I’ve lived in California for most of my life. While I may not live in the heart of Los Angeles, we have many ties in Los Angeles. My wife used to live in LA back when we were still dating, so roaming around LA was a regular thing for us to do. She also works at a hospital in Hollywood. We still have family who lives in Los Angeles. And if you know LA quite well, and the 101 Freeway, it is quite hard to miss the world-famous Hollywood Sign.
For years, the closest we must’ve gotten to the sign were the countless times we visited Griffith Park Observatory. While it was visible from the observatory, it was not the same to actually have the experience of being up close to the sign.
Let’s go to the Hollywood Sign
After our somewhat successful family hike at Zion National Park, we’ve had the urge to want to return to Zion (if only it was closer to us). As a last-minute plan, Nancy and her girlfriends, Judy and Ross, decided to go on a hike, they planned to hike the Hollywood Sign. The husbands, Vhen and I, tagged along. Honestly, I left all the planning with the ladies. I was too tired to do research, and trusted that they would make the right decision.
1. First Option: Bronson Canyon, Griffith Park (free parking)
The ladies decided to meet at Bronson Canyon over at Griffith Park. We got started quite early. We wanted to avoid the heat, and had plans for a hearty late breakfast as our reward. On our way to Los Angeles, Nancy received a tip from our nephew, Rovee, to park over at Lake Hollywood Park, and to start our hike from there. So we had a couple of choices to work with.
When we got to Bronson Canyon around 7am, once we entered the gates of the park, there was a dirt lot off to your right hand side. That’s where a few of the cars had parked. Hiking from Bronson Canyon would take you 3 miles (one way), over an hour to get to the Hollywood Sign. So, shortly after we met with our group, we all took care of business and used the portable toilets. After a few minutes of discussing our options, we decided to drive for about 15 minutes to Lake Hollywood Park and begin our hike from there.
2. Second Option: Lake Hollywood Park (free parking)
You could simply use your phone or car’s navigation system and search Lake Hollywood Park. The address is 3160 Canyon Lake Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90068. We got there around 7:30am. It was our first time and honestly we did not know what to expect. But one thing was for sure, there was no designated parking lot other than street parking. I checked the signs and it said “No Parking from 8pm to 6am” – perfect. We were there during the day so we were not in violation.
3. What do you need for this hike
For us, it was simple. I had my:
- Osprey backpack for me, Columbia backpack for Nancy
- Water bottle
- Good sneakers, rubber shoes with good soles
- Trekking poles or walking sticks (optional, but so helpful) – I found one on my way down
4. Hiking towards the Hollywood Sign from Lake Hollywood Park
There was an air of doubt if we made the right choice. Why? Unlike Bronson Canyon where we must’ve seen 20 cars parked and ready to walk towards the sign, over at Lake Hollywood Park, I was surprised that at 7:30am ours was the only car on Canyon Lake Drive. There wasn’t really anyone around that looked like they were hiking-ready. Oh, well.
Once we got out of the car, there were no real signs or arrows pointing where our hike should start. The park was on our left side, the hills were also on the left side. We didn’t know if the trail to the sign was accessible by going through or across the park. So after a few searches on the good ol’ Internet, and learned more details from LA Curbed.
I forgot to tell you that on this Saturday morning of our hike, the skies weren’t clear. It was quite hazy. So we could not really see the sign around 7:30am. So after reading the LA Curbed suggestion, I went back to my phone’s Google Maps, and just searched for Hollywood Sign, and matched what I saw with what LA Curbed suggested.
From Lake Hollywood Park, if the park is on your left hand side, begin walking your way up on Canyon Lake Drive.
Follow that path that will eventually take you through a few homes. While it says “Mulholland Hwy” – you’re really just walking through a few of the homes, and not an actual major highway.
It was exactly as LA Curbed had described. We found the dirt, and began walking on the dirt path. At the end of this path, you’ll see a gate – that’s the Deronda Gate.
From your viewpoint, you’d be thinking, how do you get past that gate? Off to the left side of that gate is another walking path, so go on the left side, walk the path and just keep walking until you reach a clearing area..
Once you leave Deronda Gate, off to your right, on a clear day, you’d already be seeing the Hollywood Sign from a distance. You’re halfway there. You have a choice to stay on the left side for views of the sign, or go on the right side and proceed with the “major” portion of the hike. This is all an uphill climb, not the hardest, but it does take work.
5. What will you see?
You will see dog walkers, joggers, cyclists passing you by. So just keep following the trail.
On a clear day, you will see the heart of Los Angeles, including Downtown LA. You will also see Griffith Park Observatory. Once you make the final turn before reaching the Hollywood Sign, you will also see, off to your right side, Forest Lawn Cemetery, where many movie stars were buried.
You will also see what looks like a radio tower, that’s the goal. That’s where you want to go. This trail will take you above and behind the Hollywood Sign.
6. Any chance of getting lost?
For us, it was really hard to get lost. We used our phone’s GPS, and just knew that we were following the right path. Depending on the time that you choose to hike, chances are you’ll have other hikers going your way, or hikers that are headed down from the Hollywood Sign. About the cell phone signal, there were probably a couple of times when I had no cell signal, so I just kept walking, and eventually picked up a signal.
Finally, the Hollywood Sign
Once you make the final turn, you will see a fence, and just like that, you are right behind the letters H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D. These letters were probably just 30-50 feet away from me or the fence. Follow the path and keep walking towards the tower and make another left for a better vista over the Hollywood Sign.
My Facebook LIVE videos during our trek to the Hollywood Sign
I shared this on my Facebook Travel page.
- We were on our final stretch as we got near to the sign
- We made it behind the sign
- Another view point closer to the Deronda Gate (this was on our hike back down)
7. How long did it take?
First of all, I hope that it’s obvious, we are not your regular hikers. So we took our leisurely walk, and enjoyed the conversation. Per Google Maps, it was around 2.2 miles one way from the Lake Hollywood Park to the sign. It should take about an hour of walking, but factor in stops and breaks in between.
Going down the hill is through the same path. It was sooooo much easier to walk down, but be careful for cyclists who are riding down. Round trip is 4.5 miles. Depending on your speed, this could be an easy 2 hour hike round trip. In our case, we took our time, we must’ve spent some 3 hours round trip for this adventure.
8. Other tips
While this could very well vary, I enjoyed going up to the sign early in the morning. Parking is easier to find, the weather is cooler. The only thing I wished was that it wasn’t as hazy and gray, but that’s okay. Or, you could try to go there later in the afternoon. I’m not sure how much of a crowd you’d have to contend with especially on weekends.
Lastly, be courteous, and do not disturb the neighbors. If you do end up driving around the neighborhood, you will see that the streets are tiny, and at times, it allows for a two-way traffic. So practice courtesy.
If you do end up going, let me know. I’m especially interested if you have other tips to share.