The Simplest Way to Hike to the Hollywood Sign (Updated)
When you think of iconic hiking destinations, what comes to mind? Fabulous mountains, gorgeous waterfalls, incredible canyons? Most of the best views and coolest destinations for hiking are natural wonders, but that doesn’t mean they all are.
One of the most iconic landmarks in California is the Hollywood sign. Featured in countless movies and visited by thousands every year, the Hollywood Sign is an incredible sight to see. Anyone visiting Los Angeles owes it to themselves to take a trip out to see the sign!
Can You Visit the Hollywood Sign?
Such an important, long-standing landmark is sure to be restricted, and if you guessed that you can’t actually get up close and personal with the sign, you’d be right.
The truth is, while you can get close to the sign, including up above it on the summit of Mt Lee, you can’t actually get any closer than that.
Since the sign is such an important part of the Los Angeles skyline, the city wants to keep it protected. There’s an area around it that is gated off, and you’re not allowed into that area.
If you try, you’re pretty sure to be caught; there’s a high-tech alarm system monitoring the area, and it’s under constant surveillance by the trio of Los Angeles police, fire department, and park rangers.
Is the Hollywood Sign Worth Visiting?
This is a difficult question to answer.
The Hollywood Sign is definitely an iconic piece of Americana, a key element of the history of Los Angeles, and a landmark that looks a lot more impressive in person than it does in media. Few people realize just how big it is until they see it up close and personal.
On the other hand, if you’re more used to or care more about natural wonders, you’re going to have a harder time with the sign. The peaks and valleys of the surrounding park are relatively minor compared to other places in California, let alone the rest of the country. There aren’t too many vibrant natural wonders like the Wisdom Tree, and the vistas all overlook the city or the park without a lot of variation. For some people, that’s plenty. For others, it’s not that appealing.
Of course, if you’re here reading this post, chances are you’ve already decided that the sign is worth visiting, and you just want to know how. If that’s the case, you’ve certainly come to the right spot!
What Do You Need to Know About Visiting the Hollywood Sign?
We cover a lot of different kinds of hikes and destinations on this site, some much more difficult than others. The hike to the Hollywood sign is pretty easy, all things considered. However, there are a handful of different hikes to different viewpoints you can take. Some of them are essentially flat, paved ground; others are more rugged trails. The most challenging is the path to the summit of Mt Lee, which is difficult enough to classify as a real hike rather than a tourist stroll.
Does it cost anything to access the sign? Nope! Access to the park surrounding the sign, the hike, and all the rest is free. Parking may not be, depending on where you choose to park, and you may need a transit pass to take a bus to the area, but there are some free parking lots in the area specifically for the hike to the sign.
That said, if you park in a prohibited area, trespass on the sign’s restricted area, or otherwise violate the rules, you could be looking at parking tickets and fines, so keep that in mind.
What gear should you have for a hike to the sign? For the most part, you don’t need much. As with any hike, a good pair of shoes is recommended. You’ll also want to check the weather and make sure you’re dressed appropriately; that means protection from the sun and the heat, depending on when you’re visiting. Even on overcast days, you can end up dehydrated if you aren’t careful. Bring plenty of water and some nutrient-rich snacks to keep your energy up along the way. All of the hikes are fairly short – the longest is six miles of paved trails – but it’s still a good amount of effort, especially if you aren’t used to longer adventures.
Are there restrictions and rules for the hike to the sign? Yes, of course. The biggest rules, other than the whole “no trespassing” thing, are:
- Dogs are allowed, but only on a leash at all times.
- Fire of any sort is absolutely prohibited. The whole area is an extreme fire risk pretty much all year round, and after fires in the past, the city takes no chances.
- Stay on the trails. While there are plenty of unofficial paths through the area, you should still stick to the official trails to avoid doing damage to the area, accidentally trespassing, or otherwise causing problems for yourself or for others visiting the park.
Other than that, it’s mostly common sense.
What are the hours for accessing the sign? The sign and the park surrounding it are open to the public 365 days a year, from sunrise to sunset. You’re not really allowed to visit after dark, but you also don’t really have an incentive to do so; the sign isn’t lit up at night, and while the vista overlooking the city is grand, there are better viewpoints if you want to see those sights.
What’s With All the “No Access” Signs?
There are several different routes to the Hollywood Sign. A few of those routes take you through residential areas, particularly Mulholland Highway. The residents here aren’t fond of tourists hiking through the area, and some of the more enterprising among them create fake “no access” signs of varying types to try to deter people from walking through.
