Hiking to the Hollywood Sign


When I'm disastrously hungover there's only one thing in the entire world that I want to do and that is to hike 4+ miles... uphill... in the unrelenting heat of the blazing sun. But, you know, like only if my other favorite activities such as moving houses or doing backbreaking yard work are off the table.

As my ever-so-patient boyfriend can attest, when we travel (and sometimes when we don't) I have a knack for packing in activities that require peak physical abilities the day after a night that required peak drinking abilities. And our recent Hollywood getaway was no exception. The day after we marathon drank for seven hours at the Magic Castle, I had a lowkey little hike planned for us to the Hollywood Sign.

Only it wasn't exactly lowkey or little...

Somehow, someway, despite my sincere love for all things touristy when in Los Angeles, I had never hiked to the Hollywood Sign before our trip. And so this was one of three items on my 30 Before 30 list that I was determined to check off during our weekend in L.A.

A brief history lesson: The Hollywood Sign was erected in 1923 and was originally a billboard for a real estate development called "Hollywoodland" that was situated just beneath it. And it was only supposed to last a year and a half! Instead it was shortened to just "Hollywood" in 1949 (several years after it became property of the city), and is now almost a century old.

So, after nursing our hangovers until about 3pm (ice bags, Advil, caffeine, water, and potato chips were all utilized to their full potential), we finally climbed out of bed to let my friend Shan into our AirBnB while we got ready. By about 4pm, we headed to what I hoped would be the trailhead of our hike using a randomly selected Google search result for "how to hike to the Hollywood sign" and came to the following gate: 

As I would later learn (and by later, I mean right now as I type up this post), this is the entrance to one of three major trails to the Hollywood Sign. This entrance, reached by heading north on Canyon Drive until you see the above landscape* (*models of parked cars may vary), leads to the trailhead of the Brush Canyon Trail, better known as the 6.5 mile round trip hike to the summit of Mount Lee where the sign is perched.

Since it was getting late, we decided to park just outside of the gates at the entrance in case we got back after sunset. However for future reference, in addition to the street parking after the gates, we soon walked past a parking lot and across from that, a lovely shaded area for picnics.

Not long after the first lot, there is a second, much smaller lot (pictured below) with a sign reading "Camp Hollywood Land." If this parking lot is on your left-hand side, then directly to your right you will see a little trail. This trail takes you on a short detour to the Bronson Caves, also known as The Batcave, from the Batman TV show that aired in the 60s.

If, however, you have no idea what I'm talking about and don't want to add any more mileage to your hike, then you can just walk straight ahead where you will find the gate to the Brush Canyon trail, pictured below.

Initially, as you walk up the wide dirt trail (and I mean *up* ... you're immediately on a slight incline), there's some dappled shade along the way but not long after you will be unprotected. Which means you should definitely bring sunscreen and water.

About 3/4 of a mile into our hike, maybe even less, we finally got our first glimpse of the destination we were hiking to: a sideways view of the Sign.

Hooray! Only 3 more miles-ish to go!

By the time we got to the first plateau of the day (which boasts a beautiful view of the city, though not so much of the Sign), I had to admit I was so grateful that I had selected a pair of trail sneakers the last time I was at Road Runner Sports here in San Diego.

I've always hiked in my running shoes, which just would not work on this trail. It's dusty and dirty and covered in horse poop... in fact, if you're ever worried about which direction to go in, just follow the horse poop and you should make it to the Sign just fine.

But seriously. This trail would have destroyed my running sneakers, or at the very least, hurt my feet by not supporting them properly. I'm always glad to have the lovely people at Road Runner Sports to help point me in the right direction and ask me the right questions when I'm getting a new pair. With my new Brooks Cascadia 10s it was: are you going to use these during any other activities?

When I answered with a resounding yes, they hooked me up with a pair that gives me grip, stability, breathability and comfort on dusty hillsides trails. So, thanks guys! :) If you are ever in the market for a new set of kicks, just trust me and head straight there... they know what they're doing, especially when you don't. And if you don't have a pair of trail sneakers, I highly recommend trying out a few... after all if you don't like them you can return them within 90 days, no questions asked.

Following a short water break and breather on the bench at the top of that plateau, we forged onward and came to an intersection where a paved road led up a hillside to our right and the dusty dirt trail we were on continued to our left. This is an important decision that every hiker must make for themselves: to venture or not to venture up the paved path.

The reason? If I'm reading half of these sketchy internet directions correctly, that is the path to take to go up a very sharp incline to actually summit Mount Lee and get a view of the Hollywood Sign from above, behind and through a chain link fence. I would love for an experienced Hollywood hiker to confirm or deny this assumption... so please, let me know in the comments!

Choosing the left path, like we did, will ultimately bring you around a series of itsy bitsy shaded switchbacks and eventually let you out below one of the best front-facing views of the Sign possible. It will also allow for great views of the city and the Griffith Observatory along the way!

And then finally... without any warning, there it was, in all it's beckoning glory.

As these things tend to go, the way back down was much faster, though there are actually inclines both ways. In fact, the inclines didn't stop until we got back to the first plateau... which is when I finally understood the placement of this little sign: 

We made it back to the car just before sunset after hiking for a total of about 2.5 to 3 hours, with plenty of breaks for pictures. Overall, if I had to mistakenly pick the longest of the three most popular hikes to the Sign all over again, I'd still probably pick Brush Canyon, hangovers be damned! Truly, it was a beautiful, relaxing hike with the best company a girl could ask for!

...buttttt maybe next time when I'm that hungover, I'll check out that whole easy, peasy Hollyridge trail everyone keeps on raving about.

Hollywood Sign - Brush Canyon Trail Hike
3200 Canyon Drive
Griffith Park
Los Angeles, CA 90068

Thank you to Road Runner Sports for sponsoring this post and, as always, for being the best shoe store around!