Planespotting in Clutter’s Park

Clutter's Park — Los Angeles Explorers Guild

Planespotting in Clutter’s Park

For fans of airplanes, there’s no better spot in Los Angeles to see planes fly out of LAX than Clutter’s Park in El Segundo.

Clutter’s Park: An Unbeatable View of LAX

As city parks go, Clutter’s Park isn’t an especially attractive park. In fact, it’s barely a park at all. It consists of a narrow strip of land on the border of El Segundo and the city of Los Angeles, about 650 feet wide and merely 15 feet deep — just slightly wider than the sidewalk.

But what makes it appealing is its proximity to Los Angeles International Airport — it’s just about 1,500 feet from the southern-most runway at LAX.

You can clearly see the action at LAX from Clutter’s Park. Photo from the author’s collection.

Clutter’s Park sits on top of a small hill and offers an excellent view of the runways along the southern side of Los Angeles International Airport. While it’s not the best place to see planes land (that would be across the airport at the In-N-Out on Sepulveda), it offers an unparalleled view of planes taking off out of LAX.

A plane taking off from LAX. Photo from the author’s collection.

A Short History of Clutter’s Park

This narrow piece of parkland was formerly known as Imperial Hill (so named because it’s a hill between the Imperial Highway and Imperial Avenue).


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The public space was named Clutter’s Park after Jim Clutter, a former El Segundo City Councilor who lobbied heavily to keep the noise from planes taking off and landing at LAX from ruining “El Segundo’s small-town quality of life.”

Jim Clutter’s Legacy. Photo from the author’s collection.

In 1988, angry that some pilots didn’t honor the airport’s noise abatement policy of flying out over the Pacific Ocean to gain altitude before turning back over land, Clutter spurred on an effort to spell out the phrase “Unsafe Area for Jets” in 12-foot high letters on the slope of Imperial Hill where both pilots and passengers could readily see it.

This, naturally didn’t make people — particularly those pilots and passengers — happy. I’m not sure about the outcome of Clutter’s fear-of-flying-inducing campaign, but it apparently worked. Because of his efforts, the park atop Imperial Hill was re-named Clutter’s Park in his honor.

And there goes another plane. Let’s hope it doesn’t make an early turn. Photo from the author’s collection.

Visiting Clutter’s Park

When it comes to planespotting, there’s not really a bad time to visit Clutter’s Park. Because the park faces north, for most of the day the sun is behind you and you’ll get well-lit, glare-free views of the planes transiting to and from LAX.

The park opens one hour before sunrise and closes at 10 PM each day, so you can easily take in some night-time take-offs and landings. And while there’s no gates or locks on the park, there is a sign saying you’ll be cited if you visit when the park is closed.

The hours when Clutter’s Park is open to the public. Photo from the author’s collection.

The park offers five metal benches angled toward LAX for optimal planespotting, but these are often taken. So if you’re intent on watching planes for any length of time, you may want to pack your own comfortable chair.

There are also has four two-seat tables with built-in chess boards. So if you like planespotting and playing chess, Clutter’s Park is the place to be.

Clutter’s Park gets very busy on the weekends with crowds that line up along the length of the park. But oftentimes during the early hours on the weekdays the place is sparsely populated by only the most ardent airplane enthusiasts.

Parking in the area is strictly on the street, so it can be a challenge to find a convenient spot on the weekends (or on Mondays and Tuesdays during street cleaning hours).

An Alternative View of Clutter’s Park

If you like watching planes take off but can’t make it out to Clutter’s Park, you can still see all the action thanks to Kevin from Airline Videos.

He posts up at Clutter’s Park on a regular basis with a video camera and a microphone. He’s not there every day, but when he is, he usually stays for the entire time the park is open.

That means for something like 10 hours straight Kevin live-streams planes taking off and landing at the Airline Videos Live YouTube channel. Thousands of planespotters from all over the world tune in to watch the stream and listen to Kevin’s fact-filled banter about airplanes delivered with grace of a seasoned news correspondent.


Planespotting at Clutter’s Park


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Tom Fassbender is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. When not exploring Los Angeles, he’s been known to enjoy a cup of coffee or two. You can find him at Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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