Welcome to my second journey of discovery along the Los Angeles River.
Over 4 years ago, my pack set out to explore every accessible mile of our river from the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach. It was amazing. The walking was easy, the scenery was one of a kind, and we found some great parks too. There were some rough spots, but they were outnumbered by signs of progress in the county’s efforts to revitalize the river.
A lot has changed since we completed that journey. New projects have started, old landscapes have been transformed, and more people are enjoying the river than ever before. It’s time for an update. Join us as we explore the river again in search of fun things to do. We’re also going to check out every park in every riverside neighborhood we visit on the way. Let’s do this.
PART 8: Studio City
– Neighborhood Pedigree
In 1919, when the San Fernando Valley was a major dairy center, D.J. Maxwell sub-divided 300 acres of his cattle ranch near Ventura Bl. and Laurel Canyon Bl. for development.
In 1927, developers announced a planned “studio city” within those original 300 acres to lure Hollywood’s business into The Valley. Legendary Mark Sennett Studios was the first company to relocate, on the site of today’s CBS Studio Center. The Valley’s first traffic light was installed at Ventura Bl. and Lankershim Bl. soon after.
Studio City has the longest stretch of developed riverside recreation in The Valley. You can take a semi-loop walk from Fulton Ave. to Radford Ave. and back. The neighborhood has welcomed the return of the Los Angeles River with open arms.
– The River
Riverside trails go through much of Studio City. However, there is no easy way to get past most of the major bridges that cross them. This leaves you with (3) options:
Breaking your walk into sections where you explore both the north and south side of the river, then drive to the next section. This is the safest way and it’s how I’ll describe the journey.
Crossing the street at Coldwater Canyon Bl., Whitsett Ave. and/or Laurel Canyon Bl. to get from one section to the next. This is dangerous and I can’t recommend it. It would be nice if the City of L.A. painted crosswalks at river access points.
Avoid crossing those busy streets by walking to Ventura Bl., crossing there, then returning to the river. This will easily double your walking distance.
– Fulton to Coldwater Canyon
The .6 mile section of river between Fulton Ave. and Coldwater Canyon Ave. is known as The Village Gardens. It’s a fantastic example of what could be in many places along this journey to the Pacific.
Start at the southeast corner of the Fulton Ave. bridge. Descend the stairs to a graded dirt path and walk downstream. The south riverbank was revitalized by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy in 2003. It has an outdoor classroom/amphitheater, stone benches, and a surprising number of shady trees separating you from the street. There are multiple poop bag dispensers, but no water is available.
When you approach Coldwater Canyon Ave., take the ramp up to street level and cross the bridge over to the north side of the river. A long ramp leads you down to the path. The north riverbank was a passion project for local residents who built theNorth Valleyheart Riverwalk.Gorgeous landscaping and art adorn a well-graded dirt path. There are multiple poop bag dispensers, but no water.
– Coldwater Canyon to Whitsett
At the southeast corner of the Coldwater Canyon Ave. bridge, a fence meant to keep us from the river behind the Sportsmen’s Lodge has been unlocked for months; providing access to a new segment of the bike path. It’s not officially opened yet and the finishing touches are still being worked out as of July 2018. What’s there now is beautiful landscaping, new info signage, and poop bag dispensers all along the .6 mile route to Whitsett Ave..
Cross the Whitsett Ave. bridge to the north side of the river and walk upstream toward an ornate gateway – the entrance to the Zev Yaroslavsky Trail. Opened in 2017, this outstanding trail leads you past the Weddington Golf & Tennis facility, countless native plants, and unique metal art panels. Just past the golf course you’ll find a shady oasis with benches and access to Valleyheart Dr.. Nearby, the Hirsh Family Native Habitat is short trail with plants, a gazebo and a sweet dog-friendly water fountain. The trail ends just short of Coldwater Canyon – take the ramp up to the intersection of Alcove Ave. and Valleyheart Dr.. Go north on Alcove, left on Woodbridge, then left again onto Coldwater Canyon to return to your starting point.
*The land on and around the golf course has been a local development issue for many years. Our favorite idea is the creation of Los Angeles River Natural Park, which would protect the last remaining open space along the river in The Valley.
– Whitsett to Laurel Canyon
At the southeast corner of the Whitsett Ave. bridge, take the ramp down to an asphalt path that stretches .6 miles to Laurel Canyon Bl.. This section is known as theLos Angeles River Greenway. A short stone wall and thick ivy separates you from the commotion of nearby Ventura Bl.. At the halfway point is the Laurelgrove Ave. footbridge, which provides access to Ventura Bl. and Valleyheart Dr.. Before you reach Laurel Canyon, stone benches and ‘poetic’ signage can be found near a ramp that leads to a public parking lot.
