Away from many of the tourists drawn to Griffith Park’s great landmarks (like Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood Sign), you’ll find locals enjoying views of their city from Vista View Point, also know as the helipad site. This overlook along Vista Del Valle Drive presents a broad perspective over downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, and Griffith Park sites like the Greek Theater and the observatory. Vista View Point could be reached as a spur along the hike up to Glendale Peak, but those open to walking on pavement can follow the route described here, traveling up Vista Del Valle Drive past Cedar Grove Picnic Area, which provides tranquil shade and additional views over Los Angeles. This loop to Cedar Grove and Vista View Point is 2.3 miles round trip with 400 feet of elevation change. About 3/4 of the loop is on pavement, so any pair of walking shoes will do the trick for this hike.
Set out from the top of Commonwealth Avenue in a Los Feliz neighborhood bordering Griffith Park (street parking should be available). Walk up the road through a white gate (that should be open) framed by stone walls. In 50 yards, you will come to a split in the road. Bear left, passing around a white gate (that should be closed). Now walk 0.2 miles up Commonwealth Canyon Drive. Fairways on Roosevelt Municipal Golf Course will appear to your left.
The next intersection you reach is with Vista Del Valle Drive, which weaves its way up around to the east side of Griffith Park and is closed to vehicle traffic. Turn right up this paved trail, beginning the loop portion of the hike.
Vista Del Valle Drive rises gradually, arcing around ridges and draws in the terrain. A holding tank comes into view above the trail and you will pass alongside the tank after visiting Cedar Grove. Hike half a mile up Vista Del Valle Drive to a pronounced curve to the left. On the outside of the curve, you will find a trail parting to the right that is marked with a sign for Cedar Grove.
Turn right and begin down a dirt and mulch trail into a planted grove that graces a landing on the ridge. Walk a short way down the trail to a small loop within Cedar Grove. Find picnic tables and a bench looking out over the neighborhoods bordering Griffith Park. Cedar Grove is 0.8 miles and 225 feet above your starting point on Commonwealth Avenue, which is visible below.
Relax in Cedar Grove and then return to Vista Del Valle Drive. Turn right to continue the hike. After completing the curve, you will ascend past the holding tank seen earlier. The drive then curves to the right and offers views to the southeast that include downtown Los Angeles.
The trail buckles back to the left at a horseshoe bend known as Joe Klass Water Stop Junction. A trail on the right drops down to Five Points Junction near the summit of Beacon Hill (a possible hike extension of about 0.8 miles round trip.)
Proceed up Vista Del Valle Drive over a crest leading to a paved area that extends off and above the left side of the road. This is Vista View Point.
Vista View Point offers a good look at downtown Los Angeles to the southeast. Hollywood and other areas of LA stretch out to the southwest. Griffith Observatory stands above a ridge to the west and below that you’ll spot the red seats of the Greek Theater. Turning a bit more to your right, you can gaze higher into Griffith Park to Mount Hollywood to the northwest.
Having hiked 1.55 miles up to Vista View Point, you can take a shorter route back down that allows you to form a loop. Continue north on Vista Del Valle Drive for a tenth of a mile to a junction with two trails leaving to the left. Riverside Trail is first and heads downhill. The second Trail, known as East Ridge Trail or Hogback Trail goes uphill toward Glendale Peak and Mount Hollywood (hiking to the top of Glendale Peak would extend this outing by 0.8 miles).
Take Riverside Trail and begin descending from Vista Del Valle Drive. You will be on this wide dirt trail for 0.35 miles. The trail heads west, putting you in line for views of Griffith Observatory. To the south, you can look out over the bottom of Vista Del Valle Drive toward Hollywood.
Riverside Trail drops into Aberdeen Canyon on the west side of Glendale Peak. As Riverside Trail bottoms out and begins to rise, the single-track Aberdeen Trail embarks up the canyon to the right. You want to turn left and leave Riverside Trail here onto a worn path down to Commonwealth Canyon Drive, which is just below the trail and easy to see.
Walk down to Commonwealth Canyon Drive and turn left again. Walk along this road for a tenth of a mile to find yourself back at the intersection with the bottom of Vista Del Valle Drive. Pass through the intersection, closing the loop, and hike 0.2 miles back down Commonwealth Canyon Drive to the street where you started.
This hike to Cedar Grove and Vista View Point is 2.3 miles round trip and dog friendly. Cedar Grove Trail and Riverside Trail do not allow bikes (like all unpaved trails in Griffith Park). Bikes are allowed on Commonwealth Canyon Drive and Vista Del Valle Drive (which connects to Mount Hollywood Drive for a larger loop through the park that is quite rewarding). No permit is necessary to enjoy this hike and parking along Commonwealth Avenue is free, so get out and enjoy!
The basic directions for this hike are:
- Start from the top of Commonwealth Avenue and bear left up Commonwealth Canyon Drive (0 miles)
- Turn right up Vista Del Valle Drive (0.2 miles)
- Turn right on Cedar Grove Trail (0.7 miles)
- Loop around Cedar Grove (0.8 miles)
- Return to Vista Del Valle Drive and turn right (0.9 miles)
- Reach Vista View Point (1.55 miles)
- Turn left down Riverside Trail (1.65 miles)
- Turn left on a path to Commonwealth Canyon Drive and turn left again (2 miles)
- Pass Vista Del Valle Drive to close the loop (2.1 miles)
- Return to the top of Commonwealth Avenue (2.3 miles)
Wondering what the view is like at sunset? Here’s what it looks like when the sun is setting over Griffith Observatory:
To get to the trailhead: Take Interstate 5 to the Los Feliz Boulevard Exit (141). Drive west on Los Feliz Boulevard for 1.3 miles, going up the hill to an intersection with Commonwealth Avenue, which has a traffic light. Turn right and drive 0.4 miles up Commonwealth Avenue. Park near the top of the road where allowed.
Trailhead address: 2650 N Commonwealth Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Trailhead coordinates: 34.11865, -118.28615 (34° 07′ 07.14″N 118° 17′ 10.14″W)