Since its erection in 1923, the Hollywood Sign has been a cultural icon for the Los Angeles region in the Hollywood Hills of the Santa Monica Mountains.
The sign looking over Hollywood, Los Angeles was first created as “Hollywoodland” to advertise a suburban housing development.
The Hollywood Sign has since been changed and simply stands as a well-known American landmark.
Aside from the history of the sign itself, this Hollywood Hills area offers excellent hiking trails for visitors or hikers interested in meandering through the rolling mountains of Santa Monica.
These hiking trails that were originally blazed by hooves and paws now bring visitors to natural and cultural wonders.
There are three different hiking trails you can take, some of which bring you right next to the Hollywood Sign for a close and personal experience of the historical sign itself.
In this article, we’ll outline everything you need to know about the Hollywood Sign Hike: which trail is the right fit for you and where to find the trailheads.
What is the History of the Hollywood Sign?
As mentioned above, the iconic letters on top of Mount Lee were four letters longer when the sign was put up, back in 1923.
“Hollywoodland” was the original sign as it advertised a developing neighborhood belong along Beachwood Drive and the surrounding areas.
The letters were originally 50-feet tall and were lit up by thousands of lightbulbs.
The sign was never meant to stay up for 100 years, it was purely supposed to be a temporary advertisement.
However, lo and behold, 100 years later, the sign still stands. A bit shorter than before but still as influential and inspiring.
Of course, the sign eventually deteriorated throughout the years and the original sign slowly became more of an eyesore than a icon.
In 1949, the sign was restored and shorted to “Hollywood”, then was revitalized again in 1979 to include the 45-foot tall lettering.
Although the Hollywood Sign lacks national landmark designation, this billboard advertisement is seen as an iconic cultural landmark for Americans and the world at large.
Hikes to Hollywood Sign
No matter what your experience level is, you’ll be able to find a Hollywood Sign Hike that suits you best.
To keep it simple, there are three Hollywood Sign hike trails: easy, moderate and difficult.
While the easy isn’t a total stroll in the park, the difficult isn’t Mount Everest, either.
Let’s go over these Hollywood Sign hike trails in more depth so you can better understand what we’re getting at.
Mt. Hollywood Trail
Otherwise known as the Mt. Hollywood Trail, this Hollywood Sign hike offers a wild side-angle view of the famous Hollywood Sign.
It has two different starting points, both of which are located in Griffith Park, known as the lungs and heart of Los Angeles due to its 6.5 square miles of protected wilderness.
The shorter hike of three miles begins at the Griffith Observatory Parking lot which can full up quickly on weekends but is free.
The second easy trail starts at the fire road intersecting Vermont Canyon Rd., which can be found just past the Greek Theatre. A bonus to this entrance is that visitors can access lots of street parking.
The most popular route up Mt. Hollywood is perfect for families with children. This trail starts at the Charlie Turner Trailhead, which was named after a longstanding park volunteer.
If you’re heading to this trailhead with children, it’ll be a relief to know that you’re allowed to use the bathrooms at the Observatory and ask questions to any park ranger about trail conditions.
Summer can be horrendously hot up at the trailhead and throughout the trail itself so make sure to bring lots of water. Also, flip flops or sandals are not recommended since this area is considered a snake country.
You’ll spot the Mt. Hollywood trailhead sign at the north end of the Griffith Observatory parking lot. Leashed dogs are allowed on this hike and unleashed dogs are quite common. For all you unleashed dog-owners out there, it’ll be a relief to know that it isn’t likely you’ll cross paths with the mountain lion, P-22, who crossed two freeways to make the wild lands of Griffith Park its home in 2012.
Although chances are if you do catch a glimpse of this hero cat, he’ll be less impressed by your existence than you’ll be of his.
On this hike, you’ll begin by walking up an easy and short ascent along the ridge as you shimmy through wild chaparral which possibly may be giving way to orange and purple wildflowers, if visiting in the spring, or red Toyon berries if hiking in the fall.
In under a mile, you’ll come to a pine tree grove called the Berlin Forest, which was planted by Berliners as a sign to honor to their connection with Los Angeles.
Along the way, you’ll find benches and tables, and of course, a gorgeous view of the Hollywood Sign, rimmed with pine trees.
However, you’re not finished just yet.
Continue up for another half-mile until you face a four-way crossroads. The left path takes you to the west side of Mt. Hollywood where you’ll meet a rest stop called Captain’s Roost. The path on the right will take you around to the east side where you’ll find a garden called Dante’s View.
Volunteers of Griffith Park have been planting native plants in and around the resting gardens to replenish them from the fire in 2007.
Both of these stop areas offer shade from the often harsh sun, along with views of the Griffith Observatory and views of the Sign and the city.
This 1,625 ft. summit is a quarter mile past both stops.
Canyon Drive Trail
If you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge than the easy hike, but aren’t looking for anything too strenuous, the moderate hike is probably perfect for you.
Also known as the Canyon Drive Trail, this route is also connected to Griffith Park and provides a couple fun side-trips besides a hike such as Adam West’s Bat Cave which is home of the Batmobile from the TV series in the 60s.
The trail provides incredible views of the city and finishes behind the Hollywood Sign. It also contains the rock quarry tunnel that was used in many films such as Megashark vs. Crocosaurus and 1925’s Riders of the Purple Sage.
If you haven’t watched Megashark vs. Crocosaurus before, however, don’t make a point of watching it just for the sake of the tunnel. You will regret it.
As for the hike itself, there’s nothing to regret. This 6.5-mile trek to the Sign climbs up over a thousand feet through many blossoming and bustling ecosystems, giving hikers a nature-fix and a decent workout.
If there aren’t many unleashed dogs around, you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of an assortment of wildlife such as coyotes, mule deer, rattlesnakes and bobcats. Eyes to the sky, you’ll also be able to see some Cooper Hawks and if you’re looking closely at the flora, you’ll be able to observe honey bees working away.
Make sure to schedule for 3 hours and bring lots of water with you.
The Cahuenga Peak Hike
The Cahuenga Peak Hike is considered the more difficult hike out of the three choices.
Across from Mt. Lee, this hiking trail winds through the newest 138-acre section of Griffith Park and provides perfect views of the Hollywood Reservoir as well as the San Fernando Valley.
The Cahuenga Peak Hike begins on the Aileen Getty Ridge Trail and encompasses the Hugh Hefner Overlook, both of which were named after two of the biggest community activists and benefactors of the area, who raised money to protect the land from a housing development plan in 2012.
The trail is less defined and more rugged in comparison to the Canyon Blvd. trail. It includes the Wisdom Tree and goes through an area where the aforementioned resident mountain lion, has been spotted.
The trail is for more for experienced hikers and is open from sunrise until sunset.
Before You Hit the Trail
Now that you have a better idea of which trail is best suited for you, it’s always important to be reminded of the hiking basics, no matter what type of hike you take on either hike in a potato chip rock or doing a regular bike hiking.
Always bring enough water for the hike and for any furry companions you’re bringing along.
Also, if hiking alone, make sure you tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
Because, you know… it’s easy to forget basic self-care must-dos when you’re caught up with nature’s beauty and one of the most iconic landmarks in America
And understandably so.
Featured Image: CC0 Public Domain via Canva, with text, banner, and logo added.