Anyone who’s followed me for a while either here on this blog, or elsewhere knows that my main sidekick is a feisty schnoodle named Jackson.
He and I have been on a number of adventures over the years. Since he was a few weeks old, Jackson’s backyard has been Griffith Park and together, we’ve explored just about every trail, every open field and every fire road that can be found in the Hollywood Hills. From that experience, we offer you our best recommendations for great outdoor adventures with your best buddy.
Lake Hollywood Park, Griffith Park
Let’s get one thing out front…
Lake Hollywood Park isn’t a dog park. At least it’s not a dedicated dog park.
Lake Hollywood is one of the most popular canine hotspots in the Hollywood Hills. On any given morning or afternoon, you can find smiling pets and their owners soaking up the sunshine. Dogs are allowed, just like the rest of Griffith Park. They’re just required to be on a leash.
Yes, it is true that the vast majority of dog owners visiting Lake Hollywood simply ignore this rule. But there are good reasons why you may want to consider the risks of allowing your pet to roam free. First, violators face fines and court appearances. More importantly, keeping your dog on his leash can protect him from the often congested Lake Hollywood Drive and from wandering into the brush where coyotes actively prowl.
That said, Lake Hollywood is my favorite dog park in all of the Hollywood Hills. At one time, the park was an out-of -the-way refuge known mostly to locals. GPS and smart phones have changed all of that. Tourist traffic has increased many-fold with sightseers jockeying for prime spots for selfies with the Hollywood Sign. However, off-peak hours can be quite blissful.
Lake Hollywood is a large, flat grassy field (for now) about the size of two football pitches. There are benches, shade trees, fresh water and even an enclosed playground for kids. With idyllic Lake Hollywood below and the majestic Hollywood Sign on the hillside above, you can easily lose yourself in the natural beauty of the hills.
Directions: From Franklin Avenue, take Beachwood Drive north. Turn left at Ledgewood, just past the market. Follow Ledgewood and turn left at Heather. Take the first sharp right turn and make a left turn at the stop sign at the top. At this point the street changes names from Mulholland to Lake Hollywood and can be a bit confusing if you’re following a map or GPS. Just take the winding road around the lip of the hillside until you see the grassy park below.
Laurel Canyon Park, Laurel Canyon
This is the only enclosed, off-leash dog park in the hills. Laurel Canyon is located just off Mulholland Drive west of Laurel Canyon.
This very popular destination is the go-to spot for dog walkers so you’ll find plenty of canine companions afoot. And if your pet is not the social type, then she can certainly find her own corner to enjoy in this spacious park.
Although this is the largest dog park in our area, there is no grass here and things can get a bit dusty, especially for the ball-chasers. However, you will find a number of shady areas to hunker down and fresh water is available.
Directions: From Laurel Canyon, turn west onto Mulholland Drive. The entrance to the park is well-marked, about quarter of a mile from the intersection.
Runyon Canyon, West Hollywood
For the athletic minded, there is Runyon Canyon. One of the most popular hiking spots in Los Angeles, Runyon Canyon also welcomes off leash dogs.
The park offers several miles of hiking available with a mix of terrains from smooth gradually sloping fire roads to steep, rugged single track. Depending on the route you choose, the round trip distance is anywhere from just over a mile to nearly 3 miles in length. Some routes can be quite steep and slippery for pooches so you may want to try out the gentler trails first to see how your pet fares. From the bottom of Runyon Canyon at Fuller Avenue, find the easier route by bearing left after the entrance.
Once you get to the top, take a moment to savor your victory by enjoying the panoramic views of the LA Basin below.
There’s little or no shade in the park, so avoid the mid-day sun and bring along plenty of water.
Directions: Along with the rewards of hiking Runyon Canyon come a few downsides as well. Mainly, Runyon is usually crowded and parking is severely limited. You can enter the park from either Fuller Avenue at the bottom or from the upper entrance off Mulholland Drive. Honestly, both entrances tend to fill up quickly. My best advice is to come early, or be prepared to wait for spots to open up. Don’t be tempted to ignore the no parking signs as enforcement is very aggressive.
Griffith Dog Park, Griffith Park
Bet you didn’t know that Griffith Park has its own enclosed off-leash dog park.
Most folks don’t. That’s because the dog park is located in a tiny orphaned section of the park separated by freeways.
Griffith Dog Park is 1.5 acres of enclosed flat land with shade trees, benches, water and restroom facilities. (Okay, they’re porta-potties.)
On the upside, the park is usually pretty empty which makes it ideal for timid dogs who also like to run. The downside is that the nearby freeway detracts from the outdoor experience.
Directions: Take Western Heritage Way in Griffith Park and turn left on N. Zoo Drive toward the freeway entrance. Pass the entrance and continue under the overpass until you see the soccer fields. Continue to the end of the road.
William S. Hart Park, Sunset Strip
If your dog could design his own backyard, it might look something like this.
This neighborhood spot is not overly large but plenty big enough for runners to get up to speed. The enclosed area is filled with fresh mulch that provides a soft surface without the mess. The park is very well maintained and completely secured. You’ll find plenty of regulars here and the atmosphere is friendly.
For folks living on the western edge of the hills, this park is a godsend. It’s a great resource for those days when time doesn’t allow a leisurely drive through the canyons.
Directions: Take Sweetzer Avenue south off Sunset Boulevard and turn right on De Longpre. The the park is nestled in a grove adjacent to the Mondrian Hotel.