In a state largely known for its breathtaking coastlines and stretches of sandy beaches, Los Angeles is also home to some of the greatest views on the West Coast. California’s largest city is a sprawling urban center that spans from the San Fernando Valley in the north to Long Beach in the south — and the areas in between are packed with golden vistas and palm-tree-lined expanses. In case you’re looking for the best spot to photograph the L.A. skyline, here are a few options to get you started.

Griffith Observatory

Perched on the southern side of Mount Hollywood, Griffith Observatory is a facility that has garnered serious attention since its construction in the 1930s. Inside, the Observatory features exhibits that focus on various aspects of science, but more specifically, astronomy (keep in mind that, though entrance to the Observatory is free, some installations do charge a fee). Outside, you’ll find panoramic views that stretch all the way to the Pacific Ocean — if you can see that far through the haze. For photos that include the Observatory against the Los Angeles streets, head up the trail directly behind the Observatory’s parking lot, which will lead you up an easy trail to the perfect vantage point.

Photo by Michael Zikry
Photo by Michael Zikry
Photo by Callie and Leo
Photo by Amanda Weisman

 

Runyon Canyon Park

Just 10 miles north of Downtown Los Angeles, nestled along the famous Mulholland Drive, is a 160-acre park called Runyon Canyon. When planning your visit, consider the various park entrances — the easiest one to access is off of Mulholland, but parking is limited, while the best workout option is to trek from Hollywood and hike to the top. Once you’ve found your way to Indian Rock (the park’s highest point), you’ll be greeted with an expansive view that stretches in all directions.

Photo by Ruslan Ozerin

Elysian Park

Carrying the seasoned title as the oldest park in Los Angeles, Elysian also garners a spot on another list as the city’s second largest (at 604 acres). Located within walking distance of Dodger Stadium, the park offers a somewhat moderately challenging hike to Angel’s Point, where you can see both the downtown area and the neighboring San Gabriel Mountains. As a bonus, this locale is also a  great place for watching the sun set!

Photo by Britton Perelman

Hollywood Bowl Overlook

The Hollywood Bowl Overlook is home to arguably the city’s most iconic view — especially at sunrise. Following a steep and twisting drive up Mulholland, hop out of the car and head up the short set of stairs to enjoy the stunning scenes of Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley, and, if it’s a clear day, Catalina Island. Those who prefer to stop by on summer nights may even be treated to the faint sounds of concert music from the Hollywood Bowl below.

Photo by Britton Perelman

 

Mulholland Drive

When it comes to Mulholland Drive, there isn’t a single view to write home about, so to speak, but rather a combination of sights. Driving this famed, curvy road embodies what it’s like to drive through California itself — winding  through divine landscapes, warm mountainous air, and views of the ocean. There are plenty of places to pull off the road and snap a few photos, as well — you’ll be able to see down into Hollywood, over the Valley, and to the Pacific. This drive has inspired many artists, giving life to songs, books, and even a movie. Buckle up, take your time, and enjoy the ride.

Echo Park Lake

Photo by Tiffany Bell

Filled with lotus flowers and a blossoming fountain, Echo Park Lake has provided the surrounding neighborhood with a refurbished hangout spot. But the park also provides a unique vantage point of the city’s skyline, one lined with picturesque palm trees. If you get the angle just right, you can shoot the buildings of DTLA. reflected in the water. And, seeing as it’s only a quick 10-minute drive from the downtown area, it’s definitely worth a stop.

City Hall Observation Deck

For a view of the Los Angeles cityscape within the downtown area, head to the City Hall Observation Deck. Not only is admission free (though parking is not), but the building’s 27th floor offers refreshing views of the city’s core landmarks, including Grand Park, Union Station, and the San Gabriel Mountains. It’s a great way to see DTLA with a view that won’t disappoint.

Cover photo by Ryan Longnecker

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Brad Donaldson is a writer and editor proudly based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Although his roots are in Canada, his desire to see more of the world frequently takes him away from home. His work, both as an editor and writer, has appeared in local newspapers and publications, most recently showcased through the co-founding of his former university's inaugural creative writing journal.