by John Webber
The Different Ways to See the Hollywood Sign – and hopefully score the perfect Instagramable pic.
It’s official – the city of Hollywood closed the Hollyridge Trail at the end of Beachwood Canyon on April 2017. How will this change your Hollywood Sign hike? Where should the tourists go now? We’ve rounded up your options. The Hollyridge Trail, accessible through a gate at the end of Beachwood Drive, was one of the prettiest and most mellow ways to see the Hollywood Sign in Griffith Park. But as of last year, neither selfie-seekers nor neighborhood residents will be allowed to enter the park through the Beachwood Gate.
Luckily, there are many other ways to see the Hollywood Sign. Unluckily, some of the other access points have their own combinations of less stellar views, more intense hikes, or serious transportation challenges. We’ve highlighted the potential roadblocks in this guide to navigating one of Los Angeles’s most famous landmarks.
Walk from Lake Hollywood Park
One of the best Hollywood Sign-viewing experiences can be found at Lake Hollywood Park, an idyllic public space with views of Lake Hollywood. There is street parking along Canyon Lake Drive that’s never restricted (although ride-hailing is always recommended so you don’t have to deal with it) and a decent vista that doesn’t require any hiking at all.
If you want to get closer to the sign, walk up Mulholland Highway until it turns to dirt, which will take you to the Deronda gate (technically you’ll walk behind the gate and right into the park). Once inside the park there are plenty more great views, or you can hike the 1-mile, somewhat-strenuous route to the top of Mt. Lee, which puts you behind and above the sign.
Pro tip: There is a beautiful new hiking map of Griffith Park that has detailed trail information. There are also helpful signs with mileage parkers and trail names in the park (although they can only be found on the most popular trails).
Use the Deronda Gate
About 1 mile uphill from the Beachwood gate is a second gate into the park, located at the intersection of Deronda Drive and Mulholland Highway. Don’t plan to park here on the weekends: Parking is permit-restricted in Beachwood Canyon on Saturday, Sunday, and holidays. To get to Deronda, your best bet is to use a ride-hailing service or take the DASH to Beachwood Village (buses run approximately 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily except Sundays) and climb the historic public staircases. You can also start your hike at the Hollywood and Vine Red Line station, which is a 35-minute walk to Beachwood Village.
When you get to the Deronda gate, don’t be deterred by the signs saying there’s no access and ominous-looking keypad on the door—it has a timed lock that automatically opens from sunrise to sunset. You can take selfies just inside the park by the Tyrolian Tank, a water tank that offers excellent views, or keep hiking to the top of Mt. Lee.
Try the Wonder View Trail
The Wonder View Trail is one of the newest ways to access the Hollywood Sign, thanks to the city’s 2010 acquisition of Cahuenga Peak, making it the easternmost peak in Griffith Park. Park on Lake Hollywood Drive – watch parking restrictions, as always – then head up what becomes a very steep ridgeline (not for inexperienced hikers or those afraid of heights).
This is one of the shorter routes to the sign since you are approaching from the back (it will take you less than two hours round-trip). Instagrammers beware: The views are not optimal for photographing the sign, since you’re always looking at it from the side or behind.
Pro tip: Modern Hiker, the best hiking blog in Southern California, has more information about hiking to the Hollywood Sign as well as an excellent guide to Griffith Park trails.
Hike from Bronson Canyon
The Bronson Canyon entrance to the park at the end of Canyon Drive is being touted as the new access point to the Hollyridge Trail due to two features: a parking lot and public bathrooms. Yes, those amenities are here, and it’s a fun hike to the sign because you can also visit the Bronson Caves (and there’s a good view from there). But the hike to the sign is about three hours round-trip, it’s a long way from transit, and the Hollywood Sign isn’t visible for much of it. So this is a good spot for car-owning, fit hikers. Selfie-seekers seeking instant gratification might be better served by a different location. Unless you really like caves.
Trek from Fern Dell
For another picturesque but more difficult route, start your hike from Fern Dell Drive, the pretty, creek-meandering Griffith Park entrance located at the north end of Western Avenue. The good thing about Fern Dell is that it’s relatively transit-accessible; the Red Line’s Hollywood/Western station is just a 20-minute walk to the trailhead. If you drive, you can try to find a spot near Trails Cafe, where you can fuel up on tasty pastries, plus get water and use the bathrooms.
To view the sign, take the trail that’s etched into the left side of the canyon. It’s fairly steep, but once on the trail, you’ll be rewarded with some pretty spectacular views of the sign early on to your left. If you continue all the way to the sign from here, be prepared: it’s about a three-hour round trip.
Take DASH to Griffith Observatory
This is the city’s “preferred” viewing area, a grassy lawn outside Griffith Observatory. Now the DASH bus runs to the Observatory from the Vermont/Sunset Metro Red Line station every 20 minutes, from noon to 10 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends. This is an especially hassle-free option because parking now costs $4 per hour at the Observatory (and congestion in the park on the weekends can be horrific).
The view from here is good, but if you want to hike to the sign from the Observatory, beware: The sign is deceptively far away. It will take you about three hours round trip. However, taking transit gives you the option to ride DASH up to the Observatory, hike to the sign, then hike back down to another Red Line station or the Beachwood DASH.
Pro tip: Google Maps can help you navigate the transit and parking directions, and also offers fairly accurate point-to-point walking directions in the park and streets around it, but make sure you select “walking” not “driving” directions for those, otherwise requesting Hollywood Sign directions will send you to Griffith Observatory every time.
Go to Hollywood and Highland
According to the Hollywood Sign Trust, the nonprofit that preserves and protects the sign, the best way to see the sign is at the mall. Yes, the organization wants you to take your selfies on the 4th floor viewing deck at the Hollywood and Highland tourist trap. The view is unobstructed, if distant, and it’s the most low-impact (and ADA-compliant) journey. Plus, there’s plenty of parking and a Red Line station right beneath your feet.
Ride a horse from Sunset Ranch
Since only those on horseback will be allowed to use the Hollyridge Trail from now on, why not join one of Sunset Ranch’s famous tours to get behind the Beachwood gate? While the ride doesn’t go to the Hollywood Sign exactly, you will be rewarded with some of the best views in Griffith Park that are no longer accessible to humans. Tours start at $50 for one hour to a $125 “best view” tour that include a barbecue. We hear it’s worth every penny.
“Do not go where the path leads, travel instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” @wbbrjp