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  • Matthew Kenagy

An LA Must See: the Hollywood Hike

Updated: May 4

Anyone who is familiar with Los Angeles is familiar with the icons of the city, perhaps none more famous than the Hollywood letters perched on Mount Lee. But did you know you could hike to the top of Mount Lee, stand behind the letters, and see a sweeping view of Los Angeles, including the ocean and nearly all of the San Fernando Valley? It's a site to behold, and something everyone should experience.


I had long been fascinated with the sign, because I was fascinated with Hollywood in general. As a movie buff since I was a little kid, I was enthralled by the industry that brought me so much joy and entertainment. Sure, I'd seen the Vinewood letters close up on GTA V, but the real thing had to be so much better.

I was right. But, it was a lot harder than I expected.


In my opinion, I think Brush Canyon Trail is the way to go, although it's an elevation change of over 1,000 feet and it's about six and a half miles roundtrip. All of the major effort is on the ascent; it's all downhill on the way back. If you start at Griffith Observatory, it's almost nine miles round trip, and it crosses between two mountains, giving you ascents both on the way to the sign, and, on the way back.


If you are going to hike it in the Summer, bring a lot of water, sunscreen, and take a few rests in the shade. I hiked the trail from the Griffith Observatory in 90 degree heat and nearly died of heat exhaustion. I ran out of water on the way to the sign, and had to bail out and take the Brush Canyon trail as there was no way I was going back up hill to the Observatory. I had to semi-consciously stumble my way back down the Canyon Trail, and thanks to the kindness of a few families on a Sunday picnic, I was able to get some water before I passed out.


Another important safety tip - don't wear flip flops. Be entirely aware of your surroundings. I've experienced coyotes and rattlesnakes on the trails, especially when you get to the last part of the hike that wraps around Mount Lee.


By the way, if you're a movie buff, Bronson Cave on Canyon Drive is in the area as well, home to Adam West and Batman in the original TV series.


As you ascend, and start to get tired, you'll also be tempted to stop at the perches immediately below the Hollywood sign, especially if you started at the Innsdale Trail or from Mulholland Highway. Don't stop there. You'll regret it. It's a great photo op of the sign, but the best is yet to come. As much as you won't want to, continue up Mount Lee Drive. It's paved, but nearly a mile and a half at a fairly aggressive grade. On that part of the walk, you're treated to an incredible view of the studio lots in Culver City as you wrap around the back side of Mount Lee to your final destination.


Speaking of the destination, as I said, it's worth it. And if you don't believe me, check out our photo from the top:


Was it tough? Yes, especially in the heat. Would I do it again? Yes, any time. The views and feeling of standing atop one of the greatest cities in the world is without compare - especially for a film buff and someone who loves Hollywood as much as I do.


Next time you're in LA, carve out an afternoon and spend some time on what will be one of the best experiences of your life! This is one to both add to and check off your bucket list.

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