Wandering to the World Famous “Hollywood” Sign

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Earlier this week my daughter Amy, grandson Jake, and I had the opportunity to link up in Los Angeles and walk to the world famous Hollywood sign. When we started planning our get-together, I contacted Bob Inman, the author of “Finding Los Angeles by Foot”, for a good walking route to the sign. The route he mapped out for us and the walk itself were both fantastic. And if you plan on doing some exploring in Los Angeles, Bob’s book is an amazing resource for finding hidden stairways and paths throughout the area.

Our route started at the granite gate on Beachwood at the entrance of Hollywoodland. As most of you probably know, the Hollywood sign used to say Hollywoodland. The sign was built in the 1920s to promote a housing development of the same name in the Hollywood Hills. Sometime in the late 1940s the sign lost its last four letters and was shortened to Hollywood. The sign was completely refurbished in the late 1970s.

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As you can see by the plaque on the gate, the neighborhood was developed around 1923. You will see the gray granite many times along the way!

As you can see by the plaque on the gate, the neighborhood was developed around 1923. You will see the gray granite many times along the way!

From the stone gate, we passed a small market to the west and turned right at the first street west of Beachwood. At 2795 Woodshire Drive we ran into a stairway with a foundation made of the same granite used to build the gate where we started.

There was wonderful landscaping and design on almost every step of the walk.

There was wonderful landscaping and design on almost every step of the walk.

It wasn't too long before we found this stairway.

It wasn’t too long before we found this stairway.

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We went up the stairs and took a left. Very soon we passed a home with a Camino de Santiago shell symbol. I hadn’t seen the symbol since walking the Camino last year and wondered if the owners walked the Camino or just liked the symbol. Perhaps, we were on a pilgrimage route to the Hollywood sign?

I must have seen thousands of this shell symbol when I walked the Camino.

I must have seen this shell symbol a thousand times when I walked the Camino.

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We continued walking streets uphill and soon came upon a house/castle complex called Wolf’s Lair. The home was built in the 1920s by one of the Hollywoodland developers, Milton Wolf, and has housed Debbie Reynolds, Marlon Brando, and the musician Moby in its long history. I wonder if Milton Wolf would have chosen the name if he had known that Adolf Hitler would be appropriating the same name for his Eastern Front headquarters in East Prussia during World War II!

That's Wolf's Lair at the top of the hill!

That’s Wolf’s Lair at the top of the hill!

This private stairway will take you up to Wolf's Lair.

This private stairway will take you up to Wolf’s Lair.

No matter which you turn, you'll find great views. I thought this house was very cool.

No matter which you turn, you’ll find great views. I thought this house was very cool.

Immediately beyond Wolf’s Lair, Bob’s directions had us making a hard right turn onto a dirt path on the backside of the complex. The path took us through a natural setting high above the Hollywood Reservoir. It was fantastic!

These Century Plants were right at the entrance of the trail.

These Century Plants were right at the entrance of the trail.

In a city with almost 4,000,000 people and with thousands of visitors every day, we were the only ones on the path. Except for a police helicopter flying overhead, it was quiet. There was the reservoir lake below us and shrubs and wildflowers all around us.

Here's the Hollywood reservoir down below. With the persistent drought, the water level is quite low.

Here’s the Hollywood reservoir down below. With the persistent drought, the water level is quite low.

Here's one of the many flowers along the way.

Here’s one of the many flowers along the way.

The only person we saw on the path was a woman walking her dog. She had a hat pulled over her face to protect her from the sun or to keep her being recognized or, perhaps, both. It’s one of those mysteries that I’ll never solve.

The path ended just below another house/castle complex – Castillo del Lago. That house was at one time was the home of the gangster Bugsy Siegel and later on the home of Madonna. It only seemed appropriate to start singing “Material Girl” as we walked under it.

There's Castillo del Lago from a distance.

There’s Castillo del Lago from a distance.

As you get closer, it's time to start singing your favorite Madonna song.

As you get closer, it’s time to start singing your favorite Madonna song.

Here's looking back on the trail. It's hard to believe that a trail like this exists in a city of four million people!

Here’s looking back on the trail. It’s hard to believe that a trail like this exists in a city of four million people!

The route then followed Mulholland Drive. Fortunately, there was a wide dirt path along the road to separate us from the pavement. With available road access and a clear view of the Hollywood sign, there were dozens of people taking selfies with the sign in the background.

Anyone ready for a selfie?

Anyone ready for a selfie?

I thought this garage door along the way was very cool.

I thought this garage door along the way was very cool.

As you can see, we kept getting closer to the sign.

As you can see, we kept getting closer to the sign.

Some of the roads had barriers to discourage drivers from trying to get a close parking spot to reach the sign.

Some of the roads had barriers to discourage drivers from trying to get a close parking spot to reach the sign.

