Hiking to the Hollywood Sign

Jun 09, 2009 by Lisa Newton

I’ve always been fascinated by the Hollywood sign. And even more important to me—I’ve always wanted to see it up-close.

This Saturday, I got pretty close. I went into the Hollywood Hills going north on Beachwood Drive, until it ends. There’s a very small dirt parking lot where I parked and followed a sign reading “Hollyridge Trail.”

Unsure if I was in the right place, I just got out of the car and started walking the trail. Within a few minutes, I realized I was and my vision was getting closer and closer.

Although time and weather prevented me from actually touching the sign, as you can see from the photo above, I nearly reached the Mountain’s peak and although I didn’t literally touch the Hollywood sign, this was as good as it gets!

The Hollywood Sign’s Early History

It was originally built in 1921 as a huge advertisement for a local real estate development company. The 50-foot high letters cost $21,000. Plus, the first sign read HOLLYWOODLAND, not Hollywood. Over the years, the sign has seen its share of history, from being used as part of a struggling actress’s suicide to almost falling down.

HOLLY

The Hollywood Sign’s Renaissance

By the early to mid 1970’s the sign was in shambles and in fact, it was literally falling down; however in 1978, Hugh Hefner, stepped in and organized and hosted a party at the Playboy Mansion in order to raise funds to revamp the sign. Using an “Adopt-a-Letter” campaign, the sign’s letters were “sold” for $28,000 each. Celebrities such as Gene Autry (who bought an ‘L’) and Alice Cooper (who bought an ‘O’), donated generously and the Hollywood sign was brought back to life.

The Hollywood sign now stands–literally and figuratively–as part of the history of Los Angeles, movies, and an iconic image known the world over.

A different view of LA

What surprised me even more than seeing the Hollywood sign up close, were the stunning panoramic views of the city from the trail’s many perches, ledges, and vantage points.

From this vantage point downtown Los Angeles is a tad shy of being 8 miles away. Because today was such a clear day, it presented these majestic views.

Looking at the map below, you’ll see the little green hikers. That’s approximately where I shot this picture:


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Griffith Park, Hiking/Walking, Hollywood, Maps, Parks, Recreation, SoCal

37 Responses to “Hiking to the Hollywood Sign”

  1. Paisley (Paisley Thoughts) says:

    I had to smile when I read ‘Hollywoodland’. To us outsiders, Hollywood really is a mysterious land all all of its own.

    The two photos show completely different sides of the area and I found it so interesting that Hugh Hefner and Alice Cooper cared about the sign.

    Paisley (Paisley Thoughts)’s last blog post..What Makes Review Writing Ethical? A Real Experience

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @Paisley (Paisley Thoughts), It does have an interesting history.

    In the future, I have plans to visit Hollywood, so with any luck, you’ll soon see a few pictures……….:)

    [Reply]

  2. Betsy Wuebker says:

    Hi Lisa – I’m around long enough to remember when it read: Holywood. The unfortunate demise of the “L”!!

    What I love about your blog is that you’re showcasing all the wonderful things about L.A. It’s so easy to fixate on the truly gnarly aspects (and in my case some are particularly vivid even after all these years), but the quirky wonderful and sublime things about Los Angeles, its history and environs create the magic. It’s such a pleasure. Thank you.

    Betsy Wuebker’s last blog post..FROM THE ROAD: INTO THE YUKON

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @Betsy Wuebker, Every city has their “gnarly” aspects, but they all also have their beautiful, cultural, and wonderful sides. LA is so loaded with great stuff, I have my work cut out for me………….:)

    I’m so happy you’re enjoying your visits here. If there’s any area you’d like me to write and photo, please feel free to email me.

    [Reply]

  3. Kim says:

    I had no idea about the history of the sign.. I am off to google some more info on it because your post has me intrigued!! Wonderful !!

    Kim’s last blog post..Wordless AND Wordful Wednesday..I’m thinkin, I’m thinkin, I’m thinkin

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @Kim, Please let me know if you discover any tidbits I didn’t find.

    I’m lovin’ learning about LA’s history.

    [Reply]

  4. David says:

    You’ve captured the mystery, and mystique of the Hollywood sign, and all of its history-good and bad–in a more than cursory manner.

    Your photographs and story are outstanding.

    Hollywood has been, in fact, undergoing a rebirth and urban renewal–I hope that it’s not stalled due to the economy.

    We’ll see.

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @David, We’ll soon find out. After all of these comments, my interest in Hollywood has been piqued.

    Stay tuned…………..

    [Reply]

  5. Diane C. says:

    What a neat idea, hiking up to see the famous Hollywood sign. I was surprised to see the great views you got from there.

    Diane C.’s last blog post..Saguaro Fruit Ripen

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @Diane C., On another day, I wouldn’t have gotten such great views. It just so happened it rained the day before and the sky was clear, very clear.

    [Reply]

  6. D. Travis North says:

    Did you see the first episode of the Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien? He interviewed the ‘D’ as a guest.

    Great history of the sign. Had no idea that it was anything more than a gimmick. One minor detail – Alice Cooper was never in Kiss.

    D. Travis North’s last blog post..Your First Lens For Your D-SLR

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @D. Travis North, Due to my schedule, I’m usually asleep when the Tonight Show is on, so unfortunately, I did see the show.

    Thanks for the heads up about Alice Cooper. I could have sworn he was the leader of Kiss. I have corrected the error in my post……………:)

    [Reply]

    D. Travis North Reply:

    @LisaNewton, Conan films in LA at Universal Studios. You should try to get tickets onto his show and write about that experience.

