Hiking Hollywood: An LA MUST-Do

When Ben and I went to California in August, we ventured down from San Francisco to Los Angeles for a few days. Aside from seeing baseball games at Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium, we weren't particularly excited about anything else LA had to offer. If it weren't for LA having two Major League Baseball teams (and Ben's and my goal to hit up every park), I can honestly say I don't think either of us would have voluntarily visited. We had no interest in going to Hollywood (although we did end up having breakfast at Sunset and Vine, walking a couple blocks of the Walk of Fame, and then driving down Hollywood Boulevard and Rodeo Drive on our way out of town, which was plenty) so we weren't exactly sure how to spend our limited time in between ballgames.

I'm not sure where I got this idea, but before our trip, I had decided that the one thing I actually did want to do in LA was hike up to the Hollywood Sign. There are plenty of places throughout the city that provide a peek at the sign, but I wanted to see it up close and personal. Or, as close as I could get anyway, which I found out was like 15 feet behind a chain link fence. Close enough.

There are a few different options for hiking the sign. There's an easy route, but that only gets you a view of the front of the sign down the hill from it. We decided on the moderate route, which is about twice as long as the easy route but gets you right up behind the sign, with an incredible view of the city. 

There were a few guides I found online, but by and large this hike was made possible by Modern Hiker's comprehensive guide. You see, there's really no specific "Hike to the Hollywood Sign!" Trail, so you so have to have some idea of where to start and what to do. The moderate trail to get up there is the Canyon Blvd Trail. You drive down Canyon Blvd until the road kind of abruptly ends and the trail begins. There is a parking lot on the right and then another one a little further on the left, and in front of that is a gate marking the beginning of the trail.

You can start right up the trail, or you can take a 10-minute side tour by hanging a sharp right before you get to the trail, onto a dirt road. It leads to a series of tunnels that were used as the Batcave in the original 60s Batman TV Series (as well as Sharnado vs. Crocosaurus so...it's kind of a big deal). There's also a pretty cool view of the Hollywood Sign in between the hills.

Now, onto the actual trail. I'll be honest, heading off into nature alone isn't really something I do regularly. I was worried I might get bitten by a rattlesnake, or eaten by a coyote (the fact that we saw two come out of the woods while we were standing in the parking lot before we even started didn't help), or, most probably in my mind, abducted by someone on the trail and taken into the woods and killed. For the record, I never saw any wildlife on the trail other than one lizard, and there was only one time at the very beginning when a guy came up on us and I was 50% sure he was going to kill us (he didn't, FYI). After the first quarter mile or so we started to see groups of people more and more frequently, and after that I felt a lot better. At least we had a shot of having some witnesses around in the event that we were actually murdered.

The trail was actually just a dirt road that wound around the side of the mountain all the way up to the sign. It's about 3 miles to get all the way up to the sign. The first mile has the biggest incline, with some pretty steep sections, and has about 900 feet of elevation gain. 

Not really...the bottom is even further down, father than you can even see

"Here" meaning like 1/3 of the way, meaning like not even close

After that the trail more or less flattens out for the next mile! You also get some great views of the city during this part.

LIES. Would only be accurate it if read, "You made it HALFWAY :)"

The last mile is another steep incline up to the top of the hill. That last mile is actually a paved road that winds around the top of the mountain until you finally get to a chain link fence with the letters behind it. 
I was all excited thinking, "Yeah! We made it!!!" Then we walked another hundred yards and realized there's a small dirt hill you can climb for the very best view.
It took us an hour and 20 minutes to get to the top. Of course, once we made it, we took some time to celebrating conquering the Hollywood hills.
Hiking the Hollywood sign ended up being one of my favorite things that we did on our entire trip to California, especially surprising considering I didn't even really want to go to LA in the first place. The Hollywood hills were truly unlike anything I'd ever seen before, and the views of the city along the way and from up behind the sign were just stunning. The hike took about 2.5 hours total, maybe 3 hours with driving time included, and it was a blast. It wasn't the world's easiest hike, but any able-bodied person should be able to do it (my non-marathon-running, non-triathlete husband made it up just fine). If you really aren't sure what to do when you're in LA, or you find yourself there with just a few hours to explore, like we did, put this at the top of your list!

Special shout out to Erin and her post about her anticipated travels out west that for being the impetus that finally got this post out of my drafts and published!


  1. After 4 years living in Southern California I will be perfectly fine if I never go back to LA. The city just does nothing for me. I do like the Hollywood sign and the hills around it though. I loved just riding around through the neighborhood, looking at the houses and imagining who lives in all those houses. Speaking of rattlesnakes, one time I was at the Marine base in southern California and I almost stepped right on a rattlesnake. I have never run so fast in my entire life. After that I realized all the rattling I had been hearing earlier where dozens of rattlesnakes. I think I saw about four total that day, I'm scarred for life now.

  2. LA isn't really on my bucket list - I'm more of a Napa/Sonoma/northern CA girl (I think), but if we ever go this would be a must do!

  3. I'm so glad you posted about this!!! :) I'm with you that we think a brief tour of LA/Hollywood would be enough for us- and this hike sounds awesome!

  4. We LOVE hiking so I'll have to save this if I ever get out to LA!

  5. Your pictures are absolutely amazing!!! I am not a big ourdoorsy person but I would totally hike to see those views!!!

  6. YUP. Gotta do this. I have a small inclination to see some parts of LA, but mostly because I've read too much Bret Easton Ellis and watched too many episodes of The Hills. But this... this I can definitely say I need to do if I ever make it out there. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I've been to LA twice and have NEVER seen the Hollywood sign. It's horrible! This looks awesome though! I love hiking and the almost-always-perfect LA weather makes it seem like I'll have no reason NOT to do this...and then I'll actually see the Hollywood sign!

  8. So fun! Love the view from the top. This sounds like something I'd like to do!

  9. Wow I would totally do this!! Totally! I've been to LA and didnt even venture close to the sign. Next time .... lol

  10. eeeeep coyotes?! no thanks. and thank goodness that guy didn't kill you, lol. i have spent 1 night in LA and that was enough for me, I have no desire to go back. however, if I did, I would definitely do this, as we didn't even get to see the sign (we tried to drive around and find it, but nope).

  11. I found your post from Kristen's blog this morning! A really helpful post, because my boyfriend and I will be spending a few days in LA in February and I really want to do a hike like this! The view looks amazing! Thanks very much! :)

  12. I saw this popup in your sidebar and realized I never read it... my thoughts before reading were that this looks really fun, but scary because of snakes or other things, so I was SO glad you mentioned that, haha. Such great shots from behind the sign with LA in the distance!


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