By Charles Fleming
6:05 PM EDT, September 20, 2013
This delightful oasis, a beloved destination for my wife when she was a young girl and our daughters when she was a young mother, is one of the few local walks that can be done at midday, no matter the season, entirely in the shade. Even in September, this Griffith Park canyon is a cool, quiet retreat.
1. Begin at the intersection of Los Feliz Boulevard and Fern Dell Drive, following the path that starts behind the statue of a bear cub. Walk into the canyon, under a canopy of oak, sycamore, pine and redwood, following the paved walkway, staying always to the right as the path branches off.
2. You'll find picnic tables, barbecue grills, drinking fountains and public restrooms as you climb gently into the canyon.
3. The paved walkway here turns into a dirt path and heads up toward the Griffith Park Observatory. Enjoy the climb or … bend to the left, and stay in the shade. Where the path merges with others, near a parking lot, make a hairpin left and start walking downhill past some picnic tables and a play structure.
4. At a pair of bridges, turn right and cross Fern Dell Drive, and visit the Trails, a charming snack stop and the only food service on this side of Griffith Park. Or turn left, go over the bridge and then walk downhill until you see a chain-link fence and a gate.
5. This is the famed Fern Dell grotto. Admire the faux bois (fake wood) banisters, handiwork begun in the early part of the last century and maintained to this day. Folks used to drive from miles around to fill drinking containers from springs here. Now the springs don't provide drinking water but feed a creek that supports a large population of small goldfish.
6. Follow the creek on down to its terminus, at Black Oak Drive, over a dozen small bridges, past cascades and pools, along banks lined with the park's signature ferns and towering redwoods.
Charles Fleming is the author of "Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles" and "Secret Stairs East Bay: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Berkeley and Oakland."
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