The Guide to Los Angeles Parks

Enjoy the L.A. weather at parks from Downtown L.A. to the coast

Picnic near Crystal Springs Drive in Griffith Park   |  Photo:  Tuan Lee
Picnic near Crystal Springs Drive in Griffith Park  |  Photo:  Tuan Lee

From Downtown L.A. to the coast, parks across the city invite you to enjoy the great outdoors any time of year. Whether you're casually strolling through an urban oasis or getting some exercise on a scenic hike, gorgeous weather and beautiful natural surroundings will be your constant companion. This is your guide to all the best parks, recreation centers, and outdoor spaces around Los Angeles.

Be sure to check the Department of Recreation and Parks website for the latest updates before visiting your favorite park.

Grand Park Sunday Session
Sunday Session | Photo: Grand Park, Facebook

Gloria Molina Grand Park

Grand Park is an urban oasis that stretches from Grand Avenue at the Music Center to Spring Street at City Hall. Since its opening in 2012, Grand Park has become a popular gathering spot for community events, cultural experiences, festivals and holiday celebrations. The 12-acre park has four distinct areas, featuring the restored Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain, an intimate performance lawn, a community terrace, and a grand event lawn. Visitors can bring their own picnic or purchase food and beverages on site. Selected events will invite food trucks and other food vendors. The park is open to the public daily from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

"Dueling Dinos" in the Grand Foyer of the Natural History Museum
"Dueling Dinos" at the Natural History Museum  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Exposition Park

Located across the street from USC in Downtown Los Angeles, Exposition Park is the home of several top L.A. cultural attractions and venues, including the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the California Science Center and the California African American Museum.

Downtown LA view from Elysian Park
Downtown LA view from Elysian Park  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Elysian Park

Known for being L.A.’s oldest public park, the 575-acre Elysian Park offers a surprising getaway in the heart of the city, with stunning views from Dodger Stadium and Downtown L.A. to the Hollywood Hills and the Valley. The popular Portola Trail is named for Don Gaspar de Portola, the Spanish soldier, explorer and founder of San Diego and Monterey. The historical marker at the trailhead commemorates the site where Portola camped near the Los Angeles River. A highlight of this hike is Angel’s Point and the Grace E. Simons Memorial Sculpture, named for the activist who worked to protect Elysian Park from developers. Elysian Park hosted the shooting part of the Modern Pentathlon at the 1932 Summer Olympics - today, early morning visitors might hear gunshots ringing from officers training at the adjacent Police Academy.

Los Angeles State Historic Park
Los Angeles State Historic Park | Photo: Los Angeles State Historic Park, Facebook

Los Angeles State Historic Park

Located next to the Chinatown Station of the Metro L Line (Gold), the 32-acre Los Angeles State Historic Park reopened on Earth Day 2017 after three years of renovations. Built on the former site of Union Pacific Rail Yard, L.A. State Historic Park (aka "the Cornfield") is a testament to the power of community - home to grassland, orange trees, public art and a mile-long run/walk trail in a spot that almost became a collection of warehouses before locals rallied to stop the development. There's a lot to see at LASHP, from the public art to the pavers that go back to the land's life as a rail yard and small dugouts filled with rocks and plants that collect rain water. The view of the Downtown L.A. skyscrapers becomes all the more beautiful from the top of a small bridge in the center of the park.

Picnic near Crystal Springs Drive in Griffith Park   |  Photo:  Tuan Lee
Picnic near Crystal Springs Drive in Griffith Park  |  Photo: Tuan Lee

Griffith Park

With more than 4,210 acres of natural chaparral-covered terrain and landscaped parkland and picnic areas, Griffith Park is the largest municipal park with urban wilderness area in the United States. Griffith Park offers miles of hiking and horseback riding trails, providing visitors an ideal environment for enjoyable recreation activities. There are numerous family attractions and cultural institutions in Griffith Park, including the Autry National Center, The Greek Theatre, the Griffith Observatory, the Los Angeles Zoo and Travel Town.

Bridge at Echo Park Lake
Bridge at Echo Park Lake | Photo: Christine H, Yelp

Echo Park Lake

Originally built as a drinking water reservoir in the 1860s, the 13-acre Echo Park Lake is surrounded by 16 acres of open recreational space. With the Downtown L.A. skyline as the backdrop, the parklands, charming footbridge, boathouse, beautiful lotus beds, and the "Lady of the Lake" statue have attracted visitors for generations. Activities include pedal boats, picnic tables, jogging, and strolls around the perimeter pathway. The annual Lotus Festival is one of L.A.'s most popular summer events. Film Noir fans will recognize Echo Park Lake from a scene in Chinatown when J.J. Gittes (Jack Nicholson) takes photographs of Hollis Mulwray (Darrell Zwerling) from a rowboat.

The SLC Boathouse Bistro is a convenient stop for a post-run coffee, or grab a bite from the all-day breakfast menu, sandwiches and wraps.

Barnsdall Art Park | Photo: Barnsdall Art Park
Barnsdall Art Park | Photo: Barnsdall Art Park

Barnsdall Art Park

Located near the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vermont Avenue, Barnsdall Art Park sits on 11 acres atop Olive Hill, offering breathtaking views of the city and the Hollywood Sign. The site was deeded to the city of Los Angeles in 1927 as a cultural art center. Today, it is home to the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Hollyhock House, LA's first UNESCO World Heritage Site; Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Barnsdall Art Center, Junior Arts Center and the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre.

