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.
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.
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?
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!