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Runyon Canyon: Hollywood and History

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Nestled just above Franklin Ave. is Hollywood’s not-so-best-kept secret: Runyon Canyon, the hiking trail to stars and regular folks alike. It’s perfect for the Hollywood hiker who doesn’t want to fight traffic to get to the Palisades.

There are several entrances (on Fuller, Vista and Mulholland) (on Fuller, Vista and Mulholland) to the very dog-friendly, but not bike-friendly park and paths. Many of the trails lead to the summit, which on the clearest of LA days, you can see the mountains and the Hollywood Sign to the east, the Pacific Ocean and skyscrapers from Downtown to West LA.

The roundtrip for the hike is about 3.5 miles, and visitors can make the loop as challenging or as easy as they want. There’s a steep, paved road from the Vista gates, and an even steeper climb akin to an outdoor Stairmaster to the highest peak from the Fuller entrance. Depending on your gate, the entire trip can take between 35-45 minutes.

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Runyon has a long and storied history and had been slated for development several times before it was acquired by the city as a park in 1984. From the USC archives:

"The canyon acquired its present name when it was purchased by Carman Runyon, who used as a retreat for hunting and riding. In turn it was purchased by Irish tenor John McCormack who built a mansion he called San Patrizio, along with tennis courts, a swimming pool, and various guest facilities. Many Hollywood stars rented the mansion from McCormack during his frequent European tours...

George Huntington Hartford II, heir to the A & P grocery store fortune, purchased the property in 1942, calling it "The Pines." He had plans for a major country club development designed by Frank Llyod Wright but the neighbors successfully fought its development. Wright did design a cottage for Hartford's friend George Handley, located near the upper part of the park called "Cloud's Rest." During the late 1950s Errol Flynn, having lost his home in an alimony fight, lived in the pool house of the estate below."

So now you know why there's an old tennis court and fireplace in the midst of the hiking trail off Fuller.

The park is open from dawn to dusk, but be warned that if it's solitude you seek, Runyon might not be the place for you. It's busy on weekdays, and Saturday and Sunday mornings are a zoo. So go really early to find parking on streets like Frankin, but be sure to read the signs because many of the streets right around the Canyon are resident parking only.

Photo by Christine N. Ziemba