Three years ago, Casey Schreiner released the definitive guide to hiking in and around Los Angeles. Now the author of Day Hiking: Los Angeles and founder of the website Modern Hiker is back with a in-depth guide to one of the city’s treasures. Discovering Griffith Park: A Local’s Guide, out May 15 via Mountaineers Books, is, surprisingly enough, the first guide to the 124-year-old, 4,300-plus-acre Los Angeles institution.
“In a lot of ways, Day Hiking: Los Angeles was my attempt to reframe L.A. as an outdoor hiking destination, especially for people who don’t really consider it to be that,” Schreiner says. The hiker and author lives about a ten minute walk from the park and had gotten to to know it pretty well over the years. “When I realized that there had never been an in-depth guide book written about Griffith Park and that it has a huge amount of visitation— depending on who you ask, it’s between 10 and 12 million people a year who visit the park—it was sort of a no brainer for me to say that, obviously, there is enough demand, people deserve to know about this park.”
He adds, “The park itself is so interesting and weird and multi-faceted and, in many ways, it’s sort of like a microcosm of L.A. itself.”
It’s a park guide that Schreiner approaches as if it were a city guide, digging into the history of the land, the park’s namesake and celebrity wildlife (there’s more than just P-22) while taking readers into corners that they may not have known existed as he offers practical tips for visiting Griffith Park. “The park can be easily overlooked by Angelenos,” says Schreiner. “Most everyone who lives in the city has been there. But, I would be willing to bet that you have only seen a tiny, tiny fraction of the park.”
Discovering Griffith Park comes out at an interesting time. Its release follows a substantial period of enthusiasm about local nature, but, the recent closures of outdoor spaces due to the COVID-19 pandemic has, according to Schreiner, also exposed some of the shortcomings in local access to nature, Griffith Park included.
“Something that stay-at-home and park closure orders are shining a light on is that L.A. still has a long way to go in terms of park quality and, especially, park equity,” he says. “There’s still about 40 percent of L.A. city does not live within a ten minute walk of a neighborhood park.” For many Angelenos, parks are the best, and perhaps only, way to access green space.
Schreiner says that he hopes this time away from parks will help Angelenos reflect on their value. “I’m hoping that once we are able to get back into them, we’ll keep that enthusiasm for these parks and get involved in some way, whether that’s getting involved with a friends group, volunteering at the parks or voting for park issues or bringing someone with you to your favorite park to share the park with them,” he says. “I am really hoping that is a positive thing that comes from this.”
One week before the release of Discovering Griffith Park, L.A. re-opened trails, including those at city-run Griffith Park, with guidelines and restrictions.
In a follow-up interview, Schreiner discussed some of the trail guidelines, like wearing a mask on the trail. “Let’s remember, it isn’t a medical mask,” says Schreiner. “Bandanas are acceptable. Neck gaiters. Cooling fabric neck gaiters are acceptable for masks. You just need to cover your nose and mouth in some way.”
For those concerned about wearing a mask on a trail in high temperatures, he offers advice similar to what he would tell people about hiking in hot weather. “Go early, avoid the heat, or wait for it to not be hot,” he says.
Also, if you’re heading out for a hike, do so with a Plan B in mind. “If you get to your trailhead and it looks like there’s a million people up there, go somewhere else,” he says. “Let’s remember to be patient and be respectful to other hikers on the trail and our land management agencies because a lot of them have been scrambling to put together plans.”
He adds, “Be flexible and relax. If you are concerned about all that stuff, just wait.”
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