Two Hikes: One Historical, One Completely Illegal

I love a historical hike. I’ve blogged about hikes to a Cold War missile defense facility, the ruins of a Nazi compound, and to the site of a hotel that overlooked the city (until it burned down 117 years ago). My most recent hike adventure was… to an abandoned zoo!


The Griffith Park Zoo was the main zoo in Los Angeles from 1912 to 1966, when it was deemed too small and inadequate. The animals were moved to the brand-new Los Angeles Zoo, two miles away (it’s still the city’s main zoo), but some of the enclosures were left standing, and now it’s a popular picnic area in Griffith Park. You can have lunch in some of the enclosures!


If it looks familiar, it’s because it’s been used as a filming location for a bunch of movies and TV shows, including the zoo scene in “Anchorman.” I went with my friend Jeff, and hiking to the old zoo is easy peasy, it’s only a couple hundred yards away from the big parking lots near the Merry-Go-Round.

You can even go around back, and thanks to some holes cut into a fence, access the areas where zookeepers could enter the exhibits. Look, a caged blogger!


This caged blogger looks feisty.


From there, Jeff and I headed up into the hills behind the old zoo, and had fun exploring the ridges and trails. We went off trail, scrambling up a steep mountainside, and scrambled down a different one to get back down. At one point, we came across an rickety ladder that was installed to access a utility pole higher on the hill.


Since there was nothing preventing me, I climbed it. A little scary and a lot of fun. You can see Jeff down below:


Our hike ended at the Merry-Go-Round, which has been in the park since 1937, and rumor has it that it inspired Walt Disney to create Disneyland. Jeff and I went for a spin. All in all, we spent around 2.5 hours roaming the area, and Jeff’s fancy watch determined that 90 minutes was spent walking (as opposed to hanging out at the old zoo and merry-go-round). During which we covered 3.2 miles and 1,132 feet in elevation gain.

Then, a couple days later, I went on another hike, this time with my friend Mat, and it turns out that we were probably trespassing during nearly the entire thing. WHOOPS.

Our hike began at the top of the Hollywood Hills, where we met for our Cold War missile facility hike. As we started the hike, we noticed the Encino Reservoir below us on one side, and Mat noticed a trail that seemed to head down there. So what the hell, we took it. It was pretty from a distance, so why not check it out up close?


The trail heading down was steep and narrow, but it led to a paved road that circled the reservoir. This is when we noticed that, despite starting in an area that was very popular with hikers, there was no one else around. Not a single person. Oh, and there were no trespassing signs everywhere.


And LOTS of fences with barbed wire.


So… yea… we weren’t supposed to be there. It’s not open to the public. We were breaking the law. But… we finished the 3-mile loop around the reservoir (because what else could we do?), and headed back up the mountain to where we parked – a rigorous, challenging climb.

I downloaded the elevation chart from Runkeeper after the hike, and it’s almost comical how steep that ascent and descent was, compared to the flat road around the reservoir:

elevation-encino-reservoir-hikeAs the chart says, our elevation gain was nearly 1,300 feet, and we covered 5.6 miles. It took about two hours and 15 minutes.

Two fantastic workouts in the mountains near my home!

Keep it up, David!


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