view of the Hollywood sign from the top of Mount
Calif. ó The first rule of Hollywood Sign Hike Club? Donít
talk about the Hollywood Sign Hike Club, or so it would
seem for anyone who attempts to search online for the most
direct hiking route up to the famed nine white mountaintop
letters that spell H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D.
official website for the sign, hollywoodsign.org, does not
present the most direct, shortest route to the sign.
Instead, it suggests several longer hikes that begin far
from the sign, including from Griffith Park Observatory.
though the official site wonít tell you, thereís a
much quicker, more direct route launching from the
neighborhood beneath the sign. But the folks who live near
that hiking trail entrance donít want you driving up
their street, North Beachwood Drive, or parking in front
of their homes. Itís a classic Los Angelenos vs.
reported in November 2014 that a Los Angeles city
councilman even managed to get GPS company Garmin and
Google on board with changing directions to the sign.
ahead, go to Google Maps and type "Pittsburgh to
Hollywood sign" or any other directions, and youíll
see they steer you miles away from Beachwood, instead
directing would-be hikers to Griffith Park Observatory,
and then a gray dashed line stretches from there to the
sign atop Mount Lee. (Note: To make matters more
confusing, Mount Hollywood is a different hill
savvy hikers donít have to take the longer observatory
route. They can enjoy the Hollywood sign up close and
personal, embarking from the North Beachwood Drive
trailhead, if they time it right. Two key variables to
keep in mind:
The park opens at 5 a.m.
Parking on North Beachwood is prohibited between 8 a.m.
and 6 p.m. on prime hiking days: Saturday, Sunday and
with this information, I set out to make the hike on a
Sunday in mid-August between 6 a.m. and when parking
restrictions kick in at 8 a.m.
up North Beachwood Drive, framed by palm and eucalyptus
trees on either side of the road, I spy the sign through
morning haze, beckoning. I park close to the trailhead
just before 6 a.m. The first thing I see: A coyote
prancing down the sidewalk. Had the neighbors sent him? I
keep my distance; he keeps his.
a metal gate where North Beachwood Drive dead-ends and itís
unlocked from 5 a.m. to sunset, according to the Los
Angeles Times. I slip through it and follow the rutted
dirt road that leads to Sunset Ranch Hollywood, which
offers horseback rides (on one website a hiker suggests,
"follow the scent of horses" and youíll know
youíre on the right path). Soon enough I see the sign
for Hollyridge Trail on the right, and I begin my ascent.
guides warn Hollyridge Trail can be congested on weekends,
but at 6 a.m. itís empty and peaceful. Perhaps too
peaceful when you come upon this warning sign:
gingerly to avoid potential rattlesnakes and horse manure,
I venture on as the trail grows steeper and my huffing and
puffing becomes more pronounced.
making a hard left turn from Hollyridge Trail to westbound
Mulholland Fire Road, and after rounding a few bends, I
spot the sign. Once you reach Mount Lee Drive, the rest of
the trip is on a paved road.
after switchback, higher and higher you climb until youíre
riding the ridge of Mount Lee, which offers views to the
south of Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles and views
northward toward Burbank, including the sight of the Walt
takes only 35 minutes to make it to the "H" in
Hollywood, but for people thinking they can stand in front
of the letters for a selfie, be warned: The trail leads
you to a spot above and behind the Hollywood sign; tall
fencing prevents hikers from getting down underneath it.
sign was erected in 1923 as a sales tool for a nearby
housing development. At that point the sign was longer,
spelling out the developmentís name, Hollywoodland. By
1949 the sign was in disrepair and faced a possible
tear-down when the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce paid to
spruce it up and remove the letters spelling
the late 1970s, the original was torn down and replaced
with the sign visitors see today.
view from the top of Mount Lee is smoggy early that
morning and surprisingly there are a few vehicles going up
and down Mount Lee Drive, workers arriving for and leaving
from work at a communications transmission tower located
atop the peak above the sign.
begin my descent at 6:50 a.m., and the view on the trip
down proves almost as worthwhile as on the hike up because
I notice landmarks I missed the first time, including a
view of Griffith Park Observatory.
my way up, I encountered just a few people: a gaggle of
teens walking down, a few men and women jogging up. On the
way back down, the trail is more active with a few
families and more joggers and hikers heading for Mount
Lee, including 27-year-old Mark Henson. He routinely
begins his march to the top about three miles farther
south of the trailhead.
an easy hike if you start from here, but I start at
Hollywood Boulevard and take it all the way up and carry a
35-pound pack," says the North Hollywood resident.
"I love the workout. The first time I went to see the
Hollywood sign up close. Now I just do it to get the blood
says the smog often lifts later in the day, but depending
on the time of year a visitor makes the trek, it can get
some water," he advises, before adding, "if
California has any left."
make it back to my parking spot by 7:30 a.m. On the way
out through the metal gate I see a security guard who hadnít
been there when I began the hike. Heís hired by the City
of Los Angeles to shoo away any tourists trying to park
during the no-parking hours.
also have another encounter with the coyote; Iím now
convinced he was hired by the neighbors to scare off
tourists. I look at him, the coyote looks at me. He turns
and trots up a hillside and disappears into the brush.
there: Directions on Google Maps wonít get you to the
nearest trailhead. Take Franklin Avenue to North Beachwood
Drive and go north on North Beachwood until it dead-ends
(approximately at 3400 N. Beachwood Drive, Griffith Park,
Los Angeles, CA 90068). Go through the metal security gate
at the end of North Beachwood and follow the signage for
Hollyridge Trail. Thereís one switchback early on, a
hard left turn, that it might be easy to miss. Itís
where Hollyridge Trail meets Mulholland Fire Road. Before
embarking on the hike, consult directions at
where the 11th photo in the collection shows that
restrictions: Thereís no parking on North Beachwood
Drive from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
But if you get there by 6 a.m., a hiker of average skill
and in average shape should be able to ascend and descend
Mount Lee by 8 a.m.
difficulty: Moderate. Be sure to carry water and watch for
rattlesnakes. Wearing sneakers is fine; you donít need
special hiking shoes.
to hiking: Sunset Ranch Hollywood (www.sunsetranchhollywood.com)
offers horseback rides to views of the Hollywood sign from
below; rides do not go to the top of Mount Lee.