When Gina’s daughter, Abby, flew into LA, she only had a few requests: To see the Hollywood Sign, to surf, and to meet Justin Bieber… Oh, wait, that last one was Gina. Anyway, immediately after picking Abby up from LAX (which was surprisingly easy to navigate) we drove toward the Hollywood Sign.
Some Quickies (Facts That Is!)
- The Hollywood Sign was built in 1923, and it originally said “Hollywoodland” as advertisement for a real estate development.
- In 1932, a woman named Peg Entwhistle jumped to her death from the sign after she failed to make a splash in the acting business. Some claim the area is still haunted by her ghost.
- “Land” in “Hollywoodland” was removed in 1949.
- In the 1960s/1970s, the Hollywood sign began to rust, decay, and crumble. It was also frequently vandalized. Hilariously, some people modified the letters to spell out “Hollyweed”.
- The sign we see today is only as old as 1978. The original letters of the sign were auctioned off (going for almost $30,000 per letter), and a new sign was erected.
- The sign used to light up back when it was “Hollywoodland”. When it became “Hollywood”, it was lit up on a few special occasions. The Hollywood sign is no longer lit up at night, and it likely will never be again.
How to Get Up-Close
Gina had spent quite some time researching hiking trails to the Hollywood Sign. There were several trails to choose from, the most popular being a 6.4 mile hike (round-trip) from the Griffith Observatory. Although Gina and I love hiking, we wanted to choose the shortest and easiest trail to take Abby on because we didn’t want to spend an entire day seeing one attraction since her time in California was to be so short. The hike we settled on was a 3.5 mile hike from Mullholland Highway with a picture perfect view of the Hollywood sign right at the start. Though efforts had been made by the locals to make this trail inaccessible to tourists, Gina found a site that described exactly how to get there and told us to COMPLETELY IGNORE every sign that deterred us from proceeding.
As we got closer to the trail head, the roads became extremely narrow. I mean, EXTREMELY. I’m talking blind curves with vehicles parked along the side of the road making it terrifyingly difficult to squeeze a vehicle through. Oh, and it’s TWO WAY TRAFFIC. When we were on our way up, we came nose to nose with another vehicle which then had to reverse back up the mountain until there was enough room to pass. As we drove to the trail head, there were signs everywhere that said “local traffic only” and “road closed”. Anyone who knows me personally can confirm that I am typically a HUGE rule follower, so ignoring those signs was kind of a big deal for me (side note: I’ve become much more rebellious since embarking on this journey lol).
Once at the intersection of Deronda Drive and Mullholland Highway, we legally parked on the side of the road (don’t take your chance parking illegally, you’ll get towed!) and walked to the trail head. To our surprise, the trail head was blocked by a large and intimidating iron gate. There were signs all over the gate, and one said, “Restricted Entry. No Hiking Allowed to the Hollywood Sign. Violators Subject to Arrest and $103.00 fine.” Right then, our excitement balloon deflated. The blog we read didn’t say anything about a big ol’ gate with threatening signs. Just as we were about to give up, a man who had also just arrived confidently walked up to the gate and said, “C’mon, over here.” We followed him to a part of the fence with a smaller gate. Despite the lock pad on the handle, he opened the door without punching in a code. A sign on the door said, “Park Closed Sunset to Sunrise”. Wait, what? So you have one sign that says, “Restricted entry…” and then not 20 feet away, you have an unlocked “coded” door with a sign that says it’s an open park…okay? While chatting with the man, we learned he was a local, and he was surprisingly very friendly and helpful. I say “surprisingly” because everything we read on the internet and all the signs that screamed “tourists go away!” made me feel like running into a local wouldn’t be very pleasant. Not far apart from the local man and his friends, we all began our ascent to the Hollywood Sign.
The trail was paved and, though I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was busy, all the “go away or else” signs clearly weren’t doing the best job. The view of the city as we climbed higher was pretty awesome, but we definitely had to work for it. After about an hour or so, we finally made it to the summit and as close to the sign was we could get. Though the view was of the back of the Hollywood sign, and there was a fence preventing us from getting too close, the sight was well worth the hike. P.S. We didn’t see Peg’s ghost.
We were grateful for the short-ish hike to the sign that this trail provided and the great photo-op spot in the beginning. From what I’ve read and experienced first-hand, most of the signs that try to turn you away from hiking up to the sign are merely there as a deterrence. That being said, I don’t know if there are any real consequences for disobeying the sign. If you’re worried about the legitimacy of the signs, if you aren’t prepared for the stressful drive, or if you don’t want to risk pissing off any residents, maybe hiking from the Griffith Observatory is a better option for you. All I can say to that is we were just fine.
**If you simply type in “Hollywood Sign”, the GPS will automatically take you to the Griffith Observatory (which is actually a pretty cool place-and is free!) For the best GPS directions to the trail we used, avoid putting in Mullholland DRIVE which is 25 minutes away. Type in the intersection of Mullholland HIGHWAY and Deronda Drive, or 6000 Mullholland HIGHWAY. Good luck!