Published on October 6th, 2014 | by laurarandall1
My Baseball Playoff Hike in Elysian Park
Nothing is blooming on Elysian Park’s Wildflower trail right now, but there are plenty of friendly dogs and hopeful flashes of Dodger Blue. The day after the Dodgers came back to win Game 2 of the baseball playoffs, the trail across the street from their home stadium was business as usual, hosting hikers, picnickers, and regular dog walkers.
The trails that wind through Elysian Park don’t get as much attention as other urban hikes in L.A. Runyon Canyon has the celebrities, Debs Park in nearby Highland Park has more of a mid-city wilderness feel, and Griffith Park has many more amenities. But every moderate hiker in L.A. should make a point of checking out Elysian Park. Like the city itself, the trail that winds through the park is an unsettling mix of natural beauty, concrete freeway, and payoffs that will leave you energized and reinforce the reasons you chose to live in this maddening town.
The park is practically prehistoric by L.A standards. It opened in 1886 with very few trees and rumors that two mountain lions named Evans and Sontag roamed its denuded hills. The baseball stadium came much later, in 1962, but is now inextricably linked with the park next door. If you follow this trail in a figure-eight loop that includes part of the Portola Trail, you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular panoramic view of the baseball arena where Sandy Koufax once played.
My son, Jack, and I picked up the trail near Grace E. Simons Lodge, where Academy Way meets Elysian Park Drive. There’s a white fire road gate (but no trailhead sign) just after turning onto Elysian Park Drive. The trail was pleasantly shady for the first quarter mile, then settled into a combination of dust and fleeting oak shadows. Jack got busy counting the number of dogs we saw (24 in all, mostly leashed, plus one skittish baby rattlesnake). We skirted the 5 freeway and glimpsed quirky hillside homes that weren’t part of the 1950s razing of Chavez Ravine. There’s a brief elevation gain that leads to a community garden (looking a little parched in early October), then the trail turns to dust and winds above the Grace E. Simons Lodge (a public-event space with a not-of-this-earth green back garden).
The trail loops back along Elysian Park Drive to the fire-road gate. From here, you can cross Academy Way and follow the fire road east as it once again skirts the 5 (in some patches, it’s practically a jump away) and hugs the hillside. There’s not a stitch of shade, but it eventually winds over the hill above the Police Academy to an overlook with a wide-open stadium vista, then follows Elysian Park Drive back down to Academy Way.
A low-maintenance urban hike at its finest. Go Big Blue.