Distance (round-trip)

3.7 mi

Time

1.5 hrs

Elevation Gain

439 ft

Season

Spring
Summer
Fall
Winter

Weather

This remote and rarely visited peak in the middle of Griffith Park got a huge boost in visibility in mid 2015, when a group of artists sent a collection of journalists a mysterious note telling them to meet at sunrise on June 30th, 2015.

Those who followed the instructions were greeted with a pop-up teahouse on the north slope of the perhaps unofficially named Taco Peak (media coverage has attributed this tea house to Mount Bell, which actually lies slightly to the northwest) — and in this case, “pop-up” was pretty literal. Overnight, a group of artists hauled in all the materials to erect the structure without any permission from park officials. The structure was built with wood reclaimed from the 2007 Griffith Park wildfire, assembled almost completely without metal, and built atop existing concrete foundations for a former water tower.

In the morning, they held a traditional Japanese tea ceremony and encouraged attendees to write prayers or wishes on wooden cards and hang them inside the tea house.

Needless to say, once the word got out about this, it spread pretty quickly. We’d already written about Taco Peak as part of our larger Griffith Park Northside Loop, but we figured now the peak deserved its own entry … and, we wanted to see the teahouse in case it gets destroyed soon!

This route starts near the Berlin Forest at the Griffith Park Observatory Lot and is a loop hike, returning along Mount Hollywood Drive. Parking here can be a special kind of nightmare, even by Los Angeles standards. If you’re up for a longer hike, consider starting near Fern Dell and coming up via the West Observatory Trail or Western Canyon or starting near the Greek Theater and taking the East Observatory Trail or the longer route to Mount Hollywood along the Hogback Trail.

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traffic at 2PM on a Wednesday, just in case you’re thinking of driving in

If you’re braving the Observatory lot, start early at the Charlie Turner Trailhead, passing through the Berlin Forest and over the tunnel toward Mount Hollywood.

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Just across the tunnel overpass, stay to the left to continue on the fire road, where you’ll get one of the best views of the Hollywood Sign at the 0.6 mile mark and at 0.9 miles, stay to the left to continue on the fire road on Mount Hollywood’s western flank.

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For an additional challenge, consider scrambling up the steep and slippery use-trail that makes a straight-shot up to this junction at 0.9 miles, or continue straight up to the summit of Mount Hollywood itself. At the 0.9 mile mark, you can also head along the eastern road around Mount Hollywood for a quick stop at Dante’s View, too.

If you stay on the western road, you’ll pass the remnants of Captain’s Roost at about the 1 mile mark. Look for the rows of palm trees – down this firebreak, a man known as “The Captain” began Griffith Park’s first ‘folk garden’ in the 1940s. There is an excellent first-hand remembrance of meeting both The Captain and the caretaker who maintained the garden after he retired.

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Captain’s Roost, 2015

Sadly, the Roost was very badly damaged in that 2007 wildfire and is struggling to bounce back. Volunteers from the Friends of Griffith Park do occasionally work up there, but the drought has made it difficult for many of the non-native plants to bounce back. If you walk down the fire break, you will see some pieces of how the Roost used to look – and hopefully with some native plantings (and some much needed rain), the volunteers can restore it to its former glory.

At 1.3 miles, stay straight on the fire road or take a short trip to the summit of Mount Hollywood my hanging a quick right. The trail makes a short descent and you’ll encounter a large four-way junction. Head straight to the narrow fire road that makes its way north on a narrow ridge – and look out for the tiny tea house structure on the north flank of Taco Peak.

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At 1.5 miles, look for this use-trail roughly following a water pipe. Hop off the fire road and follow this route, which quickly hits another old road grade.

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Just around the bend, the teahouse comes into view.

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The structure itself is small and surprisingly beautiful. Supposedly, all of the wood used in the structure and its neighboring bench were reclaimed from trees that were downed or killed in the 2007 wildfire. The detail work is charming – and the griffin that protects the structure is, according to a note on the bench, a combination of a red-tailed hawk and mountain lion combination (note the radio collar on the griffin’s neck!)

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Inside, you’ll find people’s prayer cards and a small metal bell with a great, soothing timbre. Visitors are encouraged to leave their thoughts inside and ring the bell afterward.

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When I visited, there was also some free leftover oolong tea from the previous morning’s ceremonies, but I can’t promise that will be here when you visit.

In fact, I can’t promise any of this will be here when you visit – the structure was put up illegally and there’s a strong case for removing it just for simple liability reasons (not to mention, as nice as this is, Griffith Park may not want to set a precedent where people can just come up and build stuff in the park). This building seems to have been done with an incredibly light footprint, but not all people who want to build things in the Park may have those motivations or that awareness in mind.

