Long before the Spanish settlers arrived to settle near the banks of the Los Angeles River, Native Americans were the only inhabitants. It is estimated that the first Native Americans came to the area approximately 10,000 years ago. The Native Americans established villages, known as rancherias, throughout the countryside. One of these settlements was within the boundaries of what was to become Rancho Los Feliz. Archeological surveys have found evidence of a substantial rancheria that existed in the mouth of Fern Dell Canyon in Griffith Park. The traditional name of this village is not known, but the inhabitants were Gabrielinos. This name was given by the Spanish because of the Native Americans' association with the San Gabriel Mission. When Gaspar de Portolà traveled through the vicinity in 1769, his expedition encountered members of this village.
The 6,647-acre (27 km2) Rancho Los Feliz, one of the first land grants in California, was granted to Corporal José Vicente Feliz. An old adobe house built in the 1830s by his heirs still stands on Crystal Springs Drive in Griffith Park. Other sections of the rancho were developed and became the communities of Los Feliz and Silver Lake.
Rancho Los Feliz had a succession of owners after the Feliz family. One owner, Griffith J. Griffith, donated over half of the ranch to the city of Los Angeles. This ranch became one of the largest city-owned parks in the country.
In 1882, Colonel Griffith acquired 4,071 acres (16 km2) of Rancho Los Feliz. The Lick estate still owned the southwest portion of the rancho and there developed the Lick Tract, which later became a part of Hollywood. Griffith never served in any branch of the U.S. armed forces, but he was given the honorary title of colonel by influential friends in the California National Guard. The title remained a permanent fixture to his name. In 1900, there were only 23 properties in Los Feliz.
Griffith died on July 6, 1919, at the age of 67. Griffith bequeathed $700,000 and his Los Feliz area to the city of Los Angeles to be used for additions to Griffith Park.