When the Valley heats up there are only a few options: crank up the air, go jump in the pool, or get out of town. Let’s be honest-closing up the house and turning up the air is too confining. Sure, it will cool you off, but then what? A jump in the pool is okay, if you have one. The kids splash around awhile, but then what? Been there, done that, right? Now, let’s consider something more interesting: option three, get out of town.
No, no, you don’t have to go far. Just off the Hollywood (101) Freeway in the Cahunga Pass. I know a place up there that is cool, serene, and stroller easy. This public path is not well known because it is right in our midst. It’s in an upscale neighborhood that tends to be a bit quiet. There is some history here. This walk invokes a powerful and important time in the history of city of Los Angeles and how it came to survive as a city in a desert.
The walkway we’re talking about is around the Hollywood Reservoir often called Lake Hollywood. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has an access road around the perimeter of the water that is open to the public. It’s an easy walk in one of the most beautiful Hollywood settings: under the Hollywood sign, a deep blue sky above, Hollywood and Los Angeles City spread out below into the distance.
Shady pine trees sway and shed cones and needles. Slow moving ducks paddle on glassy water. Palm fronds and pampas grass hide wild life. Plush homes cantilever over the steep slopes. Cool gentle breezes, pulled on-shore by the valley thermals, sweep up the Hollywood hills and cools off the neighborhood like paradise trade winds even on the hottest valley days.
Lake Hollywood is part of the water supply held in place by the Mulholland Dam. The water looks pristine but a chain-link fence keeps the public at a distance. The deer on the inside of the fence boldly stare out at you with big curious eyes. There is a brass plaque citing William Mulholland as the designer and builder who completed the project in 1924.
Some people can dream big and Mulholland was certainly one of those people. In 1898, the newly elected Los Angeles Mayor Frederick Eaton appointed Mulholland superintendent of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. They both knew that if Los Angeles were ever to grow and flourish far into the future it would need water, lots of it. Unfortunately Southern California is mostly arid hills. Local water is scarce. So they cast their eyes on far off Owens Valley where huge amounts of water flowed from the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. They envisioned an aqueduct that would bring that water all the way to Los Angeles. Naturally it would be a huge undertaking.
Mulholland built the aqueduct and the dams. The water from the Sierra Nevada still flows across the state to us. Even today we reap and enjoy the benefits of that huge engineering effort. Water gleams in arid Sothern California sunshine. Ironically, the lush greenery around the reservoir and glimmering water doesn’t seem so out of place to us. The Midwest has their rivers and lakes and we here in Southern California have aqueducts and dams.
Thanks to Mulholland’s vision of the future and his engineering efforts, that same dusty 1924 community is now the Los Angeles we enjoy today. And millions of thirsty people in a desert have water. So come on and enjoy the beauty of Lake Hollywood. It’s lovely and it’s free. But go slow; make it an easy and serene walk. Let the beautiful surroundings, the cool breezes, and scent of pine soothe you.
The walk isn’t long. The perimeter road on the western side of the lake as well as a northern portion of the reservoir has been closed to the public for quite few years and it’s uncertain how much longer that will be. But the available part of the perimeter road (slightly more than a mile-and-half in length) is very baby stroller, hiker, and jogger friendly. Port-a-potties are available on the Southeast corner by the southern most entrance. But, remember-no dogs allowed. Check on access hours since they vary with the seasons.
There are several ways to get to the lake. The easiest way is to exit the Hollywood Freeway (101) on Barham Blvd and go to Lake Hollywood Drive. Follow the drive as it winds through the residential neighborhood. Eventually you will pass the north entrance (keep going) and come to Tahoe Drive. In front of you will be a sign with a chain link entrance. This is called the East Entrance to the walk. There is a south entrance (aka Weidlake Gate). However, it would be best to Google and download a map, as the way is complicated.
Don’t wait for the summer heat. Treat yourself and explore this beautiful place. You and the family will enjoy it. When you get home be sure to post your thoughts and comments for future hikers at my favorite hiking site: www.thishikingtrail.com.