This 4,310-acre expanse of mountainous, undeveloped land lies six miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, bordered by residential neighborhoods, freeways and the Los Angeles River. The peaks and canyons of the eastern tail of the Santa Monica Mountains define the character of this rectangular nature preserve. The park was named for Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, who donated 3,015 acres of his Rancho Los Feliz in 1896. In 1910 the woodland garden Ferndell was established on the park’s southern edge. In 1912, the Griffith Park Zoo was established and 100 acres in the northeast corner were set aside as an airfield. The aerodrome and 2,000-foot runway were used by regional aviation pioneers until it was demolished in 1939. The 9-hole Roosevelt Municipal Golf course, 18-hole Harding Golf Course, and 18-hole Griffith Park Golf Course were built in the 1920s. The Greek Theater, a 6,000-seat amphitheater, and the Griffith Observatory were built in 1930 and 1935. In 1966, the Griffith Park Zoo was closed and replaced by the 133-acre Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, sited atop the demolished aerodrome.
In 1978, SWA Group developed a master plan that emphasized recreation and nature conservation in keeping with Griffith's goals for the parcel.Today, hiking and bridle trails weave through the rugged interior in the shade of chaparral, oaks, walnuts, mountain mahogany, and sumac. Few interior roads disturb the woods, with park development concentrated to the south and east sides, including baseball diamonds, athletic fields, basketball and tennis courts, and a swimming pool. Griffith Park was designated a Historic-Cultural Monument in 2009, the largest municipal landmark in Los Angeles and in the U.S.