When I was there, I met a few Griffith Park employees who were inspecting the structure. I expected them to be gearing up to take the whole thing down, but they actually seemed fairly charmed by it. They noted the construction was good, was limited to the already existing concrete, and seemed to be an improvement. Gesturing toward a rock wall covered in spray paint directly across from the fire road, one said, “We’d definitely rather have something like this than graffiti like that.”

We chatted for a while about what it’s like to work in the park and every time a hiker strolled by, he would ask them what they thought of the structure. Overwhelmingly, people seemed very hopeful it would stand.

A petition is currently in circulation to keep the structure permanent, and hopefully after some inspection and an OK from the Park Rangers, the artist group that built this can organize a volunteer group to help maintain it if the Park decides to keep it. One of the park employees I spoke to said he didn’t think it would require much in the way of maintenance, either – “maybe just a trash can.”

To hit the summit of Taco Peak, continue on the fire road and look for a steep use-trail on the south side of the road.

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Climb up this steep and slippery trail to the summit of Taco Peak (1568′), where an old octagonal piece of concrete sits. You’ll have great views of the Verdugos and San Gabriels from here, as well as side-views of the Hollywood Sign and the interior of Griffith Park.

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You can either scramble down the south side of Taco Peak and return back the way you came, or return down the use-trail you came up and head west. At 2 miles, there’s a fun, steep route to the summit of Mount Bell, and at 2.1 miles an alternate, easier approach to Bell and a side trip to neighboring “Baby Bell” (see our Northside Loop for more info).

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At 2.2 miles, take a sharp left to descend onto the paved Mount Hollywood Drive. You can follow this road all the way down to the tunnel near the intersection with Observatory Road. From there, you can hike back up through Berlin Forest or on the sidewalk to the Griffith Observatory, or descend via Western Canyon or one of the Observatory Trails.

UPDATE: According to LAist, the artists who created the teahouse have donated it to the City. The City has not decided what they’re going to do with the building, but odds are that it will likely be moved to another location.

As of July 28th, 2015, the Tea House is no longer on Taco Peak. We will keep you up to date on wherever its foundation rests in the future.

In the meantime, you can visit the Tea House virtually via this 360-degree VR YouTube video from the folks at local VR firm Beard and Glasses VR. The experience is best with headphones, and is also compatible with Google Cardboard and it will also work on your smartphone’s YouTube app, allowing you to move your phone around to see what it was like up at the Tea House. Direct link is here, just in case the embedded version is giving you guff.

Remember, you saw it first on Modern Hiker!

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Modern Hiker, Author of "Day Hiking Los Angeles," Walking Meditator, Native Plant Enthusiast.





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29 Comments

jpneus

jpneus Aug 8, 2015 07:08In reply to: Casey Schreiner

Thanks, Casey. I do hope the City handles the reopening/relocation of the teahouse very well and reasonably soon!

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Casey Schreiner Aug 6, 2015 10:08In reply to: jpneus

Fixed the elevation and added results from both potential trailheads. I've no idea where that 987 came from, other than I was probably looking at BaseCamp's useless total gain value again :/

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jpneus Aug 6, 2015 06:08

Here is the latest article on the Teahouse: http://beverlypress.com/2015/07/teahouse-in-griffith-park-will-have-new-home/

Also, the elevation gain/loss to Taco Peak is much less than 987 feet and more like 500 feet at most.

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Zesty Italian Jul 29, 2015 19:07

Good bye Tea House. Hope to see you again someday. ?

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brassshadow Jul 29, 2015 19:07

Sad news today. The teahouse has been removed. Although it looks like they kept it mostly intact (the panel with the bell was removed).

https://twitter.com/GParkTeahouse/status/626100207197945856

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Zesty Italian Jul 7, 2015 21:07In reply to: boothv

low music = loud music above. Wondering how I was going to fix that!

Yeah I'm not big on law breakers either BOOTHV. BTW, thanks for not speeding. Those are some of the biggest law breakers I'm not crazy about!

I would love to go riding in Angeles National Forest but it's not that easy for me to get there as I've given up driving. I get around just fine with bicycles and the metro light rails. Most of the riders on that ride mentioned show up without a car. Would be pretty f-ing difficult to get to the forest for a ~3 hour ride. Thanks for letting me know where I should be. Let me know if you need any help finding out where you need to be. :-)

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boothv Jul 7, 2015 17:07In reply to: Zesty Italian

Glad you didn't leave garbage. Not glad you felt it necessary to break not one but two laws though. I'm just not big on law breakers. Sorry.

