Tucked into a hillside in Griffith Park, dozens of abandoned animal enclosures sit quietly rusting away.
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in the 1930s as part of a Works Progress Administration project, it became clear by the 1950s that it was hopelessly outdated, and its tiny enclosures were finally abandoned in 1966, when a new zoo was opened nearby with more modern amenities for its residents.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.
It’s not all rusty bars and creepy enclosures — the zoo is centered around a lovely parkland with winding trails.
You may recognize this scenic spot from the movie “Anchorman.”
Then again, some of it is rusted bars and creepy old enclosures. Here, a stairway leads up the hillside to a zookeepers’ staging area.
Rusting bars on the front of old enclosures line the walkways.
The old barred enclosures seem shockingly small and exposed compared to today’s zoo habitats.
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.
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>