One of my favorite places in Los Angeles is Griffith Park. I have great memories of the Observatory both with family and friends. I especially love when the hillsides are green and lush in the springtime, or when plump rain clouds gather over the area in the winter. So it doesn’t surprise me that so many people hike the park’s trails, especially at night. Free formal night hikes have been led by members of the Sierra Club for more than 50 years. From my story (August 7, 2011, Daily News):
The sun has barely dipped below the horizon when the hikers set foot onto the trails, kicking up dust and brushing against knee-high chaparral as they make their way into the hills of Griffith Park.
In a little more than an hour, darkness steals the features from every man and woman’s face until they are nothing more than silhouetted figures crossing against a red-violet sky.
“This is one of those hikes where you go into the hills in the day, and come out of them when it’s night,” said Karole Cooney, 53, of Alhambra.
“It’s wonderful. Every hike is different. You never know what you’re going to see.”
There are other night hikes across Los Angeles, but those at Griffith Park remain some of the most popular in the city.
Hundreds come from all over the area each evening for a hilly workout under the stars and to feel an intimacy with the urban wilderness that many can only explain through the senses: the smell of eucalyptus and laurel sumac, the sound of silence broken only by hoot owls or the crunch of boots against a sandy trail. And then, once at the top of Mount Lee, there’s that sight of all those streaming headlights and sparkling street lamps that crisscross over Los Angeles.
“There’s nothing like it,” said Will Perez, 40.
He had driven in from the West Adams neighborhood to join a meetup.comgroup hiking one recent evening. “This is our version of Central Park, but with better terrain,” Perez said. “Once the smog has lifted, everything is clear and beautiful.”
Night hikes into Griffith Park were said to have begun decades ago. More than just the observatory and pony rides, the park boasts roughly 55 miles of trails. And it takes only five minutes of walking those trails to feel transported, said Mike Eberts, a hiker and instructor at Glendale Community College, who wrote the book “Griffith Park: A Centennial History.”
“It’s uniquely accessible yet remote,” Eberts said. “In Griffith Park, you can make a turn off the trail and you suddenly leave the city behind. It’s not like a typical city park where it’s all manicured. It’s more like municipal forest.”