Beacon Hill / Old Zoo Trail

Last hike of 2015, another fantastic year of trekking through the trails of Southern California. There’s always a lot to see in Griffith Park so I had a fun day.

1     2   I parked in the Merry-Go Round parking lot.  I walked over to get a look but it was quite early and therefor closed.  I walked back to the entrance of the lot and crossed the street, picking up Lower Beacon Trail.

3   Lovely morning sunshine

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The trail runs parallel to the road I drove in on for a good while.  There are some nice views.  I turned a corner near this driving range.  I was now on Coolridge Trail.

8   As I continued the trail turned back to the north.  As I gained in elevation the peak on Beacon Hill could be seen.  I pressed on.

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I reached a five way junction in the trail. The trail to the right (photo 1)heads to the summit of Beacon Hill.  Shown in photo 2, the trail on the far left is the one I had just come up on. The trail on the far right is Fern Canyon Trail which leads back down to the Merry-Go-Round. The two center trails are the ends of a loop trail which leads to an observation landing, Vista View Point.  First I went right to bag the summit of Beacon Hill.

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Great views from the top.  Downtown LA comes through loud and clear.  Also, the San Gabriel Mountains look exquisite.


The nearest mountain range is the Verdugo Mountains.

16   And the Merry-Go-Round, with it’s red and white striped roof, can be seen as well.  I parked in the lot just to the left of the carousel.

17   I backtracked to the 5 point junction.  Now heading toward Vista View Point, I began by taking the middle-right trail.  This trail ends at the view point, as does the middle-left trail.  The two connect but there was some construction going on so a fence was erected blocking the trail.  No problem, just skirt the edge of the fence.

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I reached Vista View Point and another nice view of Downtown.  Photo 2 – Downtown LA on zoom.  I believe the little building on the left with the pointed roof is City Hall.

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22   Griffith Observatory and the Greek Theatre are very close by as well.

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From the viewpoint I headed down the road/trail, the second half of the Vista Viewpoint loop.  I passed a nice picnic area.  When I reached the 5 point junction I took the final trail, Fern Canyon Trail.  Photo 3 shows a crazy ladder off of the trail leads up to an electrical tower.

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Near the end of Fern Canyon Trail is a turn-off for Fern Canyon Nature Trail. Both lead back to the parking lot. I decided to go with the nature trail. There is a tiny amphitheater at the beginning (or really end) of the trail.   There are also several trails that break off the main trail which I did not explore on this day.  Another day perhaps.  To get to the parking lot, I just stuck to the main, lower trail.  After a pleasant five miles of hiking I arrived back at the parking lot.

31     32   I couldn’t believe my luck as a picnic table stood empty just above the Merry-Go-Round.  Photo 2 – This was my lunchtime view.  The Merry-Go Round blasts circus-type music.  From far above I heard it and thought there was a marching band practicing below.


After eating I walked over to check out the old carousel up close. There were a bunch of little kids who seemed to really enjoy it.  To see a video of the Merry-Go-Round in action, click here.

34     35     36   After lunch I began the second half of my hike.  I planned to do the Old Zoo trail loop and also make my way to the top of Bee Rock.  This is where I started to get confused.  Days later I’m still confused.  Photo 2 – Beacon Hill from Old Zoo Trail  Photo 3 – This half of the Old Zoo loop runs above the former zoo area. This building is what can be seen most clearly from the trail.

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Above and to the west sits the wonderful looking Bee Rock.  I guess it does sort of look like a beehive.  On top of the rock is a fenced in area which I couldn’t wait to experience.

40     41     42   I passed a turn-off for the Old Zoo and stayed on the main trail.  I came to another multi-trail junction.  I went left on a dirt road in the direction of Bee Rock.  Soon the road ended and I arrived at a fork.  I went left first.  The trail was very steep in places and pretty rough.  I came to another fork, went left again and wound up back at the beginning of the second fork, having hiked in a circle.

43   Bee Rock was right above but I wasn’t at all certain the trail I was on would lead me there.

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48   I returned to the first junction, the one at the end of the dirt road. I went to the right this time.  This trail was also steep and rough.  I had to duck down and squeeze through a lot of low growing trees.  But Bee Rock just seemed to get further and further away.  The Sun was starting to fade and I didn’t want to get lost on this trail.  I eventually turned back before reaching my destination.  This was a bit frustrating but sometimes that’s the way it goes with hiking.  I have some idea as to where I went wrong and I’ll try again in the near future.  I’ll make it next time.

49   Finally I made my way back to the entrance of the Old Zoo.  There are several enclosures here, some more interesting than others.

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51     54     53   I walked past several old cages.  There is a hole in a chain link fence and many people were exploring the enclosures and the tops of the enclosures.  I came to the building I had seen from the trail above.

55   I almost kept hiking right down to my car on the trail that is on the same level as the decrepit building.  Luckily, and for reasons I can’t remember, I backtracked and headed back down to the lowest level of the zoo area.  That’s where the really good stuff is.

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I’m madly in love with these “rock” enclosures.  I’d love to live in a house that looks like this.  The enclosures are not fenced off, one can walk right into them.

59     61     60   Inside one of the enclosures.  In the back corner of each enclosure I visited is a now barred-off set of stairs.


Part of the Old Zoo with Bee Rock hovering above.

64     63   It was just a short jaunt from the zoo back to my car.  I am grateful for another year of safe journeys.  Happy New Year!

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