It's one of the most iconic symbols of our city, but have you ever hiked to the Hollywood sign? Sure, you can't get close enough to touch it, but you can hike to the top of Mt. Lee, reaching a vantage point above and behind it, and enjoy one of the most amazing views of the Griffith Observatory, Downtown LA, and Hollywood. The most kid-friendly route follows the wide, graded Hollyridge Trail to a paved road (closed to cars) up Mt. Lee. Roughly 3.5 miles round trip, it is not too much for most kids; there are generally plenty of preschoolers out on the trail. The entire hike follows fire roads and paved road, so even a stroller can make this trip—if you don't mind pushing it up about 800 feet of elevation gain, and controlling it on the way back down.
Update: As of 4/18/17 there is a court ordered closure of the Beachwood gate. The final court ruling suggests that visitors hike from Canyon Drive (Bronson Canyon / Brush Canyon Trail) 2 blocks to the east of Beachwood, off Franklin, or from the Observatory. Canyon Drive has the shorter hike and provides sidewalks, trash cans, a parking lot, and facilities for visitors. We will send a writer and provide a new version of this hike as soon as possible.
Hollywood Sign and Mt Lee via the Hollyridge Trail
3.5 miles round trip
Dogs on leashes OK
No water or bathrooms available
Bring: water, snacks, camera, and sunscreen/umbrella/sweatshirt/windbreaker depending on the weather; tennis or running shoes
Look for: horses, chickens, peacocks/peahens, deer, cottontail rabbits
Highlights: views of the Griffith Observatory, downtown, Hollywood, Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Disney Studios, and Burbank; the top of Mt Lee; the Hollywood sign, and Hollywood Reservoir
There are geocaches located along this route; bring your GPS or phone with app
To reach the start point, take the 101 to Hollywood. If you are heading West, exit Gower and make an immediate right turn onto Beachwood (this turn feels like it is on the exit ramp). If you are heading east, exit Franklin, turn left (east), and then make a left turn (north) onto Beachwood. Take Beachwood all the way to the end. There are two small dirt parking lots on your right. The now-dirt road continues a short distance to Sunset Ranch Stables. On a beautiful weekend day these lots can fill up—you can always go back down Beachwood and find street parking.
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There may be chickens and peacocks in the parking lot (and you can probably hear roosters). Now head up the gated fire road, which is the Hollyridge Trail. You will soon be overlooking Sunset Ranch Stables—with horses, hens, roosters, peacocks, and peahens. Take a break and let the kids see what they can find. As you proceed uphill, you will see hikers on the Mulholland Highway fire road ahead of you on the side of the main ridge, and at just under a half mile from the parking lot you will join it and turn left—stay aware, because you can easily miss the turn! The left turn takes you uphill and back. As you round the ridge, the Hollywood sign puts in an appearance. Continue on the graded fire road. Be sure to keep an eye out for rabbits in the underbrush and deer on the hillsides. And be sure to look to the East (behind you for much of this portion of the trip) to see the Griffith Observatory and then downtown appear as you gain elevation.
At three-quarters of a mile, you will reach the paved Mt Lee road (closed to cars), and a large no trespassing sign. The roadway is open to the public, but the hillsides are not from this point forward—the erosion issues will be obvious as you walk the road. This is the steepest part of the hike, and after 2 sharp turns, the road will flatten out.
Soon you will reach the top of the main ridge, with views across Burbank (that's the 134 below you). Forest Lawn Memorial Park is at the base of the hill, and you will soon be able to see Disney Studios just north of the 134. Keep an eye out for Burbank Airport as well.
At this point, you are nearly there! The top kind of sneaks up on you.
When you are above the Hollywood sign, be sure to go up to the promontory directly behind you for the best views. Have a snack (a garbage can is available), take lots of pictures, and be sure to ask the kids what they can see—downtown? Hollywood? The trail you came up? Century City? The Verdugo Mountains? Helicopters flying below you while patrolling the sign? Your own neighborhood?
To return to your car, retrace your steps. Keep your eyes open, and you won't miss the sharp right turn onto the Hollyridge Trail.
Looking for more kid-friendly hikes in LA?
Photo credit: Mitch Barrie via flickr
Originally published January 12, 2013