Admittedly, I didn’t know the Hollywood Sign hike existed, or rather, was legal until last week, and I’ve lived in LA for four years. I could have sworn I went on a horseback riding tour up there like six years ago, and the instructor said it was illegal to go up, but now I realize that she was probably just referring to touching the actual sign, which has a monitored fence around it.
IMPORTANT UPDATE! Unfortunately a ton of residents at the base of Beachwood Canyon Complained about all the people parking there to do the hike, so the easy/main entrance is CLOSED indefinitely! Here are the remaining open hiking trails:
Coming up Mount Lee Drive from the top of Mulholland Highway, stay to the left through this junction (1.4 miles from the Innsdale Drive Trailhead).
Griffith Observatory Hike is the one I did recently and it was fairly easy, but a little tricky logistics-wise…see the update below!
The hike up to the area just above the sign is totally legal, totally easy, and totally awesome. I’m actually surprised that the Hollywood Sign hike isn’t more popular, but with Runyon Canyon closing for the summer, I’m sure it will start to be. Just to note, you won’t get to go in front of the actual sign, you’ll just get the close up view from behind it, and some close views of it from the sides. Another thing to note is that this is one of three different hikes; I’ll post the other two when I do them.
So here’s all of the info on how to drive to the starting point of the Hollywood Sign hike, how to get up to the top, and some photo tips to get shots like I did!
1. What Time To Go
I went during sunset and got some really awesome photos, and of course a beautiful display. Depending on the time of year, you should go one hour before sunset (just Google what time sunset is) to give yourself enough time to park and hike up. The only downside is that there will be rush hour traffic, and it’ll start to get cold afterwards.
Mid-day hikes are always nice too, and if it’s at the high-point in the day when the smog is burned off, you can get a clear shot, however the brightness may not highlight the sign and city as nicely. Don’t try to go at night. The sign doesn’t light up, it’s cold, obviously dark, and there are wild animals that could eat you.
2. How to Get to the Trail Head – THIS IS THE CLOSED ONE, DON’T TRY TO GO THIS WAY
The entrance to this Hollywood Sign trail is essentially straight up Beachwood Drive, about a mile or so north of Franklin Ave. You’ll see the Hollywood Sign as you drive north on Beachwood, so just make sure you stay to your left until you get to the end of the road.
Once it dead ends, start looking for parking along the roads, and pay attention to street signs. You’re going to be looking for something called Hollyridge Drive to park on, which will be on the right after you see a big gate for Sunset Ranch, which is where you’ll enter.
2. Griffith Park Entrance: OPEN
So after finding out the above route closed, I tried to find the second closest and easiest entrance and hike. There may be a shorter route, but this one is definitely the most straight forward.
Here’s the easiest way to do this if you’re driving there:
- Enter “The Greek Theater” into GPS, this is where you can park for free and are more likely to find parking! You can attempt parking near the Observatory since it’s closer to the hike entrance, but GOOD LUCK since it’s always packed.
- Bring QUARTERS so you can take the shuttle bus for 50 cents each way (you need exact change) up to the hike entrance, other wise it’s a 0.75 mile hike! The bus stop is across the street from the parking lot and runs every 15-30 mins. Be sure to tell the driver you want to be dropped off at the hike and not the Observatory!
3. Starting the “Mt. Hollywood Drive” Hike to the Hollywood Sign from GRIFFITH PARK
You should see a “Mt. Hollywood Drive” sign and a very confusing topographical map showing all the different trails.
It’s a pretty straight forward pathway and there are plenty of signs to keep you in the right direction, just remember to keep following the ones for the sign or Mt. Hollywood Drive. Your GPS also should work up there.
You’ll also see several places on the entrance where it says “Hollywood Sign” with a camera but different distances..these are the different viewpoints, with the farthest one being the closest you can get to it at 2.8 miles away. I’ll get to the different views next:
4. The Different Views of the Hollywood Sign
The deceiving entrance sign gives you three distances for the Hollywood Sign. The first is only 0.3 miles or a 7 minute walk, and you do get an awesome motivational view of the tiny sign across the mountains.
Take it all in because you have a 2 mile hike until the next major viewpoint! You’ll still get glimpses along the way though like these:
5. Sneaky Fork With NO SIGNS To the Two Best Views of The Hollywood Sign
After about 2 miles, keep your eyes open for a very obvious but random fork in the trail that for some reason has no signs indicating where it leads to…
This is where you have the option to keep going left for the closest FRONT view of the sign, or go right to get behind it.
6. The Paved Road Past Studio City Leading to the Back of the Hollywood Sign
If you turn right at that weird fork, it’ll be a dirt road that winds up and turns into an actual road.
The rest of the hike up to the Hollywood Sign will be paved, and you’ll get a great view of Studio City…even though there’s nothing really that cool to see there. Just keep following it until you round a corner and see a massive ‘H’…
7. Behind The Hollywood Sign
I thought the view from behind the massive letters was pretty cool, even though I wasn’t in front of it. It was hard to get a picture, I even tried half-way climbing the fence, but it was too hard, and I got scared of getting arrested… But then I realized…
8. Climb Up Above the Hollywood Sign
If you walk towards all of the scary radio towers and security cameras, you’ll notice a dirt area to the side of the peak. Follow it to the left because there’s a little pathway you can climb up that takes you to the very top of the peak, and directly above the Hollywood Sign!!!
9. Photo Tips
In my opinion, the lighting at sunset works best because of the tones, but a bright blue sky is always a nice depiction of Hollywood as well. Keep in mind that the sign does NOT light up at night, so yeah…don’t go then.
For my shots, I used a GoPro Hero 4 because they get that cool aerial angle that’s great for getting the whole sign in one shot. I’ll admit that my usual selfie stick broke, and I couldn’t get the whole sign using just my arm, so had some random tourists help me by holding my GoPro over me so I could get the whole thing, and be in it!
The panoramic option on your phone would also make for a really cool shot, and for the people who use it, SnapChat has its own Hollywood Sign filters!
During my RECENT HIKE I used my fancy Sony ar7iii and a heavy duty selfie stick to get this picture:
Which could only be achieved by having someone stand on the make-shift bench up there hold my camera like this: