Hiking to the iconic Hollywood sign is a rite of passage for both visitors and residents alike. In this article, we’ll break down how to hike to the Hollywood Sign – free parking included!
How we’ve managed to live in Los Angeles, just a few miles from it – for decades – before hoofing it up there for the first time is beyond us. It’s just one of those things you take for granted when you’re a resident of L.A.. “Eh, we can go up there any time.” But… how do you get to the Hollywood Sign?
Believe it or not, there is some debate and plenty of urban legend surrounding whether or not you actually can hike all the way up to the Hollywood sign, or if it is closed to the public. Spoiler alert – you can go up there! But no, you can’t get within arms-reach or get that pic of you hugging one of the letters of the sign for the ‘Gram, as there is a fence around it. And no, unfortunately you can’t just drive up to it either, in case you’re wondering. That would be too easy!
How Do You Actually Get To The Hollywood Sign?
Despite being long term residents, we’ve heard all the rumors and wondered how to get to the Hollywood Sign ourselves. Until we finally decided we were actually going to figure out once and for all, how to hike the Hollywood Sign; also, how to get the best view of the sign up close; and how to get behind and above the Hollywood Sign for the best view of Los Angeles. Our mission here is to give you step-by-step instructions so you don’t have to do any further research (save the legwork for the hike, cuz you’ll need it!), and you’ll be able to focus on enjoying the journey rather than figuring it out.
Let’s start with what was always our first question:
Where Do You Park?
There are different trails coming from different directions that lead to the sign, so depending where your starting point is, there are different answers to that question. But if you want to approach it like a local and not pay for parking (we love us some free parking), here is what we found to be the easiest way to get to the Hollywood sign.
Directions To Parking
Start on Franklin Ave. and head North on Canyon Ave., which is between Bronson and Van Ness Avenues. Head North on Canyon Ave. for just over one mile. You will come to the first of two free parking lots. The first one will be on your right hand side and is the larger of the two. Just ahead after this lot there is a smaller lot on your left hand side. If both lots are full on your first attempt, try standing by for a few and watching if anyone is returning from their hike and heading towards their car. With some patience, there’s a good chance you’ll get your spot.
Keep in mind that the amount of visitors will vary depending on the time of day and what season of the year it is when you are there. FWIW, we arrived around 9:30 a.m in on a Friday at the end of November, and while it was definitely busy, we had a pretty easy go of it.
Starting Your Hike
From the parking lot it will be pretty obvious where to go. Start walking on that road, around the closed gate at the trailhead. From there you’ll just follow the clearly marked signs along the way to get you up to the Hollywood sign. You’ve got options of things to see, too. Unbelievable options, including the holy grail of Los Angeles views, all of which we’ll cover below!
How To Prep For Your Hike And What To Expect
This particular route to hike to the Hollywood sign is about six miles all in, so you’ll want to prepare accordingly, especially if you’re there during the warmer months.
What To Wear
You’ll want to wear comfortable clothing and shoes. The terrain itself isn’t particularly extreme, and some of the trail actually becomes paved as you get closer to the sign, but you’ll be getting a bit of a workout so leave the tight skinny jeans at home. And you’ll be in the sun most of the time, unless it’s an overcast day – don’t forget the SPF! Depending on the temperatures, time of day, and time of year – bring layers to wear accordingly. While it might be a bit cool in the morning, it will likely be plenty warm later. And definitely do not wear sandals, flip flops or open-toed shoes! We’ll get into more of that in a minute.
What To Take
Be sure to have as much water on hand as you can handle carrying, but don’t go without any. As mentioned, you’ll be getting a workout in the sun. You’ll need at least a few hours to complete the hike, but If you plan to take your time and make a longer day of it, it might be a good idea to bring along some light and easy-to-carry snacks if you like. And don’t forget your camera! We know – who doesn’t have a camera on them at all times these days, right? Still, we’re going on record with a reminder to bring your camera, as you’re going to want photos of the incredible views. Trust us!
Mind The Wildlife
The iconic sign is perched atop Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills, and those hills are part of the Santa Monica Mountains. So while it may epitomize Tinseltown glitz and glamour, please keep in mind that the hills are filled with wonderful Southern California wildlife, and please be respectful. Coyotes are probably the most common sight in the hills, along with deer, hawks, and mountain lions. While you possibly might spot a coyote, you most likely won’t come face to face with any of these four legged creatures if you stay on the trails. However, remember those open-toed shoes we mentioned? Two words: rattle snakes. Once again, you most likely won’t have a problem, but it’s definitely worth advising that you might see one crossing the trail or whatnot. Nothing to be freaked out about, but do keep an eye open and be aware.
