Tucked in the southeast corner of Griffith Park, Beacon Hill is an example of how you don’t have to travel far or aim high to reach one of the best panoramas of LA’s skyline.
Before LAX came into the picture, Glendale had LA’s principal airport, complete with a shining beacon on the Santa Monica range’s easternmost summit. The light’s gone, but Beacon Hill, at 1,001 feet, still beams. Get to its summit in 2 miles and just 500 feet of elevation. From the apex, downtown LA is only about 5 miles away, with views extending clear across the city to Santa Monica Bay, shining next to the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The Verdugo Mountains and the San Gabriels tower to the north and east above Glendale and Burbank. Spin around—Mount Bell and Mount Hollywood form the crown of Griffith Park.
Complete the loop by hiking down Coolidge Trail and Lower Beacon Trail, which gives closer looks at downtown and the Los Angeles River.
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!
Top photo by Michael McCarty.