The short trail through Ferndell in Griffith Park is an out-of-the-ordinary walking path for Los Angeles, bordering a stream that nourishes tropical plants under the shade of sycamores. Even when other parts of Griffith Park dry out and turn brown, Ferndell stays lush and green, thanks to the recycled water it receives from Griffith Observatory. The relaxing quarter-mile long trail glides through what is called Ferndell Nature Museum (it doesn’t look much like a museum), located along Fern Dell Drive in Griffith Park’s Western Canyon, a block from the park entrance.
At the top of the Ferndell Trail, you can walk a short distance farther to The Trails Cafe and relax with a coffee or tea at a quiet park retreat. Without much extra effort, the hike can be extended up the bottom of Western Canyon to get more Griffith Park views, taking the outing from 0.5 miles round trip with 65 feet of elevation change to 1.75 miles round trip with 260 feet of elevation change (or venture farther yet and hike up to the Griffith Observatory).
The entrance to Ferndell Nature Museum is on the left side of Fern Dell Drive, just 450 feet up from the intersection with Los Feliz Boulevard by the Griffith Park sign and bear cub statue that welcome visitors to the park.
Walk through a metal gate into a world of shaded greenery. Almost like being transported to a tropical rainforest, you’ll be enveloped by verdant plants sprouting from rich soil and climbing up stone walls in this sycamore-shaded woodland. Dozens of different types of ferns flourish in Ferndell, adding to its charm.
Three trails actually run side by side up the first part of Ferndell, separating just inside this fenced-in oasis. The main trail is in the center, staying to the left of the stream that flows down the canyon. Arch bridges cross the stream to a walkway on the other side that is closer to Fern Dell Drive. A less-used path to the left gets deeper into the vegetation and offers quiet places to reflect or sit down with a book. The parallel trails and bridges across the stream make it easy to meander. Benches are placed throughout Ferndell Nature Museum, should you wish to take a break.
As you walk along the dirt path, linger and lean over the wooden railings to look down on terraced pools built into the stream that date back to the 1920s. Gaze up in the air and you might spot orchids hanging from baskets in the trees.
About 250 yards up the main trail from the entrance, the three trails come back together. A pair of access paths on the right join the trail from Fern Dell Drive. Ignore these and continue up the lovely canyon bottom, which is lower than the road and largely escapes any traffic noise.
The trail swings to the right and passes below an elegant concrete bridge supporting Fern Dell Drive. On the other side, begin to transition out of this Ferngully-like fantasy. The trees open up and the tropical plants become scarce. Curving to the left, you’ll hike up to a fence at the top of Ferndell Nature Museum, reaching it a quarter mile from the start. Turn around here for a fine little walk through Ferndell or consider venturing farther up Western Canyon.
Just a tenth of a mile from the top of Ferndell Trail, there is a cafe inside Griffith Park called The Trails, where you can grab a drink to go, sit down with a bite to eat, or indulge in a slice of homemade pie. To reach the cafe, head to the left at the top of Ferndell Trail. Meet Western Canyon Road (a continuation of Fern Dell Drive), turn right, and walk uphill. The cafe is the left side of the road a short way up. Adding the cafe to a Ferndell Trail trek brings the distance to 0.7 miles round trip. The Trails Cafe is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
While you will probably want to walk back through Ferndell, you could also form a loop by walking down a trail on the east side of the canyon. This wide dirt trail is just east of the top of Ferndell Trail. It goes through trees along the side of the park east of Fern Dell Drive. After a third of a mile this trail ends near the Griffith Park sign and the statue of the cub. Say hello to the little bear and then walk back up Fern Dell Drive toward the southern entrance to Ferndell to form a loop of around 2/3 of a mile.
A couple more options are available for hiking farther into Griffith Park. One is to hike about a mile one way up to Griffith Observatory, which will be more challenging than what you’ve done so far, gaining 550 feet. To stick with the gentle grade, continue up Western Canyon, adding a lollipop loop that goes 1.25 miles beyond the top of Ferndell Trail (bringing the round trip distance up to 1.75 miles). For this extension, get on the wide trail that meets the top of Fern Dell Trail and hike up the canyon parallel to the road. After a tenth of a mile, stay to the left past a pair of trails that ascend toward Griffith Observatory (these are the lower and upper branches of West Observatory Trail).
Pass a bathroom on the right and a playground on the left to go straight up the canyon below a few tall pines and other shade-providing trees. Take the wide dirt trail along the right side of the canyon or mosey up the path to the left below the road. The trail pushes closer to the road as it ascends an earthen check dam. Just before you would get on the road, veer slightly right to continue up the canyon on a dirt trail (avoiding the trails that break off to the right and ascend the ridge. This spot, where the trail almost meets the road, is just below a horseshoe bend to the left on Western Canyon Road. Western Canyon Trail will end at the top of that bend after venturing farther up the canyon.
Leave the road behind and keep heading north up the canyon floor. The trees thin to provide views of the surrounding ridges. As the landscape opens up around you, you’ll see more of the higher ridges in Griffith Park, but don’t expect any big views looking out over Los Angeles as the trail remains cradled in the canyon.
At around 0.6 miles from the top of Ferndell Trail, stay to the left through a pair of junction with trails that make their way up to Observatory Road. Past the junctions, Western Canyon Trail makes a horseshoe bend to the left, rising just a bit above the canyon floor. As you head back south down Western Canyon, take a look to the left and spot Griffith Observatory perched atop the ridge to the east. After another 0.3 miles, you will return to Western Canyon Road at the top of the horseshoe bend. The trail ends here. Turn left, walk along the side of the road for a tenth of a mile, and angle back onto one of the trails going down the canyon (or to visit The Trails Cafe, just keep walking down the road). In no time, you will get back to the top of Ferndell Trail, completing this 1.25-mile extension.
Ferndell Nature Museum is an interesting place to visit, tucked away just off Fern Dell Drive by a popular entrance to Griffith Park. Ferndell Trail makes an easy hike of 0.5 miles round trip, requiring no permit or entrance fee. Bikes are not allowed, but dogs are welcome. The gates at the ends of Ferndell trail are rarely locked during daylight hours. To get more out of your visit, add the loop up Western Canyon for a 1.75-mile hike or set out for Griffith Observatory from Ferndell Trail for a hike of around 2.6 miles round trip.
To get to the trailhead: Ferndell Nature Museum is located at the intersection of Black Oak Drive and Fern Dell Drive, one block up from the bottom of Fern Dell Drive in Griffith Park. From Interstate 5, take exit 141 for Los Feliz Boulevard. Go west on Los Feliz Boulevard for 2.4 miles. Turn right up Fern Dell Drive and look for roadside parking. The trailhead is 450 feet up the road on the left at the northwest corner of the intersection with Black Oak Drive.
From the 101 Freeway, take exit 8 for Hollywood Boulevard. Drive east for five blocks on Hollywood Boulevard and turn left up Western Avenue. After crossing Franklin Avenue, Western Avenue goes up a steep hill, turns to the right, and becomes Los Feliz Boulevard. Make the first left up Fern Dell Drive and find parking near the start of the trail.
Trailhead address: Fern Dell Drive & Black Oak Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90068
Trailhead coordinates: 34.10935, -118.3076 (34° 06′ 33.65″N 118° 18′ 27.35″W)
You may also view a regional map of surrounding Los Angeles trails and campgrounds.
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