The West Griffith Observatory hike is a popular alternative for people who want to see Griffith Observatory, but want to get a little exercise along the way and not battle the crowded main parking lot. It's worth doing this hike even if you're not interested in going into the observatory, though, as it winds through a beautiful array of natural areas. It also offers options for a day of canine-centered activities. Take a detour as you approach Griffith Observatory to enjoy lunch at the dog-friendly Trails Cafe. Homemade desserts, pastries, fresh juices, and coffee are favorites at this rustic spot.
You'll start this hike by following the Ferndell Trail to the Ferndell Nature "Museum," which is not a building but a lush, jungle-like section of Griffith Park. While all trails in Griffith Park are popular and have the potential to be crowded, Ferndell is much more mellow than the trails to Mount Hollywood. Deep shade makes it a refreshing option on hot days. As you can expect from the name, a number of fern species flourish in the shade of tall live oak, sycamore, and bay trees. Moss carpets rocks next to creeks. Goldfish flick through the pond and snails inch along around them. Cooper's hawks hunt for songbirds and coyotes and bobcats stalk squirrels and rabbits while woodpeckers set off hammering alarms. You might or might not spot these elusive mammals and birds, but you're likely to see turtles sunning themselves and dragonflies darting overhead.
Ferndell Trail eventually connects with the West Observatory Trail. Continue along the trail to emerge into more familiar scenery. As you ascend from the dell into the full California sun, you'll see those tawny Hollywood hills all around you, flanked with chaparral and the occasional lone tree. A viewpoint along the way offers vistas of downtown L.A. You can also enjoy great views of the Hollywood sign from the trail. Dogs aren't allowed inside Griffith Observatory, but your pup can take a tour of the lovely architecture with you, including a sculpture of famous astronomers huddled around the base of a column. You can wander the grounds for quite a while as you take it all in.
The variety of sights along this relatively easy hike make it a perfect choice for a fun day with your favorite canine companion. Don't forget to bring your camera!