At Laurel Canyon Bl., take the ramp up to street level and cross the bridge to the north side of the river. Heading west takes you on another ‘no official access’ section but, as usual, it’s easy to get to from Valleyheart Dr.. There are no amenities on this side but it’s already a nice, wide trail with tall pine trees that provide some shade all the way to Whitsett Ave..
– Laurel Canyon to Radford
The Great Toad Gate welcomes you to theValleyheart Greenway from the corner of Laurel Canyon Bl. and Valleyheart Dr. South. The gate, and many of the art pieces you’ll pass on your short walk downstream, were designed by local elementary students. There are tiny gardens, trees, benches and a couple of poop bag dispensers; but no water.
Before looping back on the north side of the river (another “unofficial access” section), walk north on Radford Ave. and you’ll discover theRadford Art Walk. This unique outdoor art project was opened in 2012 and it’s a short diversion well worth the visit.
– Radford to Colfax
There’s no public access past the Radford Ave. bridge; where the river enters the CBS Studio Center lot. You can watch it take a sharp turn to the southeast as it flows beneath the Gilligan’s Island bridge.
The river’s strangled confluence with the Tujunga Wash is hiding in plain sight on the lot. You can get a close up view from a trail that runs parallel to the Tujunga Wash; between Moorpark St. and Colfax Ave.. Access to the trail is at the intersection of Moorpark St. and Radford Ave. or from the Colfax Ave. bridge.
– Colfax to Tujunga
Winding stairs at the southeast corner of the Colfax Ave. bridge take you to an undeveloped, but accessible south riverbank. You can walk upstream to Tujunga Ave. but there’s no street access; you’ll have to return to your starting point when done.
You can reach the north riverbank by crossing the Colfax Ave. footbridge. There’s also access from Dilling St. or the trail that runs alongside the Tujunga Wash and CBS Studio Center. The north side has a smoother trail that’s easier on the paws, but there are no amenities other than a poop bag dispenser. Stairs at the east end of the trail provide access to Tujunga Ave..
– Tujunga to Lankershim/Cahuenga
There’s no access to the river between Tujunga Ave. and the Studio City border at Lankershim Bl.. However, the riverbank is wide enough to accommodate future projects most of the way. Just after the river flows beneath the 101 Freeway, it’s joined by the Central Branch of the Tujunga Wash. You can get a good view of the confluence from North and/or South Weddington park.
*The Betty B. Dearing Trail takes you on a 6.75 mile journey through the first three parks listed below. Those parks, along with Franklin Canyon Park in Beverly Hills, are collectively known as Cross Mountain Park.
This busy 128-acre park provides access to the Betty B. Dearing trailhead. It’s not ‘Runyon Canyon busy’ on nice weekend days…but it’s close. A steady climb on the asphalt and dirt trail pays off with great views of the San Fernando Valley and access to the Cross Mountain Park trail system.
These 45-acres of prime real estate, owned by the City of Los Angeles, provide great views for hikers and a home for TreePeople. Since 1973, TreePeople has been “inspiring Angelenos to care for our urban forest, local mountains and to adopt sustainable solutions at home.”
TreePeople. Get a Pet Membership while you’re there.
Excellent doggie drinking fountain.
Poop bag dispensers
Nothing. They do things with doggos in mind here.
Fryman Canyon Park
122-acre Fryman Canyon Park has spectacular views mixed with chaparral and tall trees that make you forget you’re the city. Year round springs offer the occasional spot to muddy up the paws too. There’s access to the Betty B. Dearing’s southern trailhead and a scenic lookout on Mulholland Dr..
Many maps refer to this 9.3 acre spot as Beeman Park. It’s your standard L.A. City recreation center with sports fields and a community center. This is a popular spot for local Canine Angelenos who come here in the morning to chase balls and roll in the plush grass.
Once part of the Wedding Family farm, this park is just over 10 acres of nice grass and shady trees alongside the Central Branch of the Tujunga Wash. The “Rocket’s Universe” playground is a must see but beware of the Secret Garden…it’s full of kitty cats.
Just across the river, on land donated by Weddington family, this park’s 14 acres are full of perfect-to-roll-in grass. And the place is gopher infested if you’re into that sort of thing. You can see The 101 and a giant Minion hovering over Universal City from here…very L.A.
You don’t come to this 2.4 acre park for peace and quiet – it’s near the Laurel Canyon exit off The 101 – but there’s grass to roll on and nice trees to relax under. You get a great view of the concrete encased Tujunga Wash too. A staircase to a secretish trail is nearby at Moorpark St. and Radford Ave..