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Here's the Best Place to Watch the Sun Rise over Hollywood

April 19, 2013 at 10:37 AM | by | ()

Yesterday, while the rest of Hollywood slept, we were up at the crack of dawn, lacing our Merrell hiking shoes, filling up a bottle of water, and setting off along Los Feliz Boulevard towards Griffith Park, aka the Central Park of Los Angeles.

Griffith Park ranks as the second-largest city park in all of California (though that doesn't include much larger state parks like Yosemite and Joshua Tree), and it is incredibly easy to access from multiple LA neighborhoods, such as Los Feliz, Franklin Village, Atwater Village, Glendale, and, of course, Hollywood. Its attractions include the Greek Theatre, Griffith Observatory (which is best visited at night, for obvious reasons), and the LA Zoo.

Oh, and off to the south, on Mount Lee, there's a little thing called the Hollywood sign. Ever hear of it?

We set off at 6:15am from our friend's apartment, and in fifteen minutes, we had arrived at the park's western entrance, Ferndell Nature Center. Here, a woodsy hiking trail winds along a small babbling brook (complete with the little footbridges), under a canopy of California sycamores and over 50 different species of fern.

What struck us most was the tranquility of the place: though we had just come off a busy main road populated by impatient commuters trying to beat the morning traffic, we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of pure, noiseless nature.

We followed the trail up into the hills, where it zig-zagged higher, and higher, and higher, and every time we turned around, the views of sprawling Los Angeles below us became more and more impressive. We started to get out of breath, but our friend (who's hiked the trail before) assured us it wasn't much farther to the top. He was right.

In just a few more minutes, we'd reached Griffith Observatory, a round, ivory fortress that sits at the top of the hill overlooking all of Hollywood. A wide plaza stretches out in front of the building, but if you go around the back, like we did, you can enjoy near 360º views from the Observatory's viewing deck. Once we caught our breath and gazed around us, we saw the sun casting its golden rays over all of Hollywood. We realized then that the early wake-up, the brisk hike up the mountain, the shame of being overtaken multiple times by small groups of nimble elderly women—it was all worth it just for these views.

We lingered for a while at the top, before happily scampering back down the trail and back out the way we came. The entire hike lasted no more than 1.5 hours, and since the incline is gradual (it feels steeper than it really is), the hike is suitable for pretty much anyone.

At the bottom, near the entrance to Ferndell Nature Center, is a small snack bar called Trails, where you can reward your hiking efforts with a steaming cup of coffee, or a scone. Though the window was closed when we were there (opening hours are 8am-5pm), our friend literally swears by their Avocado Sandwich, so we'll happily pass on his recommendation.

But if it comes down to choosing between lunch at Trails, or showing up early enough to watch the sun rise from Griffith Observatory, make the early morning trek. You'll wind up thanking us later, we promise.

[Photo: ASchechter for Jaunted]

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