We continued along Mulholland until it was blocked off by a very large gate at its junction with Deronda Drive. Fortunately, there was a walkway around the gate and from that point on only service vehicles were allowed on the road.

Here's the walkway around the gate from the backside.

Here’s the walkway around the gate from the backside.

The roadway brought us into Griffith Park with its 53-plus miles of hiking trails and rugged terrain. The park is a huge hunk of wild land right in the middle of the nation’s second largest city. It is an incredible resource for Los Angeles and an amazing place to hike. It is well worth a separate trip.

It's service vehicles only for the rest of the way.

It’s service vehicles only for the rest of the way. As you can see, Griffith Park is very rugged.

We continued through the park and followed service roads to the top of Mount Lee. This put us directly above the Hollywood sign. Along the way were licorice scented anise plants, many other types of plants, lizards, and fantastic views of Los Angeles. The anise and one of the other plants we passed, which must have been a type of mint, were like aromatherapy. I could have easily spent half the day smelling them.

Anise plants were everywhere along the road. If you pinch a couple of flower buds, the scent will send you heaven.

Anise plants were everywhere along the road. If you pinch a couple of flower buds, the scent will send you to heaven.

I don't know the name of this plant, but if you crush a couple of leaves in your fingers, you'll find the scent better than aromatherapy.

I don’t know the name of this plant, but if you crush a couple of leaves in your fingers, you’ll find the scent better than aromatherapy.

If you don't spend too much time checking out everything along the way, you'll soon be on top and look down on the Hollywood sign.

If you don’t spend too much time checking out everything along the way, you’ll soon be on top and look down upon the Hollywood sign.

There are fantastic views no matter which way you turn.

There are fantastic views no matter which way you turn.

After reaching the top, we returned to the gate at Deronda and then took a different set of roads back to our starting point. Needless to say, we passed several fabulous homes with wonderful outdoor art work and decoration. As a bonus we even walked another stairway made out of the same granite as the other stairway we walked. The trip down was just as great as the trip up.

We continued to see great flowers.

We continued to see great flowers.

And had great views at every turn.

And had great views at every turn.

Fabulous houses were everywhere.

Fabulous houses were everywhere.

I thought these old Spanish doors were cool.

I thought these old Spanish doors were cool.

I also liked this wall sculpture.

I also liked this wall sculpture.

As we went down the Hollywood sign was never far out of view.

As we went down the Hollywood sign was never far out of view.

How cool is this little sculpture?

How cool is this little sculpture?

I thought this too was cool.

I thought this too was cool.

These are the stairs we took down.

These are the stairs we took down towards the end of our walk.

Here's the stairway from the bottom.

Here’s the stairway from the bottom.

And finally back to our starting point. it came sooner than we expected.

And finally we made it back to our starting point. It came sooner than we expected.

According to Bob’s instructions, our route was a little more than six miles. With the walk being so wonderful it seemed like less. Again if you spend any time in Los Angeles, I strongly recommend Bob Inman’s book. It will keep you busy for years exploring the city.

Before closing, I do want to point out that there is some level of contention between some of the residents and people trying to get to the sign. Many of the roads in the neighborhood have barriers and signs saying, “No Access to Hollywood Sign”. Some of the roads without barriers were overloaded with cars trying to get as close to the sign as possible. Even worse were the drivers without experience driving on hills attempting to park their cars on the steep hills. We watched one person spend over ten minutes trying to park his car.

If you’re interested in walking to the Hollywood sign, my recommendation is that you don’t try to shorten your walk by parking as close as possible. I would encourage you to start far away and then walk as much as you can. There is so much along the way that you won’t be disappointed. This is truly a great walk!

7 Comments

  1. Thanks, David. I enjoyed the virtual walk. Especially the scallop sign!

  2. Easy to understand your enthusiasm for this hike, David! The pictures are great! I especially enjoyed the contrast between the “rural” atmosphere and landscape along the route and this hike being so close to the second largest city in the country. Next time I visit my son I will be sure to suggest we explore this hike – and get him a copy of Finding Los Angeles by Foot. Thanks for sharing this wonderful trip!

  3. Great post David. Again, you took some thumbnail guide info and blew it up to all sorts of new discoveries of your own. I had not noticed the Camino shell before. And yeah, those damn pesky helicopters. One seems to be cruising the area constantly watching for brush fires and chasing down people who want to walk right up to the sign to try to touch it.

  4. Great story and photos. Hard to believe that you found all of those interesting sites and sights in LA.

  5. Nice writeup and photos, Dave. Brings back old memories of livin’ in LA.

  6. What a wonderful wander!
    Castillo del Lago – on a dry hillside??? Loved the garage door painted like books. In all, a fun, frivolous and fascinating wander.

  7. Hard to beleive all that is right in the middle of a huge city of people. Just proves it pays to wander!

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