Free enamel pin when you buy any two Atlas Obscura products. Shop now.

Notes From the Field: Abandoned LA Zoo

Tucked into a hillside in Griffith Park, dozens of abandoned animal enclosures sit quietly rusting away. 

Abandoned Los Angeles Zoo - Atlas Obscura

Once home to Los Angeles’ second animal park, the Griffith Park Zoo was founded in 1912 as an improvement on the facilities of the 1885 Eastlake Zoo. Expanded in the 1930s as part of a Works Progress Administration project, it became clear by the 1950s that it was hopelessly outdated, and its tiny enclosures were finally abandoned in 1966, when a new zoo was opened nearby with more modern amenities for its residents.

We went exploring on a recent rainy day, and found the park blissfully empty and quiet.

Abandoned Los Angeles Zoo - Atlas Obscura

Abandoned Los Angeles Zoo - Atlas Obscura

It’s not all rusty bars and creepy enclosures — the zoo is centered around a lovely parkland with winding trails.

Abandoned Los Angeles Zoo - Atlas Obscura

Abandoned Los Angeles Zoo - Atlas Obscura

You may recognize this scenic spot from the movie “Anchorman.”

Abandoned Los Angeles Zoo - Atlas Obscura

Then again, some of it is rusted bars and creepy old enclosures. Here, a stairway leads up the hillside to a zookeepers’ staging area.

Abandoned Los Angeles Zoo - Atlas Obscura

Rusting bars on the front of old enclosures line the walkways.

Abandoned Los Angeles Zoo - Atlas Obscura

The old barred enclosures seem shockingly small and exposed compared to today’s zoo habitats.

Abandoned Los Angeles Zoo - Atlas Obscura

Abandoned Los Angeles Zoo - Atlas Obscura

Abandoned Los Angeles Zoo - Atlas Obscura

The trails above the animal enclosures offer a lovely view over Los Angeles.

Although the tiny enclosures are a sad reminder of early zoos’ treatment of animals, they also give a rare glimpse of past norms, now mostly destroyed to make way for more modern facilities.

GO EXPLORE:

The Old Zoo Picnic Area is located in Griffith Park. It’s a bit out-of-the-way and hard to spot, but once you find it, it is open and easy to explore and is actually a terrific spot for a picnic. Watch out for coyotes.

OLD ZOO PICNIC AREA, Los Angeles, California

All photos by Annetta Black/Atlas Obscura


One of the most important things to us here at the Atlas is to always keep traveling and discovering. Notes from the Field are first person reports from the most inspiring trips taken by the Atlas Obscura Team. Read more Notes From the Field here>