Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area / Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook / La Brea Tar Pits

Urban hiking this week in the western/central part of L.A. I hiked about four miles at Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area (which I’ll refer to as Hahn SRA for the sake of brevity), a couple miles at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook and then walked around the La Brea Tar Pits for a couple of hours as well. This made for a full and fun day of hiking.

Driving Directions: To Hahn SRA: From the 10 Freeway, exit on La Cienega Blvd. Take La Cienega Blvd. South. I don’t believe there is an exit for the park on this side of the road. You’ll have to drive south for about three miles and find a place to flip a u-turn and then head back on La Cienega going north. From here follow the signs for Hahn SRA, there are several. Pull in and park in the lot that’s next to the lake. They charge $6 to park on weekends only. To Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook: Leave Hahn SRA and take a right on La Cienega. Drive 0.7 miles and turn left onto Rodeo Rd. Drive 0.3 miles and turn left on Jefferson Blvd. Drive another 0.35 miles to Hetzler Rd. You may park on the street where Hetzler and Jefferson intersect as the trail begins at street level. You can also do what I did, turn left onto Hetzler and drive up to the very top and park in the pay lot for $6. To the La Brea Tar Pits: Drive down Hetzler and return to Jefferson Blvd. Turn right on Jefferson. Drive 1.3 miles. Turn left on Hauser Blvd. Drive 2.65 miles. Turn left on Wilshire Blvd and drive 0.2 miles to the Tar Pits. You may park on the street or do as I did, turn right on Curson Ave., drive up the street a few seconds and pull into the Pits pay lot. The fee is $12. To get back to the 10 Freeway: Drive down Curson to Wilshire and turn right. Drive 0.4 miles to S Fairfax Ave and turn left. In 2 miles you will come to the 10 Fwy.

1     2   I arrived at Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area at around 6 a.m. The gate was open but I’m not sure it would have been had I arrived any earlier. I parked and headed over a few yards to Gwen Moore Lake.


Apparently people actually fish in this charming little lake.  I’m curious to know if the entire bottom consists of concrete, or is it dirt?

5     4   I hiked around the outside on the paved path. There’s a little waterfall and bridge at the end.  There were a lot of ducks and geese swimming and walking around.

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8   Photo 3 – Looking the length of the lake from the bridge.

9     10     11   The fun doesn’t stop there.  There is also an artificial stream which feeds the lake.  This is quite lovely in a Disneyland kind of way.  When humans build gardens we take all the good from the wild and concentrate it.  Bright plants, fragrant plants, planted strategically and artistically.  The sound of flowing water soothes our minds.

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I followed the stream up to it’s end, a waterfall and a large pool of water. Good way to start the day.

14     15     16   I crossed over and headed up the curvy street.  At the top is a large, grassy area known as Janice’s Green Valley.  There are two loops in this park.  I would exit the first one which I was now on, called the Community Loop and head east for a bit looking for the start of the La Brea Loop.



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22       23      24   I wasn’t quite sure where to start the second loop.  I walked through a playground and found the trailhead for the Boy Scout Trail which headed east toward La Brea Ave.  I took it.  Photo 2 – La Brea Ave., six lanes of noise.  Photo 3 – I would imagine one would have to be very skinny or very light to make use of this bench.  Photos 4 and 5 – Near the bottom I came to a junction.  I had the option of hiking right next to La Brea Ave., or hiking on a parallel trail above it.  I chose the high trail.  I now swung back, heading south.  I continued until the trail dead-ended at a busy intersection.  I turned around again and hiked north up the hill on another trail which runs parallel and above the two aforementioned trails.  These trails aren’t difficult to follow – just go as far north and south as you can before they come to their end.  Then go higher or lower.  Photos 6 and 7 – I rose back up to the top, following the signs for the Eastern Ridge Trail.  I hiked through several small areas where they had some unique exercise equipment and a few concrete animals.

25     26   There is also a butterfly garden (I didn’t see any) and a hummingbird garden.  The open air hummingbird feeder was covered with bees.

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There were several hummingbirds drinking at the feeders. I love watching these feisty little birds.

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Soon I was back at the place where I left the Community Loop, Janice’s Green Valley.  The valley is former site of the Baldwin Hills Reservoir, which failed in 1963, spilling hundreds of millions of gallons down upon the residents below.   Five were killed and hundreds of houses were damaged or destroyed. The reservoir was filled in and has now become a lovely grass valley.

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Photo 1 – Oil pumps on the hills across La Cienega  Photo 2 – I didn’t loop all the way around the valley.  Instead, about midway, I started on Diane’s Trail which heads north and rises even more.  The views began to open up.

37     38   There are a few covered viewpoints along the way.

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41   The smog was thick today.  I could barely see Downtown.


From the last viewpoint, before the trail circled back, I took a panoramic shot of the endless urban sprawl.  What have we done?

43     44   After looping around and returning to lake level, I hiked through the Japanese Garden.

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There’s a nice little pond covered with lily pads.  I spotted a single koi leisurely swimming near the surface.

