An Urban Hike In Los Angeles: Seeing The Hollywood Sign Up Close
Guest post by Lesly Simmons
The Hollywood sign in Los Angeles is a total tease as far as landmarks go. On a clear day it is visible from across the city, with massive letters that serve as everything from a navigational aid to a photo backdrop. On television and in movies it’s often seen in the same way–huge and far off in the distance. But in truth, it’s actually quite easy to see the sign up close and enjoy some incredible urban hiking along the way, as my husband Jole and I discovered earlier this summer.
Located in Griffith Park in the Hollywood Hills, there are several starting points for a hike leading to the sign. We chose the Hollyridge Trail off Sunset Boulevard as our point of attack. In true California fashion you really need to drive to get to most of the trail heads–they are buried in the neighborhoods below the sign, so (gasp!) walking or public transportation is inconvenient if not impossible. (Another convenient starting point is Griffith Observatory).
Now before you assume this hike is anything like the rest of LA–easily navigated, well labeled, and with plenty of resources along the way–let me warn you this is not the case. There is one vague sign at the start of the trail, and that was the last sign I saw along the way. Come stocked with plenty of water and snacks, because there are no stops along the way and it can get very hot, especially later in the day.
Once we had our route mapped we got an early start and got a parking space on the side of the road quite close to the start of the trail, one of the benefits of beating the crowds. There were few other people around and we had the trail mostly to ourselves and to the folks exploring it on horseback from the stables at the bottom of the hill.
This is not an easy hike–for most people its more than manageable, but it takes about 40 minutes (or nearly two hours if you miss the turnoff like we did), and there are some steep stretches. Right away a steep hill greeted us, setting the stage for the rest of the trip.
And yes, we missed the turn leading to the sign, and found ourselves in a completely different section of Griffith Park, where we got a nice overhead view of Burbank, ran into a crew of intense mountain bikers, and made our hike much longer and more strenuous than we planned. Again, there are no signs and while we had a basic map it clearly didn’t help, and even the GPS on my phone was of no use. Luckily we packed well and felt confident to head back and get on the right track to the sign.
As we made our way back the trail was much more crowded–a good thing because we had plenty of people to follow in the right direction. It was also a lot hotter, which wasn’t so good. And we still had almost an hour of walking ahead of us. Again, the trail is relatively steep at times, and there are some long stretches of a gradual incline that are almost worse! As we approached the summit there was only one way to approach the sign as we came around the bend. And a 15’ fence topped with barbed wire immediately greeted us!
The Hollywood sign has been vandalized a million times and a few years ago the trust that preserves it put in some serious security. In addition to the fence, there are security cameras and a helicopter that circles overhead on a regular basis. From this vantage point we were behind the sign–there are other hiking trails that lead to different points and other views of the sign at different angles, but this is the highest spot to experience it. And even from behind, and through a fence, it is quite impressive.
What began as a 40 minute hike ended up being closer to 2.5 hours, and by the end we were tired, sweaty and starving, but also exhilarated to been so close to one of the world’s most recognizable landmarks. Growing up in Southern California I always focused on the beach as my fun-in-the-sun destination. Proving that it’s never too late to learn something new, I now have a new respect for the LA’s trails as well.