It’s up to you if you want to ignore these or not. There are no actual gated communities with restricted access on the path to the sign; you’re free to walk the streets as much as you desire. As long as you aren’t trespassing on private property or trying to access the actual restricted zone around the sign itself, you’re not going to get in trouble.
That said, it’s clearly the wish of some residents that the number of people walking through their neighborhood be kept down. So, it’s your choice. You can respect their wishes and find an alternative route, or you can take the path as you’re legally allowed and ignore anyone telling you otherwise.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk about the specific routes you can take to view the sign.
Option 1: Mt Hollywood Trail
This is widely considered one of the easiest ways to hike up and see the Hollywood sign. The trail itself is a loop, with a total distance of 5.3 miles, all of which is generally well-maintained and mostly smooth. There are a few somewhat steep inclines, but we’re still talking moderate-level hiking, not mountaineering. Overall, the hike will take around two and a half hours for the average adventurer, with variability for stopping to see the sights.
The beauty, ease of access, and looping nature of this trail make it very popular for locals who like to jog or get out to enjoy nature. Expect to encounter a decent number of people on the loop.
Option 2: Canyon Drive Trail
This version of the hike to view the sign is a little more challenging and a little longer than the first option. It’s six miles in a there-and-back trail, usually taking around three hours to hike.
For this trail, you start by taking Canyon Drive all the way to its end, where you’ll find a loop with parking and the drive out to Griffith Park. The trail itself, called Brush Canyon Trail, is clearly marked and takes you in a winding, switchback-style path first away from the sign, then back towards it.
By the time you’re done, you’ll find yourself on the peak of the mountain above the sign, looking down on it from behind. It’s a fascinating view, and while it’s not the most iconic picture of the sign, it’s a gorgeous view of the city below. Multiple different paths will bring you to this vista, as well, so expect to see plenty of people admiring the sign from above.
Option 3: Cahuenga Peak Trail
Third of the “official” trails up to the sign, this is the shortest and fastest of the three, but also the steepest and the most challenging. Unlike the other two, which are largely broad, flat, and paved, the Cahuenga trail is a lot more rugged.
Getting to this trail is a little tricky. You start from 101 and Barham Blvd, turn off onto Lake Hollywood Drive and follow that to Wonder View Drive. From there, you can follow Wonder View to the trailhead, where there are two paths to take. The leftward path takes you north to the Forest Lawn Drive entrance, but you miss the sign entirely. Instead, take the right path. This path takes you to the Wisdom Tree, a scenic and photogenic spot on the ridge, and then out to the overlook above the sign, the same destination as Canyon Drive Trail.
Option 4: Mulholland Highway
This is the above-mentioned path that the neighbors don’t want you to know about. To start, find Canyon Lake Drive and follow it until you reach Mulholland Highway. Here, you’ll find Lake Hollywood Park, which is your parking spot. Be careful to only park where you’re legally allowed to, so you don’t come back to find a ticket on your car!
When the road splits in two, keep left and keep following it uphill. Eventually, you’ll reach a junction – with more signs, usually – to keep following Mulholland. You’ll see the sign to your left and a path to your right; follow that path, which will loop around. You’ll come upon a gate that looks like it bars the way, but there’s a path to the side of it with access to the trail up Mt Lee Drive. This is the rugged hiking path that you also end up on with several other hiking options. You can follow it to the overlook behind the sign and enjoy the view.
One note about this path is that it’s the closest you can get to the sign from the front and below; while there’s more land in that direction, there’s no access any closer.
This site has a good guide to this particular path, with plenty of photos to make sure you aren’t losing your way.
Other Options to See the Hollywood Sign
There are a handful of other variations on the trails to get up to the vista above and behind the Hollywood Sign. This blog covers four options, some of which are basically the same paths the above options cover but with different starting points.
Truthfully, there are a ton of different ways to reach that overlook. Setting your map to point to the sign or to point to the Mt Lee Radio Transmitter will show you the various paths. You can find trailheads all over the area, from the Hollywood Reservoir to the Griffith Observatory.
Griffith Park is also an excellent place to visit. Just check it out on Google Maps; you can see dozens of crisscrossing trails and paths you can take all throughout the park. Bronson Caves, the old Zoo, the Greek Theater, the Los Angeles Zoo itself, Mount Sinai, Forest Lawn; there’s a ton to see and do in this area, even if you’ve already been to see the sign.
With so many options and places to visit, what’s not to love? Visiting the iconic sign is just one of many adventures you can have in this area around Los Angeles, and it’s just scratching the surface of what you can do in California as a whole.