Last month for the first piece in my series on Metro-accessible hikes, I checked out Temescal Canyon, an old family favorite in my neck of woods on the Westside. This week, I decided to venture eastward to Los Angeles State Historic Park, located just steps from the Chinatown Gold Line Station.
My journey began on a Monday afternoon with a 0.9-mile stroll from my apartment in Santa Monica to catch the Big Blue Bus #10. The express bus to downtown L.A. whisked me onto the 10 Freeway, exited at Olive Street and then dropped me at the 7th Street/Metro Center Station. From there I transferred to the Red Line and again to the Gold Line at Union Station. All told, the trip took a little over an hour. (Note: Can’t wait for the Expo Line to reach Santa Monica in 2015 and the Regional Connector to hopefully open a few years after!).
From my perch on the elevated station platform in Chinatown (see above), L.A. State Historic Park appeared to be a much-needed oasis of green space in the heart of the city. And it’s just one stop from Union Station, the transit hub for Southern California.
Beyond its location, transportation truly is embedded in the park’s DNA. A century ago, the first incarnation of this 32-acre site was as a depot and warehouse for the Southern Pacific railroad. In the 1870s, getting train tracks built to your town meant life or death for western American cities. At the time, the arrival of railroads linked the dusty ranch town of Los Angeles to the rest of the country, helping to drive the region’s ensuing population and economic boom.
Over the decades the area fell into dis-use as railroads dispersed from the city center, much like Los Angeles’ residential population. It was finally in 2001 that the then-vacant site was purchased by the state of California with the help of the Trust for Public Land. After a few years of design, planning and construction, it opened to the public in 2006 (and there’s still more design work to be done).
On your own trip to the park, what you do there is really up to your imagination; the 13-acre portion open to the public is largely un-programmed and free-form. During my visit, the park seemed to passively beckon to take an easy stroll, to enjoy the wraparound views and the urban calm. That said, I’d be just as happy to come back in a week with a few friends, a dog and a frisbee.
The Los Angeles SHP webpage offers the following suggestions: “You can run, walk, ride a bike, have a picnic, fly a kite and even look for urban wildlife such as birds traveling down the Pacific flyway.” I’ll add that there’s a 1.1-mile dirt jogging path, so bring your sweatbands and iPods.
For those who don’t have the time to get up to our local mountains, the State Historic Park provides a centrally-located and very accessible alternative. Those with physical limitations and/or small children may find this park to be a more manageable and fun alternative to hiking more challenging trails.
Final notes: The park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset. For more information, you can reach a ranger at (323) 441-8819 or check out the park’s blog. When summer approaches, keep an eye out for their concerts, movie nights, campfires and other programming. Of course, if you have any favorite Metro-accessible trails that you want me to check out, feel free to let me know in the comments.
And now, a history lesson from puppets. (Check out the Metro shout-out at 1:25!)