Hikes: Ferndell Nature Center

Ferndell Nature Center

It's hard to believe that something this beautiful exists in the middle of L.A. This tiny little forest in Griffith Park is absolutely gorgeous - it’s very woodsy with all the greenery; there are streams, vine-covered bridges, Koi ponds and shaded benches. Small, lush, and full of life, the Ferndell Nature Center is almost otherworldly - you might even see a Buddhist Monk praying and relaxing in this very peaceful and Zen-like spot. The Ferndell is a great place to be alone while listening to the trickling sounds of water from the stream and the songs of birds in the gigantic trees overhead. Even on a hot summer day, Ferndell stays relatively cool and shady. This truly is a gem in Los Angeles, if you need to get away for a couple of hours without leaving the city, this is the spot. It stays relatively secluded during the week, but this place is packed on weekends.

Ferndell Nature Trail

This is a nature trail, not an extreme hike for those looking for an intense workout. The Ferndell Nature Center walk starts on the west side of Fern Dell Drive, where it intersects with Black Oak Drive, about a 0.1 mile north of Los Feliz Blvd. A wooden sign "Ferndell" marks the stone-landscaped entrance. Next to it, an archeological plaque indicates that Gabrielino Native Americans once lived here, hundreds of years ago. Pass through the gate and begin a stroll through a delightful oasis. You'll enjoy more than 50 species of ferns, succulents, tropical plants and flowers growing along a man-made brook shaded by a canopy of California sycamores. The path is lined with stone retaining walls and accented with rustic handrails, quaint footbridges, and several conveniently placed benches.

The Trails Café

At about a quarter of a mile from the start, the path bends right and crosses under Fern Dell Drive, then in another moment, the exotic garden ends. Heading left (west) through the gate takes you out to the street where it intersects with Red Oak Drive. If you’re feeling desirous of some refreshment, 100 yards up Fern Dell Dr., you’ll find The Trails Café serving homemade vegetarian snacks, coffee and pastries. This place gets favorable reviews on Yelp, has plenty of picnic tables available and is a nice way to wrap up a stroll in the Ferndell.

Mt. Lee from W. Observatory Trail

Otherwise, if you're interested in heading up to Griffith Observatory, go straight (north) through a gate onto a wide path in the Ferndell Picnic Area. Walk past the public restroom on your right and continue on to W. Observatory Trail, keeping the dry wash on your left. The northern leg of this route is easier to ascend - you can take the southern leg down for variety (see map above). The observatory is only about a mile away, though from here, there is a 500 foot elevation gain. For an easier route, check out this hike to Griffith Observatory.

As a third alternative, you could just hike the W. Observatory Trail loop - it’s very scenic, not very strenuous (only 240 feet of vertical gain), and is only about a 45 minute hike. It makes a great addition to the Ferndell Nature Trail.

Distance: 0.5 mi
Duration: 45 mins
Elevation Range: 520 - 600 ft
Net Elevation Gain: 80 ft
Total Elevation Gain: 80 ft
Trailhead Address: 5375 Red Oak Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Trailhead Coordinates: 34.109422, -118.307536
Description: A lush garden oasis in the middle of L.A.