This park was born when LA River advocates and parents in nearby Glassell Park and Cypress Park sued the city of Los Angeles, Union Pacific and a developer to prevent more industrial development at the former freight switching yard. According to Raul Macias of the Anahuak Youth Soccer Association, these communities, just north of downtown, urgently needed more parks.
Today the site, known as Rio Los Angeles State Park, features athletic fields, a playground, a picnic area, and a short, interpretive trail through an "oxbow" of willows, sycamores and other native plants. On a recent visit, I spotted a flock of meadow larks dashing around a soccer field. I was wowed by a sunset over Elysian Park, and a good look at the Verdugo Mountains (to the north). Despite the name, this park is near--but not next to--Los Angeles River. According to The River Project, the hope is the state will one day buy 62 adjacent, riverfront acres from Union Pacific.
My son loved the play structures here, as well as the exuberant little kids, and those fascinating preteens on skateboards. On weekdays, kids can watch freight and passenger trains running on nearby tracks. If you live fairly close, this is a nice place to take younger kids to play. (It's about 2 miles from the 110, 5 and 2 freeways.) I don't consider it a hiking destination. The trail is tiny. If you live on one side of town, and your friend with kids lives on the other, this is a great place to meet. The park is staffed and--despite the tough reputation of the surrounding community--I consider it safe. It's also clean and well cared for by LA City Parks and community volunteers.
1900 San Fernando Road
From the 110 freeway, exit Avenue 26. Drive north until the road ends at San Fernando. Continue about a mile to Macon Road, and turn left into the park. There is a Goldline station 1.3 miles away at Ave 26.