I night hike a lot in the Angeles National Forest. There are all kinds of fire roads and even some trails up there where bikes are legal day or night. That's where you need to be. You should check it out. You'll be glad you did.

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Zesty Italian Jul 7, 2015 16:07In reply to: boothv

No, I beg to differ. We extremely good about not leaving garbage after stopping somewhere. At least the ride I was was on, http://www.thepassageride.com/ Wish other rides were this responsible! We're able to get away with riding in the park cause it doesn't happen that often and we stay low. No low music or even flashing lights when we're there. And no we don't run peds off the trail!

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ritzsv Jul 7, 2015 13:07

Grate article. I love the structure of this blog, one of my favorites so far. I will need to go check out this hiking trail when I am near by. Thank you for mentioning about the prayer cards, I will defiantly need to fill one out when I explore this hike!

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Casey Schreiner Jul 6, 2015 11:07In reply to: Zesty Italian

Because this particular trail starts at the Berlin Forest, a trek from the Red Line is probably a bit too much for most people. However, for trails that start closer to Fern Dell, we do have public transit directions from the Hollywood and Western stop. I'll add the Red Line info in the description, though!

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boothv Jul 6, 2015 11:07In reply to: Zesty Italian

No wonder you would like this illegal building. I mean, it's illegal to ride bikes on the trails and illegal to be in the park after 10:30 pm. But that's ok. Rules are meant for other people. Not you and these 'artists.' Hope you left some trash on your trip so we could remember you.

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Zesty Italian Jul 6, 2015 11:07

Awesome structure! I hope it stays where it is. This was a gift to the people of LA. Lets see how long they appreciate the gift. I'm betting less than a year till it gets tagged and some idiot tries to burn it.

We went up this on bikes in the middle of the night. Was a magical spot and they chose a location for it. Having it moved would kinda destroy it.

Sad this article doesn't advise people to take the Red Line to get to Griffith Park. The park is less than a mile from the stop! You are there to hike yes? Lets try reducing our carbon footprint at least one day?

BTW, regarding graffiti. Just so happens we're trying to get graffiti art put up on the building here. Really helps that the city (LB) is behind it.

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Greg Jul 5, 2015 17:07

I bet the same people complaining about "private" artists deciding what goes on public lands are also some of the same folks who want to restrict access to portions of the Park if it means people or "outsiders" have to come near their streets, which, last I checked, are public.

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Matt Jul 5, 2015 12:07

This is a social media headache waiting to happen (or already is) for park staff. Every facebook, instagram, twitter post and picture of the house will bring more visitors to this trail, and with them more issues. It may not hurt anyone, but it will negatively impact the park and neighborhood because of the increased traffic and loitering. Who will maintain it? Graffiti, vandalism, new trash cans, etc. I'm sure park staff already have enough maintenance responsibilities on their hands, and now this.

If they allow this rogue building to remain then they'll be setting a precedent that others can follow. I really like the look, and the intent, but it has to go. Relocate to another area. Perhaps a developed community park?

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Glenn Jul 5, 2015 01:07In reply to: boothv

there was already two concrete slabs there. I think the indigenous wood structure feels much more appealing than two cement slabs

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Andrew Jul 2, 2015 20:07In reply to: kinda likit

Perhaps the concrete foundation should have been removed and the area returned to its 'natural' state then? There are plenty of places the artists in this case could have chosen to (ask permission) to build a structure of this sort. This was the spot they chose and they chose not to ask for permission or for anyone else's opinion on the matter. The land belongs to everyone. I didn't (or perhaps haven't noticed) a comment here stating one's opinion that didn't like the aesthetic of the structure or thought it didn't improve upon the concrete foundation. This is not the issue. No permission, no structure. Not caring what anyone else thinks, that's for everyone else to decide how they feel about that...I personally like the structure by itself - independent of the location. I would probably like it anywhere, but in nature... I'm not sure I believe any structure outside of an established trail can ever really enhance the experience. (Move the structure, it's nice. Remove the concrete foundation so there's nothing to improve upon in the first place)

:)

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kinda likit Jul 2, 2015 17:07In reply to: Kristin Sabo

are we forgetting there was already an ugly concrete foundation sitting there? This certainly seems a lot nicer.

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boothv Jul 2, 2015 15:07In reply to: Mara

Now you're talking. Putting those skills to help people stay protected from the elements is a big win.

