Locals know the best unofficial Hollywood Sign viewing spot is is from the top of the Home Depot parking garage on Sunset Boulevard. But if you want an experience, the most rewarding option is to go for a hike in the oak-studded hills of Griffith Park.
Thanks to an unusually cool, rainy spring, the trails are thick with vegetation. As the summer goes on, the shrubs and grasses will dry out, turning the hillsides a more golden hue.
Below, a list of the best hikes, along with some non-hiking alternatives. (Unfortunately, the easiest and most popular hiking route, the one from Beachwood Drive in Beachwood Canyon, was closed to hikers in 2017.)
Installed in 1923, the sign originally spelled out “Hollywoodland”—it was a massive advertisement for a new housing development below. It quickly became linked to the film industry, when, In 1932, an actress jumped from the “H” to her death.
After the neighborhood was built, the letters were left to rot for decades. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce eventually saw the sign’s potential, and in the 1970s, it was dug up and rebuilt—only to become LA’s most recognizable symbol.
If choosing to hike, take a look at this city map of the park before setting out. It pinpoints the sign and other landmarks, identifies roads, trails, and summits, and includes parking information.
Also: Pack sunscreen and plenty of water. Some of the trails are quite steep and have little shade. It’s especially important to dress and pack appropriately in the hot summer and fall months.
1. Walk from Lake Hollywood Park
One of the best Hollywood Sign-viewing experiences can be found at Lake Hollywood Park, an idyllic public space with views of Lake Hollywood. There is street parking along Canyon Lake Drive that’s never restricted (although ride-hailing is always recommended so you don’t have to deal with it) and a decent vista that doesn’t require any hiking at all.
Pro tip: There is a beautiful new hiking map of Griffith Park that has detailed trail information. There are also helpful signs with mileage parkers and trail names in the park (although they can only be found on the most popular trails).
If you want to get closer to the sign, walk up Mulholland Highway until it turns to dirt, which will take you to the Deronda gate (technically you’ll walk behind the gate and right into the park). Once inside the park there are plenty more great views, or you can hike the 1-mile, somewhat-strenuous route to the top of Mt. Lee, which puts you behind and above the sign.
2. Use the Deronda gate
This access point is located at the intersection of Deronda Drive and Mulholland Highway. Don’t plan to park here on the weekends: Parking is permit-restricted on Saturday, Sunday, and holidays. To get to Deronda, your best bet is to use a ride-hailing service or take the DASH to Beachwood Village (buses run approximately 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily except on major holidays) and climb the historic public staircases. You can also start your hike at the Hollywood and Vine Red Line station, which is a 35-minute walk to Beachwood Village.
When you get to the Deronda gate, don’t be deterred by the signs saying there’s no access. There’s an ominous-looking keypad on the door, but it has a timed lock that automatically opens from sunrise to sunset. You can take selfies just inside the park by the Tyrolian Tank, a water tank that offers excellent views, or keep hiking to the top of Mt. Lee.
3. Try the Wonder View Trail
The Wonder View Trail is one of the newest ways to access the Hollywood Sign, thanks to the city’s 2010 acquisition of Cahuenga Peak, making it the easternmost peak in Griffith Park. Park on Lake Hollywood Drive—watch parking restrictions, as always—then head up what becomes a very steep ridgeline (not for inexperienced hikers or those afraid of heights).
This is one of the shorter routes to the sign since you are approaching from the back (it will take you less than two hours round-trip). Instagrammers beware: The views are not optimal for photographing the sign, since you’re always looking at it from the side or behind.
4. Hike from Bronson Canyon
The Bronson Canyon entrance to the park at the end of Canyon Drive is being touted as thenew access point to the Hollyridge Trail due to two features: a parking lot and public bathrooms. Yes, those amenities are here, and it’s a fun hike to the sign from here because you can also visit the Bronson Caves (and there’s a good view from there, too).
But fair warning: The hike to the sign is about three hours round-trip. It’s also a long way from transit, and the Hollywood Sign isn’t visible for much of it. So this is a good spot for car-owning, fit hikers. Selfie-seekers seeking instant gratification might be better served by a different location. Unless you really like caves.
5. Trek from Fern Dell
For another picturesque but more difficult route, start your hike from Fern Dell Drive, the pretty, creek-meandering Griffith Park entrance located at the north end of Western Avenue. The good thing about Fern Dell is that it’s relatively transit-accessible; the Red Line’s Hollywood/Western station is a very pleasant 20-minute walk away. If you drive, try to find a spot near the charming Trails Cafe, where you can fuel up on tasty pastries, plus get water and use the bathrooms.
To view the sign, take the trail that’s etched into the left side of the canyon, the West Observatory Trail. It’s fairly steep, but once on the trail, you’ll be rewarded with some pretty spectacular views of the sign early on, just keep looking to your left.
There’s another reason to take this route: The trail leads to the Griffith Observatory. You can eventually work your way to the Hollywood Sign from the observatory, via the Mt. Hollywood and Mulholland trails, but it’ll be a long trip.
6. Take DASH to Griffith Observatory
This is the city’s “preferred” viewing area, a grassy lawn outside Griffith Observatory. Now the DASH bus runs to the Observatory from the Vermont/Sunset Metro Red Line station every 20 minutes, from noon to 10 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends.
Pro tip: Google Maps can help you navigate the transit and parking directions, and also offers fairly accurate point-to-point walking directions in the park and streets around it, but make sure you select “walking” not “driving” directions for those, otherwise requesting Hollywood Sign directions will send you to Griffith Observatory every time.
This is an especially hassle-free option because parking now costs $4 per hour at the Observatory (and congestion in the park on the weekends can be horrific).
The view from here is good, but if you want to hike to the sign from the Observatory, beware: The sign is deceptively far away. However, taking transit gives you the option to ride DASH up to the Observatory, hike to the sign, then hike back down to another Red Line station or the Beachwood DASH.
7. Go to Hollywood and Highland
If you want a locals’ experience, this is not it. But, according to the Hollywood Sign Trust, the nonprofit that preserves and protects the sign, the best way to see the sign is at the mall. Yes, the organization wants you to take your selfies on the fourth-floor viewing deck at the Hollywood and Highland tourist trap. The view is unobstructed, if distant, and it’s the most low-impact (and ADA-compliant) journey.
Plus, there’s plenty of parking and a Red Line station right beneath your feet.
Originally posted by curbed.com. Written by Jenna Chandler & Alissa Walker, Photo by Liz Kuball.