Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Explore Los Angeles via hidden staircases and urban hikes

Silver Lake Reservoir

From the Los Feliz Ledger:

Thanks to the path around the Silver Lake Reservoir, it is so much easier to “walk the lake.” The opening of the meadow will soon add a scenic loop that will open up views of Silver Lake’s hills.  When some out-of-town visitors recently asked for a Silver Lake walking tour, I gave them the fifty-cent tour—an easy amble along the west Silver Lake Boulevard side of the reservoir path and a detour to Neutra Place, with a quick look at the Cove Avenue stairs, and a short break and cup of chai at LA Mill.

Silver Lake resident and writer Charles Fleming has formalized those kinds of tours, adding much historic information via his recently published book Secret Staircases: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles. A detailed guide to 42 walks from Pasadena to Santa Monica, more than half the guidebook looks at stairs and points of interest in Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Hollywood and Echo Park. Most of these public staircases were built in the late 1920s to connect residents in hillside neighborhoods to streetcar lines. Fleming also leads hikes once a month. The next scheduled walk is February 6, 2011. Sign up for the email alert.

“People who come on the walks are doing a lot of things,” Fleming said. “They are into exercise, they want to explore their city and are fascinated by architecture and history,” he said. Each of his tours starts at a café or restaurant and is typically an hour-and-a-half loop; the number of staircases involved determines the hike’s difficulty. “People are touched to find out about these public pathways that harken back to another time,” Fleming said.

The Los Angeles Conservancy conducts eight guided walking tours each month principally of downtown’s historic core and one in nearby Angelino Heights. Open to the public, reservations are suggested.
Bradbury building interior, downtown Los Angeles

I have my own downtown historic walk I give visitors beginning with breakfast at the Nickel Diner, then traversing the Old Bank District to the Bradbury Building, a walk-through the Grand Central Market then a ride on Angel’s Flight railway up to the California Plaza with a look at MOCA and the Walt Disney Hall.
Walking the L.A. River, Red Car River Park, Atwater

Walking path along the L.A. River, Atwater
Also worth exploring: the Atwater side of the Los Angeles River where a paved path extends both north and south of Los Feliz Boulevard. Close to Los Feliz Boulevard, plaques suggest yoga poses to try while stopped in one of several pocket parks planted with native sycamores. And for those needing more inspiration, writer Eric Hiss has put together dozens of urban hikes in his book: City Walks Los Angeles: 50 Adventures on Foot.