Mind The Poop
Horse poop, to be more specific. You’ll more than likely see a few different groups of people on horseback along the trails. These are horseback riding tours from Sunset Ranch. Passing by and getting to say hello to these beautiful animals (and the humans on their backs) is such a lovely addition to the overall experience. The downside is that you’ll be dodging quite a bit of horse poop. Hey, it beats snakes and mountain lions though, doesn’t it?
What Else You Can See On Your Hike To The Hollywood Sign?
As mentioned, there are actually a few other things you can see during your hike to the Hollywood sign:
Batman’s Bat Cave
If you’ve got the extra time, you can make a quick and fun little detour to check out the Bronson Caves, a.k.a. the famous “Bat Cave,” from the 60s Batman TV show featuring Adam West! This landmark is a man-made tunnel carved into rock that used to be part of an old quarry, and it’s one of Hollywood’s go-to filming locations. To get to it, after you go through the closed gate at the trailhead, take the trail to the right (instead of straight ahead, which is how you’ll get up to the Hollywood sign). Hike for just a 1/4 mile and when you get to a fork in the trail trail, go left. You can walk through the cave, which is a short tunnel. Watch out for rattlesnakes possibly lurking in the dark. Make a little noise and maybe stomp your feet a bit, just in case.
You can check this out either before or after you see the Hollywood sign, but we’re suggesting you do it first while you’re full of vim and vigor. By the time we came back down from the sign, we were a bit worked and glad that we had already checked it out. Either way, it’s worth the detour.
Once you’re on your journey up to the Hollywood sign, one of the first views you’ll be confronted with is that of the also-iconic Griffith Observatory, on top of the opposing hill to your left. Fun fact: you can also hike from the observatory to the Hollywood sign and vice versa, via a different trail. But that’s a completely different hike for a different day. Not to mention, if you hike from the observatory, you’ll be paying for parking over there.
Getting tired yet? We hope not, as you’ve got quite a ways to go. But don’t they say that the journey is more fun than the destination, or something like that? Ok, maybe not “more” fun, but the payoff of this particular destination is more than worth it.
It is going to seem endless, and you’ll probably find yourself at least once feeling like you’re going in the wrong or opposite direction. Trust in the signs. The trails are winding and it can appear as though there’s no way you’ll get to the sign by going that way. Keep going. You’ll come to a point where you have the choice to go left to get the the front of the Hollywood sign, or go right for – something else (wait for it). We implore you to do both left and right, and suggest going left first. It’s about a half-mile from here to the view of the front of the sign, which really is spectacular. You can practically be blindfolded and still be able get the most amazing selfies in front of the sign here. Goosebump time. Savor the moment!
The Holy Grail Of Los Angeles Views
When the goosebumps subside, head back that half-mile to the posted sign you headed left from. Now you’re going to head to the right from that sign. This will take you to the trail’s end in about one mile, which is – BEHIND – the Hollywood sign! This is that “holy grail of Los Angeles views,” and this is the closest you’ll get to the sign. Check out the structure up close! The arms that prop it up. The jagged hill that makes the letters uneven, like you’ve always seen. Imagine when it used to say “Hollywoodland,” before the “land” took a bail and left us with the magnificence we’ve known and loved for decades since.
One last bit: just up behind you is the tippy top of the mountain. Take those last few steps up there, have a sit down and just drink it all in. Your goosebumps should be in overdrive by now. You might even shed a tear of joy. We know we did! Gaze out over the sign to see all of Los Angeles. All of it! The Hollywood reservoir is in the foreground just below, and on even just a semi-clear day, you’ll be able to see all the way out to the Pacific Ocean. Enjoy this. You’ve certainly earned it after that hike.
And hey – if you want to see these views and get a feel for the hike vicariously through us, be sure to check out our vlog of our journey up to the Hollywood Sign. We hope this has made your adventure as easy as the breeze from on top of Mount Lee, and we hope we’ve played some small part in what will hopefully be a memory that lasts a lifetime.
More Los Angeles
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