Runyon Canyon Offers Outdoor Recreation

Living in the city conjures up images of concrete and asphalt. While that may be the case in many places, residents of Hollywood are offered the desired urban lifestyle, while treated to outdoor recreation not found in other parts of the city.

Neighboring Griffith Park may be bigger and home to such notable attractions as the Observatory, L.A. Zoo, and Autry Museum, but the most talked about of the city’s parks is in Hollywood’s backyard. Runyon Canyon Park is the 160-acre outdoor playground of the rich and famous, where the who’s who of Hollywood hike, jog, and practice yoga. With miles of trails for all levels of athletic ability, it’s not uncommon to see your favorite star jogging with their pampered pooch.

There are multiple entrances to the park. The Fuller Street gate is the most popular. Here, you will find an “on your honor” snack bar. Locals offer options for those looking to rehydrate, or fuel up. Leave cash, or electronically send payment for your chosen items. Trainers meet their clients, and dogs take a break. Two blocks over, the Vista gate offers much less excitement, and for those living off of Mullholland, the north gate provides easy access.

You will not find a playground, basketball courts, or restrooms here, what you will find is a slice of wilderness within the big city. The lower portion of the park offers a bit of shade, a few benches, and a place to exercise. The rest of the park is open landscape within the canyon, featuring paved and user-created dirt trails.

From the Fuller gate entrance, there are three ways to the top (approximately 1.5 miles away). The West and East Trails branch off from the Main paved trail, and eventually reconnect at the top, before arriving at the Mullholland parking lot.  The West Trail requires the most endurance. Here, you will find the fittest of Hollywood’s fit. Once past the top, a grueling staircase built onto the side of the mountain provides an amazing leg workout. The East Trail is a bit shorter, and a bit less strenuous than the West. But, don’t let it fool you. This is a tough trail, with steep handmade wooded steps, and rock stairs. A longer, yet easier, more gradual climb can be done on the main paved access road.

Inside the park, wrought iron gates denote where dogs may be let off their leash and be free to roam next to their human companion. You will see as many (if not more dogs than people) at times, and they are decked out in outfits as expensive as their owners.

No matter which path you take to the top, or how far up you go, visitors are treated to some of the best views in the city. Side trails and lookouts are as high as 1,320 feet above sea level, offering 360-degree views. On clear days, you can see the Pacific Ocean, the San Fernando Valley, the L.A. Basin, and beyond.

Scattered throughout the park (and often unnoticed by visitors) are historical remnants. Runyon Canyon was purchased by the city in 1984, but usage of the property dates back to the late 1800’s. The property was once home to a grand estate, which was visited by celebrities during the Golden Age of Hollywood.  Plans (that never materialized) were in place to create a sprawling resort. Concrete slabs, building foundations, and other pieces of the past can still be found within the grounds.
One of the most overlooked, yet intriguing artifacts can be found on the East Trail. The neighboring Outpost Estates subdivision once had its own sign, similar to the Hollywood Sign. For reasons that are debated by local historians, the letters were knocked down during World War II… yet they were never removed. When hiking the East Trail, notice the concrete pillar foundations in the middle of the path, which held up the letters that can be found to your left and right under the wild growth.

In the canyon off the incline to the East trail, graffitied chimneys and foundations offer a glimpse of what the estate may have looked like, while now covered in artwork from today’s most progressive street artists. Further into the canyon (and rarely visited), is a man-made rock garden that changes almost daily.

Whether at Runyon Canyon to people watch, play with your four-legged friend, or burn off calories while taking in the breathtaking views, residents of Hollywood are privileged to have this urban wilderness within walking distance.