Monday, February 9, 2015

Griffith Park & The Hollywood Sign

One of the most photographed areas in the LA area has to be the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood Sign, so of course I had to make a day trip to Griffith Park to experience this classic tourist destination. I did a lot of research ahead of time to figure out the closet place to park and the trail that goes up behind the sign. I found that the fastest way to the sign would be to park on Beechwood Drive and use the Hollyridge Trail. I also found out that this trail has been closed on and off recently, so I didn't want to risk it possibly being closed. I decided instead to park at the Griffith Observatory and hike to the sign from there. 

To get there I put 2800 E Observatory Rd into my GPS, and it took me right into the entrance for Griffith Park and Observatory. Traffic began for miles outside of the park, and I didn't think I would find a parking spot in the small lot at the top where the observatory is. We took a chance and just parked at the bottom of the hill on Vermont Canyon Rd (free) and walked up the hill to start the hike. When you get to the observatory you can see the Hollywood Sign in the distance as well as downtown LA. We explored the observatory for a bit then decided we would hike to the sign first then come back for sunset. There are trails at the opposite end near the parking lot that will take you over to the sign although they can be hard to find. 
Front of the Observatory
Deck above
View of Downtown LA 
I love this view
View of the sign in the distance
We started on Fire Rd in the parking lot then eventually hopped onto Mount Hollywood Dr and then Mulholland Hwy which brings you in front of the sign. Pretty much the entire time you are hiking towards the sign, you can see it in the distance. I think being able to see what we were hiking towards played games with my head. It doesn't seem that far away, but in reality from the start of the hike to the front of the sign is about 4.5 miles. You can get some great pictures in front of the sign once you come to the gate and houses on Mulholland Hwy. 
View of the sign from Mulholland Hwy
We're so Hollywood 
If you want to hike up behind the sign you have to go back down Mulholland Hwy till you get to Mount Lee Dr. This is the only part of the hike with any elevation. The hike from the start of Mount Lee Dr till you get to the sign is only about a mile, but after the first 4.5 miles it was difficult for me. Once we finally came around the corner and I could see the letters, it was all worth it. The letters are HUGE and a lot bigger than I expected them to be. There is a fence that separates you from getting too close to the sign and a ton of cameras, so you will have to enjoy the view from a distance. At one point someone tried to jump the fence, and immediately security came over a loud speaker and threaten him. If you keep going towards the cell towers you will see a small trail that allows you to gain a little more elevation and see the entire Hollywood Sign, downtown LA, the Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood Reservoir, and the ocean on a clear day. 
View behind the sign of LA in the distance
All of the sign
I really didn't want to leave the amazing views behind the sign, but we eventually hiked the same way we came back towards the observatory. Once we made it to the observatory the sun was just setting. If you can stick around till sunset you will be in for a real treat. We tried walking around inside the observatory afterwards (free), but it was so crowded that we gave up and just went home. Round trip this hike was about 12 miles when we got back to the car.
Observatory and LA
Downtown LA back at the Observatory
Amazing sunset
Everything is free including entrance to the park, parking, and the observatory. There are bathrooms outside in the parking lot. The views from the observatory are spectacular. Warning, the trails are open to horseback riders so they are covered in poop, and it really smells. The park is really crowded and parking can be hard to find. Next time I want to go back to the Griffith Observatory at night to watch the stars. Overall, a must see in LA! I am so happy that I finally got to check hiking to the Hollywood Sign off my lifelong bucket list. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Aliso and Wood Canyons

Since I know that our time in California is not permanent for us, recently I've really been trying to complete everything on my Cali bucket list. I still have over 200 things I want to do before leaving most which are hikes, famous restaurants, and tourist attractions. Since I now love hiking and have always loved the ocean, what could be a better way to spend a Saturday than hiking to the ocean? I went to Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park in Laguna Niguel last summer, but we never actually hiked any of the park. Previously we only drove up the mountain and parked at the "top of the world" for a panoramic view of the ocean, hills, and houses (blogged about this before). Although beautiful, the view was not as rewarding since we didn't have to work for it. Parking then walking 100 feet is not very difficult or satisfying. This time we decided we would start from the bottom of the mountain and work our way up by sunset.

