No doubt LA is a busy city, but you can still find calm within the chaos at Franklin Canyon Park. This 605-acre park is tucked into a canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains in Beverly Hills and has a number of trails that allow Angelinos to escape for a couple hours of exercise in nature. North of Hastain Trail (where you can get more of a workout), you will find Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir (Franklin Canyon Lake), a soothing 3-acre lake joined by an add-on called Heavenly Pond. The lake and pond accommodate easy hiking, along with lots of ducks and turtles. Hike a one-mile loop around Franklin Canyon Reservoir, or make it a 1.5-mile affair, by starting things off on Ranch Trail. If you want to go the extra mile, venture up Chaparral Trail to a perch overlooking the north end of the park, putting it all together for a 2.5-mile round trip trek with 325 feet of elevation gain.
There is a parking lot just north of Franklin Canyon Lake where you can depart from for a simple one-mile loop around the reservoir. For more fun, start below the south end of Franklin Canyon Lake on Ranch Trail and hike up the side of Franklin Canyon to the reservoir.
Steps at the beginning of Ranch Trail
To hike up Ranch Trail, begin from a small parking area at the intersection of Franklin Canyon Drive and Lake Drive and set out east up a flight of wooden steps. Ascend a draw in the side of the canyon carved out by a seasonal stream. This lush debut gives the hike an enchanting start, but the vegetation becomes less verdant as you proceed up the canyon.
Bear left at a trail split just a few hundred feet from the start and head north up the canyon. Pass through oaks and chaparral on a dirt track that provides occasional views up and across Franklin Canyon. A third of a mile from the start, you will come to a junction. Continue straight toward Franklin Canyon Lake. Another trail goes back to the left descending back to Franklin Canyon Drive near the trailhead. This is an alternative to Ranch Trail that can be taken to trim a tenth of a mile off the hike (each way), but required walking on a paved road. Proceeding up Ranch Trail, it is less than a tenth of a mile to the end of the trail, where you will meet Franklin Canyon Drive at an intersection just below the reservoir.
To hike the loop around Franklin Canyon Lake, cross the intersection diagonally to a trailhead kiosk on the other side. Take a flight of stairs to the right of the bulletin board and descend off the side of the dam to a dirt path around the perimeter of the lake.
The trail around Franklin Canyon Lake
Follow the trail north along the east side of Franklin Canyon Lake, passing through the brush, reeds, and trees that encircle the reservoir. If the reservoir looks familiar, it is probably because you saw it in one of the movies or television shows that filmed here (there is a good list on the Franklin Canyon Park wikipedia page). After a tenth of a mile, you will pass a picnic table that would make a nice snack spot. Continue along the lakeshore, keeping the road to your right. You will see plenty of ducks along the water’s edge and maybe even a few turtles.
Franklin Canyon Lake
The trail passes through a reed-covered area at the north end of the lake, curves left, and comes to a split. There is a lightly traveled path continues down the west side of the lake, but stay to the right, ascending a few hundred feet to a picnic area in a pocket of redwood trees. That’s right, a couple redwood trees were planted here to bring some North Coast charm to Beverly Hills.
There is a second junction within the redwood grove picnic area. At this point, 0.75 miles from the start, you could continue to the left down the west side of Franklin Canyon Lake to hike the 1.5-mile lollipop loop, or you could turn right and find Chaparral Trail, which ascends a ridge on the north end of Franklin Canyon to reach an LAFD Fire Station along Mulholland Drive, adding one mile to the hike. Additionally, if you skip Ranch Trail and start out from the parking area at the north end of Franklin Canyon Lake, this is the point where you would begin and end your loop around the lake for the shorter 1-mile option.
To reach Chaparral Trail, turn right at the junction in the picnic area beneath the redwoods and walk up a short flight of stairs to Franklin Canyon Drive. Turn right on the pavement and walk up the canyon. You will pass a large concrete holding tank and a park maintenance shop on the right. Walk through an intersection with the road around the north side of the lake (where you will spot traffic cameras used to ticket motorists who do not come to a complete stop at the stop signs).
Past the intersection, bear right into a large dirt parking area outside the Sooky Goldman Nature Center. Proceed across the lot to a gated dirt trail on the other side. The trail shrinks immediately to a faint track and bends to the right across a field. Continue toward the more obvious track ascending a ridge on the northeast side of the canyon. Take this trail, Chaparral Trail, straight up the ridge, gaining about 200 feet in 0.15 miles. On the way up, you will cross Berman Trail and pass a false summit with a bench looking back over Franklin Canyon. At the top, Chaparral Trail curves to the right and ascends to the back of the fire station. Turn left at the top of the trail (assuming the helipad is not in use) and walk out to the landing at the top of the ridgeline. Here you will get the best view back over Franklin Canyon, where the blue water of the reservoir can be seen amidst the surrounding trees.
Hiking back down Chaparral Trail
After the short but sincere workout, hike back down Chaparral Trail and retrace your steps down Franklin Canyon Drive to the small picnic area in the pocket of redwood trees.
Continuing around Franklin Canyon Lake, the dirt track proceeds down the west side of the lake, before making a sudden turn to the right up to a dirt pullout along Franklin Canyon Drive. Turn left and cross the paved road to reach Heavenly Pond, which is circled by Wodok Nature Trail (also labeled as Rowan Trail on some park maps). There is a bathroom at the start of this trail for those in need.
Follow the wide dirt trail for a tenth of a mile as it makes a counterclockwise turn around the small pond. You will pass picnic tables and benches along Heavenly Lake and see wildlife on and below the surface like ducks, turtles, and vibrant orange koi fish. The turtles stack up on each other in an interesting way.
Turtles on Heavenly Pond
Leave Heavenly Pond and turn right on Franklin Canyon Drive to continue around Franklin Canyon Lake. Pass a small building and walk across the dam at the south end of the reservoir. The dam presents clear views up Franklin Canyon Lake.
Looking up Franklin Canyon Lake
On the far side of the dam, you will complete the loop around the lake. Turn right, cross the road to Ranch Trail, and retrace your steps back to the start. As an alternative, when you reach the trail split less than a tenth of a mile from the road, you could bear right (instead of staying to the left on Ranch Trail) and descends to a paved road where you should make a pair of left turns to return to your vehicle at the corner of Lake Drive and Franklin Canyon Drive. Franklin Canyon Park is free to the public and no permit is required to hike any of the trails. Dogs are welcome on leashes, so get out and enjoy!
To get to the trailhead: Take Santa Monica Boulevard to Beverly Hills and turn north on Beverly Drive. Go 1.3 miles and turn left to continue up Beverly Drive. After another 0.3 miles, make a second left (at a split with Coldwater Canyon Drive) to proceed up Beverly Drive. Go 0.9 miles and turn right up Franklin Canyon Drive. Drive 1.1 miles up the ridge, entering Franklin Canyon Park to an intersection with Lake Drive. Turn right down Lake Drive and park immediately on the left to start hiking up Ranch Trail (the start of Hastain Trail is a third of a mile further down Lake Drive). To skip Ranch Trail, drive past Lake Drive and continue up Franklin Canyon Drive to a parking area above the reservoir.
Trailhead address: Lake Drive & Franklin Canyon Drive, Franklin Canyon Park, CA 90210
Trailhead coordinates: 34.115753, -118.413778 (34° 06′ 56.71″N 118° 24′ 49.60″W)
Use the map below to create your own directions:
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