• AJ

There's an abandoned zoo in the middle of Los Angeles.

If you find yourself completely bored and you're looking to avoid the tourists, I think I've found the perfect getaway. The L.A. Zoo, and no not the shiny new advertised one that pops up first on your search. I'm talking about the Old L.A. Zoo that was abandoned in 1965, but its ruins still stand, to this day.

I decided to venture up to Griffith Park with Kate Ferg, owner of DIVVY Magazine, and shoot whats left of the ruins. With my dslr in hand, and sandwiches in our bags, we started the hike up from the bottom.

The trails all start out fairly quite and bare. So bare that you may be unsure if you're in the right place or not. We ventured forward regardless.

Cameras in hand, we took in the hiking trail for its natural beauty. The long winding paths up the Griffith Park hills about a mile in, had lead us to nothing except a few random hikers.

We emerge out of the first trail and there it is. We see the old abandoned lion cages. I couldn't wait to find these, since they were the cages used in Anchorman. Who doesn't love Anchorman? Obviously, being L.A. residents, we had to snag a photo inside the lion cage.

Kate being an avid hiker and spin class enthusiast, she had no problem going off the beaten path. I wouldn't recommend it, unless you're in good shape and as you can see here, she's in real good shape!

The lion cages, albeit fun, were a little scary and unnerving. I think it was the size of all the cages that really rubbed me the wrong way. I'm a fairly large guy at about 6'3" and the second I stepped into any of these enclosures, immense claustrophobia washed over me. People think that animals in zoos today have it bad, they would have wept a river for these poor animals in the early 20th century.

As soon as we passed the lion cages, the rest of the ruins followed one-by-one. The next one we happened upon, I like to call "the monkey cages". There's no particular reason besides when I get inside of them, I turn into a primate. YES, that's right! You can get inside of these cages! I tried to talk Kate into getting inside one for a photo-op for the better half of an hour. Alas, she's too smart it seems, that's how she's survived this long. Touche, Kate, touche. I was able to convince her to at least stand on top of them. See? Compromise!

Old L.A. Zoo at Griffith Park
Kate Ferg contemplates getting inside of "the monkey cages"

The top of the cage she's standing on here, only is about 3 feet off the ground, with some areas that were only about a foot and a half wide. The spaces were so small I really couldn't imagine what animals could or would be able to live inside of that enclosure.

That being said, I get inside of them everytime, to remind myself of what animals had to go through to- no, obviously I just wanted a cool picture for instagram.

After seeing these cages I was hoping for a lot more. So we hiked. Then we hiked some more.

We went during the Santa Monica fires of 2018 so there was a heavy haze over the trees.

Griffith Park with a haze during Santa Monica fires 2018
The Old L.A. Zoo at Griffith Park bares a slight haze from the Santa Monica fires in 2018

We felt a weird dichotomy of sadness for the animals, mixed with the beautiful sights, and then worry for the Santa Monica residents who were losing their homes at the time. This hike is quite a bit different than the other Hollywood Hikes because of its solitude.

It really almost seems like you have the whole place to yourself, so for an adventure, I'd give this hidden trail an 8/10 (coming from a cynic, that's pretty damn good!). For photography, I'd give it a 9/10. Simply because it's local to Hollywood, and where else can you find ruins like this, in the middle of woods, in the middle of the busiest city in America? Nowhere.

Once we came to the end of the trail, we sat atop the hills in Griffith Park, overlooking the city of Los Angeles. The views were so serene, we could've stayed up there all day. In fact, we stayed in those hills about 2 hours longer than we'd planned. I really can't believe there's something so strange and beautiful right in our backyard!

Los Angeles Skyline from Griffith Park
A view of L.A. from the top of the trails at the Old L.A. Zoo in Griffith Park - Images by AJ Cutler

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