Hollywood Sign Hiking: Conquer the Iconic Hilltop Adventure for Star-Studded Views!

The famous Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles isn’t just big white letters that spell out the city’s name. It’s a symbol of dreams, fame, and the golden era of cinema. For many, getting up close to the sign is a bucket-list activity, and hiking is one of the best ways to do it. In this guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know to hike to the Hollywood Sign.

Quick Overview of Hiking to the Hollywood Sign

FeaturesActivitiesAccess & ParkingHighlights
Symbol of dreams and cinema, originally called as “Hollywoodland” in 1923. Became “Hollywood” in the 1940s.Hiking provides up-close experiences to the sign, suitable for individuals and families. Some of the trail is paved and flat.Starts at Griffith Park (3200 Canyon Dr, Los Angeles, CA, 90068). Parking is free.The sign’s role as an iconic symbol of the movie industry is reinforced through its visibility in the LA skyline.
The trail offers beautiful views of the city and nature.Offers a mix of uphill and easy paths, wide and well-maintained for a variety of users, including families and horseback riders.Early morning start recommended to avoid LA’s intense sun. Elevation gain ranges from 650 to 1,100 feet, depending on the starting point,
Starting points are also in a residential area, requiring respect for local community.The trail’s popularity means sharing the path with other hikers and occasionally horses.Alternative parking spots include Lake Hollywood Park for a no-hike view.The Hollywood Sign sits at an elevation of 1,708 feet (520 meters), with panoramic views and a sense of achievement upon reaching the sign.
The hike is accessible and manageable for most fitness levels, offering a scenic and historically rich outdoor activity.Bring enough water than anticipated and wear sun protection.Griffith Observatory Parking Lot offers an alternative starting point but comes with very limited parking.The trail is family-friendly.

A Brief History

Put up in 1923 as “Hollywoodland,” it was first meant to advertise a new housing area. In the 1940s, they took off the “LAND” part, and the sign turned into a symbol of the movie industry. It got worn down over time but has been fixed up several times, keeping its spot in the LA skyline.

My Experience Hiking the Hollywood Sign

Holliwood sign trails
Hollywood sign trails

Hiking to the Hollywood Sign was always on my bucket list. I’ve gone to the sign twice. The first time, I just went to the Lake Hollywood Park to take pictures so I could say I’ve been there :). However, I always wanted to experience it by hiking to the sign as well. From my experience on the trail, a mix of being prepared, choosing the right time, and having a sense of adventure made the trip both satisfying and unforgettable.

Navigating to the Start

I chose to begin my hike from Griffith Park (3200 Canyon Dr, Los Angeles, CA, 90068). The trail was easy to locate, and to my relief, it was free. Two main lots serve hikers here: Lot 1, a larger expanse at the trailhead address, and Lot 2, which is closer to the trail’s beginning. For me, I tried to park in the closer lot, but I saw that others parked in Lot 1 when Lot 2 was full. A few even parked along the road further away. A bonus was that there were porta-potties available, which was handy for a quick bathroom stop before starting the hike.

Starting Off Right

Following tips from experienced hikers, I started my hike early. This let me miss the intense sun that Los Angeles is famous for. When I passed through the gate at the end of Canyon Drive, the first part was tough. It was more uphill than I expected. I was breathing heavily and moving slower, but as I continued, the path started to get easier.

My pic of LA from the trail to the Hollywood sign
My pic of LA from the trail to the Hollywood sign

Staying Hydrated and Engaging with the Landscape

One oversight on my part was not packing enough water. If you’re planning a trip, my advice would be to bring more water than you think you might need.

Even though it was a bit tough at first, the scenery was definitely beautiful. The paths were wide and in good shape, with great views of the city and natural surroundings. At every turn, there was a new chance for a great photo.

Sharing the Trail


One thing to remember is how popular the trail is. There were many other hikers, and I even saw people on horseback heading to the famous sign. Their presence brought a bit of classic Hollywood charm to the hike, but it also meant watching out for horse droppings now and then. Luckily, the trail is pretty wide, so there was plenty of room for everyone.

You can see horses on the trail to Hollywood sign
You can see horses on the trail to Hollywood sign

Elevation Details

The Hollywood Sign sits at an elevation of 1,708 feet (520 meters). Depending on your starting point, you will encounter varying degrees of elevation gain during your hike. The gain can range from 650 to 1,100 feet, providing a good workout for hikers of all levels.

Me on the trail to Hollywood sign
Me on the trail to Hollywood sign

Where to Start: Hollywood Sign Parking and Trailheads

Unlike other hiking spots, parking can be a bit tricky for the Hollywood Sign hike. However, with a bit of planning, you can secure a good spot.

My close-up picture of the Hollywood sign
My close-up picture of the Hollywood sign
  1. Griffith Observatory Parking Lot: While this is a popular starting point for hikers aiming to see the sign, the parking can be very limited, especially on weekends. Arrive early to snag a spot. This route will take you on the Griffith Observatory West Trail, which provides beautiful views of the sign. There’s fee for parking. While the Griffith Observatory offers a unique path to the Hollywood Sign, it is important to note that the route is not the most straightforward, and there are alternative trails that might be recommended for a more direct and potentially easier hiking experience.
  2. Lake Hollywood Park: Another option is to park near Lake Hollywood Park (3160 Canyon Lake Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90068) and just take pictures there without hiking. It offers a great view and can be a starting point for a longer journey. This is where I first went to check out the Hollywood sign. You can drive to this park and take pictures, no hiking needed. This is probably great for tourists who just want to take pictures of the sign but not want to hike up. You can also hike up the trail from Lake Hollywood park.
  3. Residential Areas: You’ll find street parking in the residential areas around the sign, particularly near the Brush Canyon Trailhead. However, be very mindful of parking restrictions. Always read signs carefully to avoid getting a ticket.
  4. Griffith Park: Large lot with porta-potties. Free parking. This is the parking lot I took to hike to the Hollywood sign. Start your hike through the gate at the end of Canyon Drive. Please note that the park is open from dawn until dusk. This hike is a little over 5 miles. Some of this hike is paved.
Here is my picture of the Hollywood sign from the Lake Hollywood Park
Here is my picture of the Hollywood sign from the Lake Hollywood Park

