I don’t know when I’ll get over the fact that there are real hikes you can do out here in LA that are really centrally located. I mean, during a break in my meeting schedule on any given day, I can take a detour into Wilacre Park, part of Fryman Canyon, on my way to the Valley.
Because of its proximity to just about everything, the parking lot is likely to be full, and you might be greeted by a group of well-toned, tanned men and their dogs getting ready to set off on the trail. But just because it’s popular doesn’t mean the park is too populated: the steep climb dissipates the crowd from the get-go, everyone taking the wide, old paved road at their own pace.
There are lots of signs of former habitation in the park, from the paved road to fences and other rusted, graffitied metal scraps. Wilacre reportedly housed the estate of a silent film star.
There was definitely a building here once.
But the winding road increasingly loses its pavement and takes you quickly out of the city, with gentle reminders along the way when a clearing reveals the skyline below.
On my first visit, I thought there was a big loop that I could take though the park that would return me to the parking lot, but the only trail marker I ever saw was at the Betty B. Dearing trailhead, and never again. There are other diversions off the trail, though, including this steep climb to a scenic overlook, whose rope-assisted climb proved to be visited less, yet extremely gratifying.
On the way to the top, there’s a giant beaver cactus that had been carved within an inch of its life.
Back down below, Wilacre Park just ends, and leads into Coldwater Canyon and its pervasive propaganda from the Tree People. The color of the ground below actually changes to show the boundary between the two parks.
Having expected a loop, and not having a map with me, I retraced my steps through Wilacre to try to find a turn I may have missed. I only found unmarked, narrow clearings through thick brush that appeared to be more like washes than trails and, so, defeated, revised my hike into an out-and-back and went back the same way I came.
The wildflowers in LA can be stunning early in the year, but by spring – with the incipient summer and the rising temperatures – it can be mostly just green (which, in LA, is better than the very flammable brown).
Still, you might spot a few splashes of color along the way.
Hiking Wilacre Park isn’t the most obvious choice, nor is it the most difficult – but regardless of where you go, it’s always a good idea to bring a map.
Directions:Wilacre Park is located at 3141 Fryman, just off Laurel Canyon Boulevard.