People lounge in the late-afternoon sun at Barnsdall Art Park. (Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)
Originally published in the LA Times on June 30, 2023
CHRISTOPHER REYNOLDS |
On any given day in Greater Los Angeles, in any season, the odds of picnic weather are good. And our choice of locations is vast.
So maybe we should all be eating outside more, and maybe walking and hiking more, too. With that in mind, we have gathered some prime picnic locations, most of them in parks where an easy stroll or uphill struggle might be possible. Whether you’re putting your own meal together or ordering dishes to go, here’s to spreading a blanket, unpacking the basket and keeping the ants at bay.
Barnsdall Art Park
Although the park is an excellent place to watch the sun set, it’s best known as the site of Hollyhock House, a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece. In 2019, nearly a hundred years after the home was completed, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The house reopened to tours in 2022 after a sustained closure during the pandemic that included extensive restoration work.
Burton Chace Park
Nowadays the Echo Mountain hike via the Sam Merrill Trail is 5.5-mile round-trip experience (with about 1,400 feet of altitude gain) on a very popular, occasionally narrow trail. Along the way you find many historical markers, but only scattered bits of foundation and metal equipment to remind you of the sprawling operation that once was here.
There’s a picnic table, but you could also eat while sitting on the steps of the old hotel. And before you descend you might want to try to use the Echo Phone, also at the mountaintop. Hiking expert Mary Forgione describes it as “a black metal megaphone mounted on a pole that points toward Castle Canyon. Yep, before there were cellphones and selfies, this is how people amused themselves. Feel free to step up and give your best scream (no touching necessary) — and listen for the reverb. It’s a beautiful place to stop and look into the heart of the mountains.”
The trailhead is at the end of Lake Avenue in Altadena. The trail gets hot on sunny days, so it’s wise to start early in the morning, when the route is shaded and there’s less foot traffic.
La Brea Tar Pits
Thank George Allan Hancock, who donated 23 acres of his family’s ranch to Los Angeles County in 1924 for a public park that protects the tar pits — and the fossil finds trapped in them — for future generations. Today that makes for an educational walk through an urban oasis that includes lots of open space, plenty of shade trees and picnic tables, and a Pleistocene Garden that re-creates a prehistoric habitat from the Pleistocene Epoch (10,000 to 1.9 million years ago).
La Cienega Park
Lake Balboa Anthony C. Beilenson Park
Los Angeles State Historic Park
As the name suggests, the park’s history mirrors the city’s. It’s about a mile from what was once Yang-Na, a Tongva trading village, and the Pueblo de Los Ángeles, where Spanish settlers founded what is now Los Angeles. There are still remnants in the park of the zanja madre, the original aqueduct that transported water from the Los Angeles River to the pueblo. Today, the park is walking distance from some of the oldest structures in the city. Open 8 a.m. to sunset.