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Mara Jul 2, 2015 15:07

I hear you. I'm a confirmed nature lover. And yes it's difficult here near LA to find even a 5 acre pocket (not nearly enough). I honor their intent, but like I said the best solution would be to move it to another and more appropriate location. These artists have the chops to build some low cost shelters for the homeless that desperately need and want shelter.

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boothv Jul 2, 2015 15:07In reply to: Mara

Fair enough Mara. But I think it's important to remember that what you may find tasteful others find repulsive because of what it represents. But maybe that's because I spend most of my free time backpacking and hiking in the wilderness and think any "improvement" by man is almost always a mistake. Trails are pretty much where I draw the line.
And, for me, I see this building as 'art' as much as I see graffiti as 'art' which is to say - not at all. It's nothing but an illegal structure to me.
And therein lies the point. Some folks decided that what THEY want should supersede what others want. Nope. Not on public land. That doesn't fly with me.
Take pictures. Leave footprints. That's where it should start and end.

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Mara Jul 2, 2015 15:07In reply to: boothv

Bit over the top on the reply. It's a modest ecological and tasteful tea house. No one is talking about dirt or paving so that part of your comment is extraneous. This art piece is not graffiti. Of all suggestions moving it near the bird pavilion makes the most sense to me. Let's not destroy the unplanned beauty but find a way to nurture that positive part of human understanding

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Kristin Sabo Jul 2, 2015 15:07In reply to: GW

What Casey said.

Amir Dialameh did it the right way - he GOT PERMISSION. In the context of 1971, such a garden was allowed.

45 years later, a new garden would not be allowed. However, Amir's Garden, Dantes' View, and Captain's Roost have all been grandfathered in. They are official.

Amir's Garden sits above the canyon that contains the Griffith Park Boys Camp and the very canyon that was the site of the devastating 1933 Griffith Park fire (look it up). The garden serves many important purposes today. It is a shady rest stop, a memorial garden, an educational facility, and it was reworked as a fire break in 1995 with the specific plant palate to serve this purpose.

I've already stated my reasoning behind my opposition to this act so there is no need to reiterate.

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boothv Jul 2, 2015 12:07

Great news! I guess the natural environment (as much as it gets in Griffith Park) and the dirt isn't enough, huh? Let's put buildings EVERY WHERE! I mean, it's SO much nicer, right?

Hell, the should PAVE the road going up there! The dirt gets in people shoes and that's just bad bad bad.

And I totally support how a group of people with their disingenuous "peace" messages get to decide what's best for everyone on public land. That's the way it SHOULD be! That's what graffiti 'artists' are all about too, right?

(Rip it down)

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Casey Schreiner Jul 2, 2015 11:07In reply to: GW

Yup - Amir did get permission for his garden. Both the history at the Garden and some L.A. Times articles recount that he asked for permission from Park Officials. Permission was granted, but they didn't provide him with any resources or infrastructure.

http://articles.latimes.com/1996-08-11/local/me-33310_1_griffith-park

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Mara Jul 2, 2015 11:07

Guerilla art has a long tradition. It's the SURPRISE of it that adds to the specialness.

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GW Jul 2, 2015 11:07

Kristen Sabo - did Amir get permission to start the garden that you so tirelessly maintain? I'm shocked that you are opposed to this pretty little tea house. You have dedicated your life to improving Griffith Park - so why are these artists now "unethical?" If the city wasn't so keen on your garden, the community would rally around you. Why not show the same support for people with good intentions who created something beautiful?

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Kristin Sabo Jul 2, 2015 07:07

Graffiti by artists is wrong but this is OK? It is not OK.

Park land, especially the rare urban wilderness habitat we have in Los Angeles, is not free land for anybody with an "idea" to use for their own purposes. Lots of people have "ideas", most far less attractive than this. Imagine what would happen if more acted on them on parkland like this artist chose to do. Habitat does not need "improvement" by art or any other action other than restoration and best practices in management. One can argue that Los Angeles does far from an optimum job of best management practices for our open spaces, and you would be correct. That does not make the land forfeit to anyone's whims. It means one should fight for better management.

Had this artist 1. been responsible, and 2. wanted their piece to persist, the artist should have selected a location where they had permission. It cannot legally or ethically remain.

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Stella Jul 2, 2015 07:07

It's beautiful! It's woken up a lonely trail and offered yet one more fun thing to do in Griffith Park.

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Richie Jul 1, 2015 17:07

Oh, I hope it stays up. It's such a beautiful, special little secret addition to the park and it doesn't hurt anyone - just makes the area even more lovely. I can't wait to visit it.

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