What to Bring

Like any hike, being prepared will make your experience more enjoyable. Here’s a checklist:

  • Water: The Southern California sun can be intense, so stay hydrated.
  • Sun Protection: Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat are essential.
  • Snacks: Energy bars or fruits can be a good pick-me-up during the hike.
  • Camera or Smartphone: You’ll want to capture the breathtaking views.
  • Comfortable Shoes: The trail can get rocky, so good hiking shoes are recommended.
  • Map: While the trails are well-marked, having a map can be useful.

Choosing Your Trail

There are a few different trails that will lead you to the Hollywood Sign, varying in length and difficulty:

  1. Brush Canyon Trail: This is a moderately challenging trail, about 6.4 miles round-trip. It provides stunning views of both the sign and downtown LA.
  2. Cahuenga Peak and Burbank Peak Trail: At around 3 miles round-trip, it’s a shorter hike but with steeper paths. This trail offers a behind-the-sign experience. It’s a hard trail.
  3. Griffith Observatory West Trail: This trail is approximately 3.5 miles round-trip and offers panoramic views of LA and the sign.

Hike Difficulty

While none of the trails to the Hollywood Sign are overly technical, the intensity can vary:

  • Brush Canyon Trail: Moderate difficulty with some uphill stretches.
  • Cahuenga and Burbank Peak: More challenging due to its steep incline.
  • Griffith Observatory West Trail: Moderate, with some parts steeper than others.

Most hikers with a basic level of fitness should be able to complete these hikes without too much difficulty. However, always pace yourself and take breaks as needed.

Here is another picture I took of the Hollywood sign at the Lake Hollywood Park
Here is another picture I took of the Hollywood sign at the Lake Hollywood Park

Interesting Facts to Ponder as You Hike

While you’re hiking, consider these intriguing tidbits about the Hollywood Sign:

  • A Pricey Affair: The original sign, “Hollywoodland,” cost $21,000 in 1923. That’s equivalent to about $300,000 today!
  • A Temporary Setup: The sign was initially meant to last only 18 months. Almost a century later, it’s still standing.
  • Renovation Donors: In the 1970s, the sign was in desperate need of repair. Donors, including Hugh Hefner and Alice Cooper, pitched in to restore it. Each letter was sponsored for $27,700.

Respecting the Land and the Locals

Remember, the Hollywood Sign is located in a residential area. As you enjoy your hike:

  • Keep noise levels down.
  • Stick to the designated paths.
  • Pack out all trash.
  • Respect any private property signs.

Essential Tips for First-Time Hollywood Sign Hikers

Being one of LA’s most iconic landmarks, the Hollywood Sign is a popular spot for both locals and tourists. If you’re planning to conquer this hike, here are some additional tips to ensure a smooth journey:

Safety First

  1. Stay on the designated paths: The Hollywood Sign and its surrounding areas are home to various wildlife. Respect their habitats and keep a safe distance if you encounter any.
  2. Awareness of surroundings: There might be snakes or other wildlife on the trail, so always keep an eye on where you’re stepping. Remember, it’s their home, and we’re just visitors.

Accessibility Options

  1. For the differently-abled: The trails can be challenging, but there are more accessible viewpoints where you can admire the sign from a distance. Griffith Observatory, for instance, offers stunning views without the exertion of a hike.

Enhance Your Experience

  1. Guided Tours: There are several guided tours available that provide rich historical insights and fun facts about the sign and the surrounding area.
  2. Sunrise or Sunset?: For a unique experience, try hiking during the sunrise or just before sunset. The lighting is not only ideal for photographs but the temperatures are also cooler.
  3. Night Hiking: For experienced hikers, consider a night hike. The city lights from the top are a spectacle, but ensure you have appropriate gear and always hike with a group.

Beyond the Sign

  1. Explore the neighborhood: The Hollywood Sign is in Beachwood Canyon, which itself is rich in film history. As you approach or leave the sign, take a stroll through the neighborhood and soak in its old Hollywood charm.
  2. Local Delights: After the hike, treat yourself! As mentioned, Beachwood Cafe is a great spot. Alternatively, the nearby Franklin Village has a variety of cafes and eateries that are perfect post-hike.
  3. Celestial Connection: As you’re in the vicinity, consider coupling your hike with a trip to Griffith Observatory. Apart from its astronomical wonders, it offers an unparalleled view of the city.

Conclusion

Hiking to the Hollywood Sign isn’t just a walk; it’s an adventure filled with history, glamour, and beautiful scenery. Whether you’re into movies, love the outdoors, or just want an unforgettable experience, this hike offers amazing views and a new understanding of one of the most famous landmarks in the world. So, put on your hiking boots and get ready for a journey to the stars!

me on the beach
About the author

Hi, I'm Kat, the adventurous spirit behind TasteCaliforniaTravel, your guide to the hidden wonders of California. Having called California home for the last 15 years, I am thrilled to take you along on my journey and share the adventures that this incredible state has to offer.

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