Close to the Western Canyon entrance to Griffith Park, this wooded glen was created on land donated to the City of Los Angeles by Colonel Griffith J. Griffith in 1896. In the early 20th century, health-seekers sipped the natural spring waters there, which were thought to have curative powers. The meandering dirt footpaths lined with concrete handrails and bridges fashioned to look like wood were built in the 1910s, while Griffith Park’s Superintendent and plantsman Frank Shearer added native and imported ferns through the 1920s, giving the garden its name. Ferndell was enlarged further by artisans and workers from the Works Progress Administration’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression. The CCC laborers built stone-lined water features, picnic areas, benches, masonry retaining walls and railings in the National Park Service’s signature rustic style.
At twenty acres, Ferndell features a quarter-mile trail that loops around a spring-fed ravine under the dense canopy of mature sycamores, alders, spruces, oaks, redwoods and pines. More than 50 fern species cover the ground alongside tropical plants, succulents and flowers. The garden includes tree-shaded ponds and a brook with numerous, small cascades. A spur of the looped trail heads east to the Griffith Observatory. The verdant landscape fuses natural and designed features into a unique transition area between Griffith Park’s manicured and wilderness zones, while offering a peaceful escape from the city. Ferndell contributed to the city’s designation of Griffith Park as a Historic-Cultural Monument in 2009.