Day Trekking: Elysian Park Hiking Trails
ELYSIAN PARK—For so many Los Angeles residents, a hike here means winding through a packed parking lot at the foot of Dodgers Stadium. And with the new season having just begun, fans are swarming Elysian Park from every direction. But if your only experience at Elysian has been baseball-related, you’re sorely missing out on some recreational hiking trails and intimate walks through nature, open to the public from sunrise to sunset.
Founded in 1886, Elysian Park is the city’s oldest park and its second largest. At 1.65 square miles, the park has trails extending throughout for exploration. But, to narrow it down, here are two easily accessible hikes—one loop in the west and another in the north end.
WEST: Elysian Park Drive Trail
The intersection of Elysian Park Drive and Stadium Way provides a couple different options for hiking. For this path, enter on the west side of Stadium Way. Leading north is a dirt path with a white gate—this is your starting line.
This first portion of the trail is well trodden and has some slight twists and turns, but nothing too strenuous. Between that and the steady incline, hikers get a leisurely walk that’s only as exerting as you make it. Whichever pace you choose, just be sure to take in the scenery: felled trees, California Goldenrods, overgrown green brush and twisted branches framing views of Elysian Valley and Mt. Washington in the distance.
Keep following the path as it traces alongside the 5 Freeway heading northwest, until you hit a sharp curve bending back south and up the hill. At this point, about 0.7 miles in, you’ll get some real elevation, which is sure to take a toll on your calves.
But, the sharp incline is worth it, because about ¼-mile up the path you’ll reach the peak to find the Marian Harlow Memorial Garden. With succulents, white and purple daisies and a bench facing the downtown skyline, the garden makes the perfect resting spot for a short break.
Once you’re back on the trail, it’s somewhat of a straight shot down south, with smaller offshoots cutting back east to Elysian Park Drive if you need a shortcut. If you’re in it for the long haul, just stay on the main trail until you come to an area shrouded by eucalyptus trees and lush green ferns.
Eventually, you’ll arrive at a yellow gate along Academy Road. To your left will be a graffitied no smoking sign at the edge of a cracked asphalt road closed to through traffic—that’s Elysian Park Drive. Follow along the road as it loops back to where you entered at Stadium Way.
What’s especially notable about this trail is the variety—you’ll find a mix in elevation, terrain, flora, and views of downtown and northeast L.A. Not to mention, if you show up on a Saturday at 9 a.m.? Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the dog show. You will see a cavalcade of every kind of dog there is—from the tiniest white fur balls to the biggest Direwolves anywhere.
For those looking for a solo experience, you may want to take the next trail instead.
NORTH: Angels Point Road Trail
Where the Elysian Park Drive trail offers a recreational walk, the Angels Point Road trail gives hikers a treacherous 3-mile adventure climbing up and into the park’s hills.
To get to the path, you’ll come to the intersection of Elysian Park Drive and Stadium Way, but cross to the east side of Stadium Way. When you do cross the street, be very careful because cars are going around 40 mph and they might not see you coming, since the intersection is at the top of a slight hill. Also, there’s no stop sign or crosswalk. Upon completing this first death-defying task, you’ll be ready for your journey to begin.
Heading north, pass the gate on your left and start up the trail. Similar to the Elysian Park Drive trail, this path is adorned with beautiful flowers, overgrown greenery and gnarled trees. More experienced hikers might prefer this path, however, due to the bends, curves and elevation. As soon as you’re coming around the hill—and it doesn’t take long—the trail narrows along a steep drop-off over the 5 Freeway and northeast Los Angeles. To heighten the sense of danger, the path is occasionally peppered with sharp, knee-high steel bars jutting up out of the ground, seemingly leftover from what was once a guardrail. Now, they just wait to impale a clumsy hiker.
And, if that’s not enough, there are old water pipes weaving in and out of the hillside, jagged rock formations, ominous trees arched over the trail and a short bridge over a thin gap that’s missing a couple wooden boards. Put that all out of your mind though and continue on your journey until you see a dilapidated stone wall above on your right. Climb up the steps, keeping your balance, then hop the wall onto Angels Point Road.
Now that you’re on the road, go west, but be sure to hug the side to avoid cars. About ¼-mile up the road you’ll come to another white gate on your left, with a graffiti-covered ditch that’s only a few feet wide. Follow the ditch all the way to the end, where you’ll see grass fields straight ahead. Rather than cut across the fields, walk up to the open space on your left. From this vantage, you’ll have a clear panorama of Dodgers Stadium and downtown Los Angeles. Benches line the hill, so feel free to stop and if there’s a Dodgers game, take it in from the cheapest seats possible.
Once you’ve soaked in the view, take the gravel path until you reach Parks Road. This will get you back on track with Angels Point Road. As you’re walking, you may hear gunshots. Yes, actual gunshots, not a fireworks show, from the stadium. But, don’t fret. You’re just passing by the shooting gallery at the Los Angeles Police Academy.
Keep your head down, stay cool and before you know it, you’ll arrive at Angels Point, another tucked away, scenic place to peer out over the city. What makes this location extra special—other than the fact that it’s a prime smooch spot for couples—is the Frank Glass and Grace E. Simons Memorial Sculpture. According to a plaque at the foot of the sculpture, it was built by Echo Park’s own Peter Shire to commemorate Glass and Simons, two community leaders who helped preserve the park. Sadly, the sculpture has been covered in graffiti since it was erected in the ’90s, but it’s still a sight to behold.
To finish the hike, just make your way back onto Angels Point Road—again, remain on the side of the road to avoid through traffic—until you loop back around to the starting point on Stadium Way. Congratulations, you’ve survived the many dangers and enjoyed the beauty of Elysian Park.