Thursday, February 11, 2016

Hollywood Sign - Mt. Lee on Canyon Drive

The iconic Hollywood Sign looming above Los Angeles was originally an advertising campaign for a housing development "Hollywoodland" back in the glitz and glamour of tinsel town in the 1920's. An entire historic timeline of the Sign can be found on the Hollywood Sign website.

It is a pretty interesting read, from when it first got erected, to the famous 1930's suicide of a breakout film star, the erection of network antennas that networks eventually moved to Mt. Wilson, stories of vandalism and arson, to eventually a very well fenced and guarded Sign that it is now.

Today, when you make the trek up to Mt. Lee, where the sign stands, helicopters can be seen flying by in regular intervals ready to call any fence-jumpers out. And a wire fence was built to keep anyone from getting close to the historical landmark, which earned its designation in 1973 by the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Board.


  • 7 miles (round trip)
  • 1,000 feet gain
  • Out and back 
  • No permit needed
  • Location: Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA

Trail head

At the southwest part of Griffith Park, the trail head is located at a small picnic area at the end of a residential road, heading north on Canyon Drive. The place has a small parking area just next to the metal gate that starts the trail and an over flow dirt parking lot just before. It gets busy on the weekends. Best to get there early to snag a spot. And be courteous in parking.

The Hike

Just a heads up, if you're expecting a backcountry, wilderness, solitude type of a hike, this is not it. This trail gets busy with all types folks, from runners to hikers to dog walkers. And you'll even get to share some portion of your hike with a horse pack doing a horse ride tour around Griffith Park. And the park itself, is located right smack dab in the middle of densely populated Los Angeles, Accessibility is very easy which makes the area very popular.

But the novelty of an instragram-ablesnapchat-worthy photo op up at Mt. Lee with the Hollywood Sign, combined with a good workout for the day, is awesome enough to take on this hike and bring your active non-local friends and family visiting along.

The trail starts beyond the metal bar gate, and is wide enough to be fire road.

Past the gate, on your right, you'll pass by what seems to be remnants of  a road? A dam? To be honest, I'm not so sure. But it has been "decorated" by some anonymous "artists".

The trail continues on along going up, walking along the ridge of a hill. You'll come up to your first junction, take the left and continue walking up. The trail is still wide and walks up to a view point with a bench overlooking Los Angeles.

Following the trail along, you'll reach a fork ahead. Much as you'd like to rather take the left of the fork since it seems to be heading down, don't. You'll end up at a horse pack station.

Take the right of the fork that is headed up and continue following along the dirt trail.

The dirt trail ends on an asphalt paved road, the Mt. Lee Dr., and you have an option to turn left or right.

Although the Hollywood Sign maybe in front and slightly to the left of you when you look up, trust the road going to the right and further climbing up will take you closer to it.

Pavement hiking isn't as much fun but the overlooking views of San Fernando Valley you'll see along makes up for it.

Along the way, you'll come up to a small monument marking a spur dirt trail to Cahuenga Peak. Head towards the left following the pavement to get to the Hollywood Sign and you'll soon start to see the back of the Sign.

Walk further up towards the fenced-in buildings and climb up the dirt path to your left to get a better view and photo of the sign with the overlooking view of Los Angeles atop Mt. Lee.

Head back the way you came in!


P.S. If you're like me who gets sad and annoyed seeing trash around, bring along a plastic bag and a pair of gloves, if you can. With the spot's popularity, it sadly gets trash a lot. (Leave No Trace)