There's a new hike in town! OK, maybe it's not completely new—but, for the first time since the winter storms of 2005, the entire Lake Hollywood perimeter trail is open. And, with the exception of the northern section (which is partly packed dirt sidewalk and partly concrete sidewalk along a fairly quiet road), the trail is paved and so wide it's more a street than a trail. That means more than three miles of car-free walking, running, or biking—with a touch of Los Angeles history and amazing views of the Hollywood sign thrown in.
(For more hike ideas, check out our family hiking guide!)
- Water fountain at northwest entrance
- Portapotties at southern entrance
- No dogs—this is an emergency water supply for the city of Los Angeles.
- Bikes, strollers, runners, scooters all welcome; the wide paved path makes this a great place for kids on bikes.
- The Mulholland Dam was built in 1924; you will be walking right over it.
Bring: camera, snacks, water, sunscreen or jacket, binoculars
Look for: ducks, lizards, wildflowers, the Hollywood sign, and the changing vantage points; we saw a great horned owl.
Highlights: the Mulholland Dam (don't miss the bears and smiley face on the bridge).
There are three entry point to the perimeter trail, but only two have easy parking: the northwest entrance and the southern entrance. The northwest entrance is the easiest to get to and has the most parking. Exit the 101 at Barham Boulevard and head north. Turn right at Lake Hollywood Drive. Follow this through the neighborhood--you are already very close, as the reservoir is just over the ridge. Take the sharp right on Lake Hollywood Drive (at about 3052 Lake Hollywood Drive for your GPS); Wonder View continues straight ahead. The northwest access gate is at the bottom of the hill on your right; park along this street. If you find yourself among more houses at the Tahoe gate (and among very limited parking), you have gone too far. The southern access gate is at the top of Weidlake Drive, 6400 Weidlake to your GPS. There is a small dirt lot (and portapotties) here.
Beginning at the northwest entrance (fill your water bottles if needed), watch your step going through the gate, as you must step over (and lift bikes over) the gate frame. The northwest arm of the lake is just below you. The lake is fenced around much of the perimeter, but don't worry, the views will improve soon! Your kids might enjoy the old pipe running along the fence, and the new drainage infrastructure up ahead—my boys sure did.
After about half a mile, you will come to the hill that slid the most severely in the 2005 storms. There is a new, extensive drainage system in place, with the hopes of protecting the houses above and the lake below in future storms. And, as the trees thin, be sure to look for the Hollywood sign on the hills to your left.
After one mile, you will reach the dam—and it's time to get out the camera. Named for William Mulholland, this dam originally provided most of LA's drinking water. Construction on the dam was completed in 1925, and the details on the bridge are spectacular. Can you find the bears? (Hint for mom and dad: they are below you on the south side of the dam, facing the city; you need to look down.) Have your kids search for the smiley face on the bridge (not an original detail, but permanent). There is also a geocache here for the cachers. Ducks and grebes enjoy the lake, and can often be easily seen from the dam. If you don't want to go the full 3.2 mile hike (or you want to avoid the packed dirt sidewalk), this is a good place to turn around, as your walk will be just over two miles total.
As you continue on, you pass the southern entrance just past the dam—and the only bathrooms on the route. The path on this eastern side of the lake makes two big turns around the two main arms of the lake. The Hollywood sign will peek out from behind the ridge several times. At about the 2.5 mile mark we saw a great horned owl in the pine trees between the trail and the upper end of the second branch—but the owl could be anywhere the day you hike. Keep your eyes peeled.
At a bit under the three mile mark you will reach the northwest gate (limited parking) and Montlake Drive. Cross Montlake to the dirt sidewalk on the north side. Follow this path or ride bikes in the street—it is fairly quiet; there are traffic-calming speed bumps, and most traffic is by residents or walkers looking for the best place to park. When the dirt becomes a concrete sidewalk, you are nearly back to your car.
Photo by vagueonthehow via flickr
Originally published April 24, 2013