Lake Hollywood Park
Lake Hollywood Park  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Lake Hollywood Park

Open from sunrise to sunset, Lake Hollywood Park is an idyllic escape from the hustle and bustle of the city with a fantastic view of the Hollywood Sign. The park features a children's play area, picnic tables, barbecue pits, and a grass field for on-leash dogs to enjoy.

Hancock Park La Brea in the spring
Hancock Park La Brea | Photo: @aboutnout, Instagram

Hancock Park La Brea

Formally known as Hancock Park La Brea, this city park in the Miracle Mile district is home to two of L.A.'s most popular cultural attractions, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum. Located on Wilshire Boulevard just east of Fairfax Avenue, the park has open spaces and landscaped areas for walking, picnicking, and other recreation. Hancock Park La Brea is registered as California Historical Landmark #170, and the iconic La Brea Tar Pits are a designated U.S. National Natural Landmark.

Aerial view of Pan Pacific Park
Pan Pacific Park | Photo: Ian Broyles, Flickr

Pan Pacific Park

Centrally located across the street from The Grove, Pan Pacific Park was once home to the famous Pan-Pacific Auditorium. Today it’s one of the most popular and family-friendly parks in the city, with features that include barbecue pits, a baseball diamond (lighted), basketball courts (lighted/indoor/outdoor), a children's play area, an indoor gym (no weights) and picnic tables. Pan Pacific Park is also the site of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, the oldest Holocaust museum in the United States.

Franklin Lake at Franklin Canyon Park
Franklin Lake at Franklin Canyon Park | Photo: Ken Shelton, Discover Los Angeles Flickr Pool

Franklin Canyon Park

Located near Benedict Canyon at the geographical center of Los Angeles, Franklin Canyon Park spans 605 acres and features over five miles of hiking trails. Highlights of the park include Franklin Lake, the William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom and Sooky Goldman Nature Center. The park’s history dates to 1914, when William Mulholland built the Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir. The easy stroll around the reservoir offers views of birds and wildlife, as well as access to more difficult trails like the Hastain Trail, which rises to offer views from West L.A. to the Pacific.

Pop culture fans will recognize the three-acre Franklin Lake, which was the “fishing hole” in the opening credits of The Andy Griffith Show, as well as the lagoon in the Universal Studios horror classic Creature from the Black Lagoon. The park was also the background for the cover photo of Simon & Garfunkel’s album Sounds of Silence.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Tree Grove at Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Tree Grove  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area

Spanning 338 acres, Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area is one of the largest city parks and regional open spaces in Greater Los Angeles. Named after L.A. County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, this lush and peaceful recreational retreat offers visitors a variety of experiences. The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Tree Grove is located at the highest point of the park. Activities include a fishing lake, playgrounds, baseball diamonds, sand volleyball court, and a 10-station workout course. More than seven miles of hiking trails provide breathtaking panoramic views from Downtown L.A. to the coast. Friends and family can gather to enjoy picnic tables and barbecue pits located throughout the park.

Cherry blossoms at Lake Balboa
Cherry blossoms at Lake Balboa | Photo: City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation & Parks

Lake Balboa Park

Lake Balboa Park (aka Anthony C. Beilenson Park) is an 80-acre recreation facility in the 2,000-acre Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area. The centerpiece of the park is the 27-acre Lake Balboa, filled with water from the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant. The park has barbecue pits, a bicycle path, a cascade, a children's play area, a fly fishing area, a 1.3-mile jogging path, a lake for fishing (swimming is prohibited), a launch ramp, pedal boats, picnic pavilions and picnic tables, private boating (only boats without motors are permitted), and a remote control boating cove. In the Spring the park's Japanese cherry blossom trees attract visitors from near and far.

Woodley Park Woodley Lakes Golf
Woodley Park | Photo: City of L.A. Department of Recreation and Parks

Woodley Park

Located in the massive Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area, Woodley Park is situated along Woodley Avenue between Victory and Burbank Boulevards in the Lake Balboa neighborhood. Features include picnic tables, barbecue pits, baseball diamond (unlighted), and a childrens play area. Two landmarks are located adjacent to the park: the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant is familiar to Star Trek fans as Starfleet Academy; and Suiho En (“Garden of Water and Fragrance”), one of the best Japanese Gardens in the city.

Will Rogers State Historic Park
Photo: Will Rogers State Historic Park

Will Rogers State Historic Park

Will Rogers State Historic Park was the private ranch of the world famous movie star, radio personality, columnist, philosopher and American cowboy, Will Rogers. At his 186-acre ranch in Pacific Palisades, Rogers could relax with family and friends, pursuing his favorite pastimes of riding horseback, roping steers or playing polo. The iconic Western Ranch House at Will Rogers State Historic Park is on the National Register of Historic Places and, aside from his 31-room home, the park includes a historic stable, a polo field, riding arena, roping area, numerous corrals, horse pastures, golf course and trails. The park’s famous Inspiration Point Trail provides visitors with fantastic 360-degree vistas, and affords hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians access to the Backbone Trail.

Korean Bell of Friendship in San Pedro
Korean Bell of Friendship  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Angel's Gate Recreation Center

The 64-acre Angel's Gate Recreation Center offers breathtaking panoramic views of the coastline and Santa Catalina Island from its grassy cliffs, as well as basketball courts and a children’s play area. Don’t miss the famous Korean Bell of Friendship, a gift to the people of Los Angeles by the people of the Republic of Korea in 1976 to honor veterans of the Korean War.