    D. Travis North’s last blog post..Your First Lens For Your D-SLR

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @D. Travis North, I’ll see what I can do. :)

  7. Liara Covert says:

    There is always more to a simple word than meets the eye. Thanks for inviting readers to take another look and reflect on meaning, history and insight they may have missed before.

    Liara Covert’s last blog post..Where are you heading?

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @Liara Covert, You’re so welcome. Sharing history is one of the things I love about writing about LA. Although not as long as many other places, our history is rich with culture, people, and nationalities.

    [Reply]

  8. carla says:

    I LOVE the third photo! That view is priceless. Thank you for sharing the history of the sign – I never knew its been around so long!

    carla’s last blog post..Giveaway: Matt & Nat Takumi Vegan Handbag

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @carla, I was surprised when I first started researching it. I had no idea all the interesting goings on there.

    [Reply]

  9. Mike Foster says:

    This is so cool. When I first moved to southern Cal one of the first things I did was drive to L.A. and seek out the Hollywood sign. Like a whisper of history, I kept it in sight throughout my visit, peeking between buildings, while driving, making sure it was there. I drove up to Griffith Park and thought that was as close as one could get to it…until now. I will have to try that trek someday.

    peace,
    mike
    livelife365

    Mike Foster’s last blog post..More Fun With Fiber

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @Mike Foster, Actually, there is a longer trail that connects to the one I took that you can take and actually touch the sign. Weather and time were against me getting that close this time, but I’ll be back. :)

    [Reply]

  10. The Magical Cliffs of the Hollyridge Trail | Travelin' Local says:

    [...] If you’re new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting! LisaNewton 11 June 2009 Feature Story hiking, Hollyridge Trail, Hollywood sign, Los Angeles, plants Hiking to the Hollywood Sign [...]

  11. Lance says:

    Like Carla, I love the third photo – the view is so awesome! And you’re really showing a side of LA that I don’t typically think of – it’s really so neat to see all the places you can go so close to home. Thanks for continuing to share all of this Lisa.

    Lance’s last blog post..The Sunset Of Our Soul

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @Lance, LA is much more than people think. I’m so happy you’re seeing it a little differently. And thank you, Lance for being a vital part of Travelin’ Local’s community. :)

    [Reply]

  12. dc says:

    Very cool — that sign is very mysterious despite its fame. I’m impressed by the view you can get from up there — you’re lucky to have such nice views, so close to the city!

    dc’s last blog post..Apple Blossoms

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @dc, Being surrounded by mountains can have its advantages. I’m sure there are other places with better views, but on the day I was here, not too many of them could do as well.

    [Reply]

  13. Jannie Funster says:

    WOW! I know pictures can only show a portion of the view, and these are stunning, but I bet it was absolutley amazing up there.

    Will you go back for the longer trail and try to touch the sign another time?

    Jannie Funster’s last blog post..Gravatar update

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @Jannie Funster, It was truly wonderful. The only disadvantage was that I wasn’t dressed properly. When the clouds moved in, the air chilled, and I needed a light coat.

    Several of the shots I took had a small camera shake, so they’re blurry. I’ll be better prepared with I go and touch the sign.

    I’ll make sure I take a picture of my hand on the closest letter. :)

    [Reply]

  14. Kevin says:

    Thanks for sharing the history of this famous landmark with us. I have driven by the Hollywood sign countless times but never stopped to explore the area. That’s an amazing view of Los Angeles from up there. What a perfect day!

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @Kevin, I use the sign as a marker to how clear a day it is, especially if I’m on the 10 going into LA. You can see it from the freeway. I’m happy you enjoyed it, Kevin. :)

    [Reply]

  15. Michele says:

    How long did it take you to hike from the dirt parking lot to where you took your photos?

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @Michele, Surprisingly, the top picture was taken only about 10 minutes into the walk. However, the amazing panaromas of the city were about 30 minutes into the trail.

    It’s my understanding that you can indeed get closer to the sign than I did if you take the right fork in the trail instead of the left, as I did.

    My only suggestion is to make sure you hike the trail on a clear day. You’ll enjoy the views so much better. :)

    [Reply]

  16. Walking the Hollywood Walk of Fame | Travelin' Local says:

    [...] as with the rehabilitation of the Hollywood sign, the Walk of Fame started as a way of promoting redevelopment in Hollywood. Although its history [...]

  17. Lisamarie says:

    I enjoyed this post very much. I’m also planning on my own trip up to touch the sign. I’ve run into a lot of people saying it’s impossible, but you’ve given me new hope! Wonderful shots, by the way.

    [Reply]

    LisaNewton Reply:

    @Lisamarie, I didn’t actually touch the sign, but I look forward to going back and hiking the trail to get a little closer. Please let me know how your trip goes. :)

    [Reply]

  18. Best Places to See the Hollywood Sign | Travelin' Local says:

    [...] this map as your guide, follow Beachwood Drive until it ends. Following the Hollyridge Trail, you can get as close to the Hollywood Sign as the trail will take you. I haven’t touched the [...]

  19. A Different View of the Hollywood Sign | Travelin' Local says:

    [...] the way up to the Hollywood Sign. What’s different about this hike than my previous treks to the Hollywood Sign is that I’m starting and ending up at two completely different points toward the Hollywood sign. [...]

  20. 10 Fun Free Activities to Do in Los Angeles | Travelin' Local says:

    [...] resource and guide to find the best locations to see the Hollywood Sign. Included are routes via Beechwood Drive or Griffith [...]

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