Old LA Zoo: Exploring the Abandoned Ruins at Griffith Park

Sep 6, 2021 | Los Angeles County, Ruins

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Distance 

~2.5 Miles

Time

~2 Hrs

Difficulty

Easy

Season

All Year

Elevation Gain

383 Ft

If you’re looking for something spooky and exciting to do, the Old LA Zoo is most certainly perfect for you! Check out the ruins of this once very popular attraction.

The Old LA is an easy 2.5-mile hike located within Griffith Park in Los Angeles. It features an abandoned zoo, an operating merry-go-round, and a park. The elevation gain is about 383 feet. Bathrooms are located near the parking lot. Dogs are allowed on leashes.

Map of Old LA Zoo

Where is the Old LA Zoo?

The Old LA Zoo is located at 4801 Griffith Park Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90027. Parking is free and can be found in the Griffith Park area near the merry-go-round.

Restrooms are located near the merry-go-round.

Park Hours

The park is open Sundays through Saturdays from 5 AM-10 AM.

Exploring the Ruins

The trail begins on Fern Canyon Trail. You need to cross the road on the south side of the Merry Go Round to get to the trailhead.

If you’re a little confused, be sure to open the map shown above.

It’s a bit hard to see in the picture shown above, but there’s a split to the left underneath the tree. Make sure to stay on the right side of the split.

Shortly after I came across Fern Canyon Amphitheatre. 

The Old LA Zoo probably hosted events here because I couldn’t find any current info on it. Head up the stairs.

The next split leads either away from the city or towards the city. Be sure to head straight (as shown below).

Eventually, I reached this point with the metal rails that leads down toward a small street. Be sure to go down that way.

(This will be close to the Bee Rock Trail, but do not take Bee Rock).

After walking through the parking lot, I reached this gate near the park and continued through it.

Not long after, I arrived at the ruins!

My first stop was at the animal cages. Unfortunately, you can’t go inside these.

Not sure what animals were house here, but if I had to guess, it would probably be felines or large primates.

Unfortunately, the Old LA Zoo had a negative reputation of housing large animals in confined places.

The next small building seems to have housed parrots or other birds, but I’m not sure because it lacks windows.

When you go inside there’s a small room that’s empty and trashed.

The following buildings were used to house all the polar bears.

old la zoo

All the structures had pits in the front (which are now filled in)  and a roughly 4 foot fence that kept people from falling in. Those fences are now gone as you can see.

old la zoo

From the inside, I could look up these stairs.

I thought I wouldn’t be able to access the inside, but there is a way!

The next stop is my favorite! These temple-looking animal exhibits remind me of a deep jungle somewhere!

This specific one has benches to relax and enjoy.

Fun Fact: A scene from the movie Anchorman was filmed in one of these exhibits. There are also other movies that have been shot at this old zoo.

After the structure shown above head back the same way you came and “bust a u-turn” to start heading up the hill behind the polar bear ruins. 

As you make your way up, you’ll notice the top of the ruins are fenced off…

old la zoo

But you can still go in and walk down! 

As I continued up the dirt road, I came across another animal cage.

Any guesses as to what animals lived inside? It’s pretty small and has a tiny door. This was the last of the ruins.

The final stop was the merry-go-round near the parking lot.

You can ride this iconic gem on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 AM to 5 PM.

Fun Fact: It was built in 1926 and was actually Walt Disney’s inspiration for Disneyland!

I hope you have fun walking around this infamous abandoned zoo that was once a hub for tourists and locals alike.

Don’t forget to tag us on Instagram @cahikingadventures.com when you make a visit!

History of the Old LA Zoo

The Old LA Zoo was first constructed in 1912 on a very low budget. This was a sign that the zoo would later have many issues and mishaps throughout its time.

It was said to have housed about 15 animals, ranging from bears and bobcats to ostriches and monkeys.

Some of the issues of the zoo were that animals would escape and there were also drainage issues that almost got the pace shut down. They had also fed the bobcats horse meat, which made a lot of them die.

Throughout the decades, there would be more funds to expand the zoo. In 1949,  there were over 1,000 animals. Cages were crowded and it was difficult to build on such a bad platform.

There were always rumors of animal mistreatment, which constantly put them in a bad spotlight.

In 1958, there was a lot of support to fund a new zoo. The Old LA Zoo didn’t end up being as great as it was supposed to be after all.

When Was it Abandoned?

The Old LA Zoo was abandoned in August of 1966. The new Los Angeles Zoo opened in December of 1966 with more than 2,000 animals and is currently a popular destination.

Why Was it Abandoned?

The Old LA Zoo was abandoned because of issues such as overcrowded cages, animal mistreatment, and other structural flaws. It was officially closed in 1966.

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Hello, There!

We’re Monica and Phillip. Just like you, we share a passion for the outdoors and our beautiful state of California. After many years of exploring amazing and hidden places, we thought we’d share them with you! We hope this blog shows you tons of new CA adventures!