower Beacon Trail to return 1.25 miles to the trailhead. All trails are wide fire roads, but junctions are unmarked. Dog-friendly!