48   Just a couple more minutes of hiking and I was back at my car.

49     50     51   A quick drive brought me over to Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook.  As I wrote before, I parked at the top of Hetzler Rd. in the pay lot.  There are machines that take cash or credit cards and the fee is $6.  I parked across from the Visitor’s Center.  I could have headed directly to the overlook and hiked down the trail. Instead I walked back down to Jefferson Blvd. on the paved road.


Looking at Hetzler Rd. which curves down to Jefferson Blvd.

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Photo 1 – On the way I spotted the HOLLYWOOD sign through the haze.  The smog was so bad that I couldn’t even make out the Verdugo Mountains right behind it.  Photo 2 – A landmark that stands out from above is this 94 foot tall rainbow, erected just a few years ago by Culver City and Sony Pictures.  Why a rainbow?  Because the Wizard of Oz was shot on a sound stage in Culver City.

55     56   I begin the trail heading up at the Jefferson Blvd.


There is a long and steep set of stairs.  They almost look like stairs that lead to the top of some ancient South American pyramid.  Runners sprinted their way to the top.

58     59   I didn’t take the stairs.  I stuck to the easy going dirt trail which switchbacks to the overlook and crosses over the stairs three or four times.


I parked up by the antenna shown here.  That’s Hetzler Rd. straight ahead.

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Quickly I made it to the overlook, a large concrete viewing area with big city views.

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67       68   Photos 1 and 2 – At the highest point is this metal ring.  There are little pictures of animals cut out of the top.  Photos 3 through 5 – All that was left to do was walk past the architecturally interesting visitor’s center.  Photo 6 – Anti-skateboard guards have an interesting decorative effect.

69     70   I had the time and the energy so I made the ten minute drive over to the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum.  I paid $12 to park in the official lot. This park is interesting because, although heavily maintained, people are free to come and go as they please.  There is no fee to enter the grounds from offsite, only to park and enter the museum.  It looked like people come here just to lounge around like a regular city park.  My first stop was the park’s famous, oft-photographed Lake Pit.  This is the largest pit in the park.  It’s behind a tall fence for the most part, but walk around the side next to Wilshire and there is a clear viewing area.

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This is the scene I have always associated with La Brea Tar Pits – a family of mammoths with one stuck in the tar and sinking fast.  The baby cries out in futile desperation.


Full shot of Lake Pit

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Photo 1 – The La Brea Tar Pits resides in Hancock Park.  I passed a bust of George Allan Hancock, who developed the land in the 1920’s.  Photo 2 – The tar pits sit right next to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, aka LACMA.   Near Lake Pit is the wild looking Pavilion for Japanese Art.  Looks the Jetsons’ house.  Photo 3 – Right across the street is Park La Brea, a massive apartment complex with over 4,000 units.

77     78     79   I continued around the grounds.  There are several smaller pits to explore.  There is real science happening here.  People are still working these sites and continue to find fossils.

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81   Looking inside the Pit 91 enclosure.

83     84     85   There are numerous signs throughout which tell the sad story of how animals became trapped and sank in the tar only to be discovered thousands of years later.

86     91   At the Tar Pits grounds western border there is no fence.  Going west took me past LACMA and eventually to Fairfax Blvd.  First I came to the enormous piece of art known as Levitated Mass.  Here people may walk beneath this 340-ton boulder supported above a concrete trench.

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Levitated Madness!

92   I came to Fairfax and headed south toward Wilshire.  A homeless man with gauze over one eye yelled at me when we came to an intersection at the same moment.  I walked past a poor, dead pigeon wrapped in a McDonald’s bag.

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I wanted to make this short jaunt down Fairfax to check out Johnie’s Coffee Shop, which was featured in one of my favorite movies, “Miracle Mile”.  The restaurant is no longer operating but it can be rented out for movie shoots, etc.  It has been declared an official historic landmark.  Recently Johnie’s was converted to “Bernie’s” by an organization of Bernie Sanders supporters.


Right across the street is the Petersen Automotive Museum, dressed with a steel ribbon exterior.


I hiked back to the tar pits.  I entered the museum and paid $12 to take a short self-guided tour. They do offer guided tours.

100     102  Inside this beautiful museum can be found the skeletons of many extinct animals that once roamed the same piece of real estate on which I was now standing. All the bones have been recovered from these tar pits.

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Some skeletons, including a sloth, bison, a jaguar and saber tooth cat.  Just to clear up a common misconception, there are no dinosaur fossils here.  These are the bones of various birds and mammals dating about 30,000 years ago, I believe I read.

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Photo 1 – Display case with hundreds of Dire Wolf skulls  Photo 2 – Dire Wold skeleton playfully romps through a display case

112   In addition to all the real remains, there are also a few dioramas with animatronic creatures depicting what this place and these animals looked like so long ago.


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The biggest skeleton is this Columbian Mammoth

116     117     118   As I exited the museum I noticed the stairs which led to the top.  Photo 2 – Absolutely love these relief carvings of a prehistoric world.  Photo 3 – Once on top I was able to look down into the museum atrium. It was getting late. Time to end another great day of adventure.



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