I used the address listed yelp (28373 Alicia Pkwy), but we parked on Awma Road off Alicia Parkway right in front of the church since the park parking lot is currently closed for renovations. We then walked across the street and used Awma Road to begin the hike. The first 1.5 miles of this hike is a paved road that runs along a stream. I read people complain about the start of the hike not being very enjoyable, but my boyfriend and I didn't mind. We loved hearing the sound of running water, and at one point there was even a cool man-made waterfall. 
The start of the trail, houses above
Awesome waterfall
So relaxing
After 1.5 miles the trail splits where you can stay straight on the paved road or turn right onto Lower Wood Canyon Trail to get to Dripping Cave and Cave Rock. We went right and hiked another 1.5 miles until we got to the Dripping Cave. The path to enter Dripping Cave is clearly labeled, so you won't be able to miss it. Legend claims the cave was one a hide out for thieves after robbing livestock. In rained a few days before we went, so when we got to the cave, there was actually water dripping down. We spent a good 15 minutes exploring the cave and taking pictures before heading back to the trail. Instead of going back the way we came up to the cave, there is an alternate trail that we decided to explore. It ended up looping back to the original trail about a mile later, but the views from this lop were really beautiful. 
Sign explaining the legend
Opening to the cave
It is really a lot bigger then I expected 
I seem so small
The Dripping cave is actually dripping 
Once back on the original trail, we hiked back the way we came past the entrance to Dripping Cave when we got to the entrance of Cave Rock, again nicely labeled. Although not as cool as Dripping Cave, Cave Rock was a nice place to sit, eat some snacks, and enjoy the views around us. There were a ton of small caves all along this loop which is where it gets its name. 
The first cave at Cave Rock
Where we ate some snacks
More caves
On the trail to Cave Rock
Enjoying the views
Hanging in some trees
I'm so small
After we had our snacks at the top of Cave Rock we were fueled and ready for the last part of our journey to hike to the top of the mountain and watch the sunset over the ocean. We got back on to Lower Wood Canyon Trail until we came to Meadows Trail on the right side. Meadows Trail was a lot more difficult than it initially looked. The trail kept winding around the mountain and was on an incline pretty much the entire way up. I wanted to give up, but I knew the view from the top would be worth it. Finally we made it to the top and ended up on Aswut Trail which is at 817 of elevation. The view from the top was very similar to the "top of the world" but this time it was much more rewarding since we worked hard to see it. We sat in the grass and watched as the sun slowly starting to fade into the ocean. 
What a view
Sitting in the grass
Once the sun had pretty much set we hiked back down the mountain using the Mentally Sensitive Trail. This trail was really crazy. I felt like I was going to tumble down the mountain pretty much the entire time. I wouldn't suggest taking this trail unless you are an experienced hiker. By the time we made it down the mountain and back onto Awma Road, we still had over 2 miles to go back to the car where we parked. It was getting pretty dark and cold, so we really hustled. I recommend either leaving before the sun sets or bringing a flashlight with you since there is no light around anywhere. By the time we got back to the car, our entire round trip was about 10 miles.

This park is great for running, hiking, and mountain biking. The trails are well maintained and labeled. Bring plenty of water and snacks in your backpack. Parking is free on the street or $3 when the parking lot opens back up. The park is open from 7AM to sunset. This park is truly diverse with different trails and many different features to explore. There is a steam and small waterfalls, caves, mountains, and even a view of the ocean. Overall, this was an awesome hike in Orange County, and I  definitely would do it again. 

Christmas 2014

Yes I know that Christmas was over a month ago, but sadly I am just now getting around to writing about it. I figured I would write a quick post about the holiday back at home with my family. My boyfriend and I made the 3,000 mile trip back to Pennsylvania for the week of Christmas. Although a week is never really long enough, I always try to fit in as much as possible. I was able to go to dinner for my sister's 8th birthday, take new family photos, watch my sister's basketball game, reconnect with my high school friends, celebrate Christmas Eve with my Mom, and enjoy Christmas day with my Dad. I was back in California for the New Year and appreciated a nice night relaxing on my couch. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and a great New Year. 

Check back soon because I am working a bunch of new blogs about what I've been doing the last month.

Family photos
Joe's Crab Shack
Logan's basketball game
Love these guys <3
My favorite ladies 
Reece in her Cali shirt
Mom on Christmas Eve
Girls on Christmas morning