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Along the Anza Trail

CATEGORY: Historical Archives |
On May 29, 2015

Spring 2012

Working with the National Park Service to enhance a Griffith Park asset



The year is 1775. In October, forty soldiers and 240 civilians under the command of Captain Juan Bautista de Anza set out from the presidio at Tubac, Arizona to colonize present-day San Jose. In January 1776, they pass through the future pueblo of Los Angeles and camp on the river at a place called El Portezuelo. Later, one soldier, Corporal Jose Vicente Feliz, will receive a land grant that includes El Portezuelo. It will become known as Rancho Los Feliz and, ultimately, Griffith Park.

Fast forward to 2012. With a technical assistance grant from the National Park Service Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance (NPS-RTCA) program, Friends of Griffith Park has embarked on a project to improve Griffith Park’s Anza Trail. We are excited to be serving as Project Cooperator for a primary planning team that includes the Department of Recreation and Parks and the NPS-RTCA. The outcome will be a link in a well-defined Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail stretching from Nogales, Arizona to the San Francisco Bay. Along the trail, the National Park Service envisions that users will “experience landscapes similar to those the expedition saw; learn the stories of the expedition, its members, and descendants… and appreciate the extent of the accomplishments of Juan Bautista de Anza and his colonizers.”

Part of President Obama’s “America’s Great Outdoors” Initiative

Elevating prospects for success is the project’s recent mention in President Obama’s “America’s Great Outdoors” (AGO) Fifty-State Report. The report highlights two projects in every state as local grassroots conservation efforts of significant value. In California, one of these projects is trail improvements along the Los Angeles River including Griffith Park and the Anza Trail. Its inclusion helps positions the project as a priority endeavor for the State and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Current trail conditions, challenges and opportunities

Horseback riders, hikers and runners routinely enjoy Griffith Park’s segment of the Anza Trail — a distance of approximately 4 miles. It can be accessed at the Park’s northwest end opposite the Equestrian Center or at its southeast terminus near the Pony/Train Ride concession at the Park’s Los Feliz entrance. In some places it passes through remnants of oak woodland communities and is shaded by heritage oaks and ancient sycamores. Elsewhere, it skirts picnic grounds and Wilson-Harding Golf Course offering views of the Park’s foothills. Be forewarned that some sections of the trail are less than ideal and that problems with upkeep and freeway noise will affect enjoyment.

Friends of Griffith Park is seeking to improve the overall trail experience. Beyond resolving maintenance issues and making needed repairs, potential improvements may include adding interpretive signage to promote the trail’s educational value, creating signage to call attention to its heritage trees and plants, improving the landscape, adding noise mitigation measures and promoting connectivity to other Anza Trail units. We are at the beginning of the planning process, but if we do our work well, the Anza Trail will one day become a rewarding experience to discover and enjoy in Griffith Park.



  1. Phyl van Ammers

    Inasmuch as no one agrees on where the Anza trail was, there probably will not be any signs or even any numbers on an online map. There were 5 places in the LA area with either the name Portezuelo or a garbled version of the name.

    The Anza Society has the campground as Universal Studios. Alan K. Brown, author of a book on Anza, has the camp site at the Hollywood Bowl. W.W. Robinson declared it was in Burbank. Vladimir Guerrero wrote it was in Glendale. H.E. Bolton described the camp site as at the edge of Griffith Park near where the 134 passes.

    It could not have been any of those places.

    • Kathryn Louyse

      There’s been a variety of debates concerning the actual area where the de Anza party camped. Thanks for tossing a few more into the mix.

      And in response to your earlier post, the Los Feliz Rancho (6,647 acres) was far larger than that given to LA City by Griffith J. and Tina (Mary Agnes Christine) Griffith which was 3,015 acres. The Park has grown and now inhabits 4,310 acres. At the time of the bequest, Griffith retained the water rights, a very smart move.

  2. Phyl van Ammers

    The Los Feliz rancho was bigger than Griffith Park. After the 1858 Hansen survey, the rancho was smaller than what Maria Ygnacia Eustacia Verdugo claimed in her petition to Governor Micheltorena. Nonetheless, the shrunken rancho was still much bigger than just today’s Griffith Park.

    The Anza expedition did not camp on the river. Father Font, diarist for the expedition, wrote there was adequate water but little — all the horses and mules and people had to drink water. If Anza had camped on the river, there would have been a LOT of water on February 21, 1776, during the rainy season.

  3. carolyn wedt

    Has Anza trail been marked in such a way that one could follow it from its entry into Griffith park to its exit from park? It seems that there could be online map with numbers on it. Then signs with corresponding numbers would be
    posted on route. This would avoid cost of elaborate signs. One quick idea. It would also be good to have city markers like near me where trail comes out of park and goes on


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