Runyan Canyon, a narrow strip of open space rising into the hills just one mile from the heart of Hollywood, counts among its former residents the actors John McCormick and Errol Flynn. For more than 40 years, this now-quiet site was threatened by proposals to transform it into either a massive resort or a luxury housing development. In 1984, the property was purchased as parkland by the City of Los Angeles. Its popularity has grown ever since among those seeking a little peace from the pressure-cooker pace of life in the city below.
In the 1930s, McCormick built a mansion here and began to landscape the area around it. Despite the later razing of the mansion and the effects of fire, flood, and general neglect, plenty of palms, pines, eucalyptus, and other exotic vegetation still grow on the site. Native chaparral vegetation thrives as well -- dry and unappealing during summer's drought but verdant and aromatic in the springtime.
Entrance gates for the park at the north ends of both Fuller Avenue and Vista Street are open during daylight hours only. There are at least three hikes you can take up into the canyon, each ending at an overlook.
The first (one mile out and back) goes straight up the old driveway from Fuller Avenue. It curves up the ridge east of the canyon bottom and ends on a flat spot overlooking most of Hollywood and the Wilshire corridor from a point roughly 600 feet higher.
The second (two miles out and back with a gain of 500 feet) follows an old asphalt road up the canyon's west side and circles to the east ridge near the head of the canyon. There you meet a dirt road going south along the ridge to another viewpoint -- this one on the same ridge as the overlook mentioned earlier, but about 200 feet higher.
The third (three miles out and back, with a gain of 700 feet) involves turning north instead of south on the ridge-running road and following it uphill toward Mulholland Drive. Just short of Mulholland Drive, you can take a spur trail on the left that leads to the park's 1325-foot high point.
On Mulholland Drive, there's a small dirt parking area 1.6 miles west of Highway 101 at Cahuenga Pass for those who wish to enter Runyan Canyon Park from its upper end.