Contrary to the popular belief that is perpetuated by movies and songs, climbing and standing on the Hollywood sign is illegal. Cue all of the heartbroken teens and shattered bucket list items.
The sign is protected by an eight-foot chain-link fence and enough security cameras to make Area 51 jealous, but there is still a way for people to climb up close enough to get the perfect picture.
I had heard stories about the Hollywood Sign hike and wanted to wait to go until I went with my boyfriend. Since he sadly lives 4 hours away from me, I decided one Tuesday morning that I was going to tackle the hike by myself (you know, so I could be experienced for when we finally went together).
How to Get to the Hollywood Sign
The easiest way to get there is by car. Parking can be a nightmare, especially during high season. Some people choose to drive up to the Griffith Observatory and make the hike from there. However, the hike from the Observatory is the long route and finding a place to park there will probably be even more difficult.
My solution is to drive up North Beachwood Drive into the Hollywood Hills. It’s a very residential area and there will be signs that there’s not parking for the sign but don’t listen to them. The only signs you need to worry about are the official parking signs that give you the hours you can and can’t park there. Use your GPS if you have it (or the map down below) and park your car on the side of the road. Some people use Uber to avoid parking cars but cell service is kind of spotty so don’t rely on that.
After parking, keep walking up Beachwood Drive until it ends. There’s a horse stable at the end of the road with a pedestrian gate. The stables are called Sunset Ranch and if you want to take a horseback ride through the Hollywood Hills, that is a good place to go. But enough about horses, you came here to learn how to get to the sign.
Navigating the Trail
As you walk up to Sunset Ranch, you’ll see a huge sign for the ranch. Don’t keep going straight, turn right and head up the little hill and follow the path. After a little bit you will see lots of horse poop. Pretend you’re Dorothy and follow the poop like it’s the Yellow Brick Road. There are a few sneaky forks in the path that may try to lead you astray. Follow the signs and the people to get there.
The dirt trail soon turns into a paved road. If you want to get to the front of the Hollywood sign, turn right on it and follow the little sign. I made the awful mistake of not realizing there were signs, because they kind of blend in to the hills and are about knee-high. Since I didn’t see the signs, my hike took me way far away and I ended up with a different view of the sign.
Lots of people come to this spot because it gives you a good view in front of the sign. There was a city worker who told me the best spot to go for a picture and to avoid tourists. He probably only showed it to me because I was a semi-attractive solo female traveler. I’m not complaining though, because this was a prime photography spot. And since there was nobody around and I was secluded by brushes, I shamelessly whipped out my selfie stick for some pictures.
But if you want to hike to right above the Hollywood sign, follow the signs to the Mount Lee summit. That will take you on another slight hike that initially takes you away from the sign. At one point, you will find the white fence that overlooks Studio City. I could even see the Warner Bros lot! I just kept walking until I reached the summit and rounded the bend to find…
A huge chain-link fence! And the Hollywood sign too! If you don’t know what to expect, the sign can be slightly disappointing because you can only see the back. Even though I couldn’t climb on the letters, I still though the view was incredible. The fence was kind of daunting and I thought I would have snipers shoot at me, but I used my handy GoPro and selfie stick to take pictures over the fence. The tourists thought I was crazy but I knew they were just disappointed that they hadn’t thought of that trick.
For the best pictures, climb up the little dirt mound behind the sign. Someone even hiked up with an American flag just to put it there. Very patriotic. My biggest tip is to bring a GoPro or some sort of camera with a wide shot. The panoramic feature on the iPhone would probably work too. A normal camera won’t let you get the entire Hollywood sign in the picture but my GoPro did. I heard one couple comment on my use of my GoPro but at least I had a picture of me with the whole sign because I knew they didn’t.
The views from the top are incredible, especially on a clear day. The day I went was hazy and I was there at noon – not the best time of day for photography. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the views and the hike up to the sign. Sunset is going to be the prettiest time in regards to lighting. Unfortunately, it is dangerous after the sun sets since the sign isn’t lit. It’s kind of disappointing but as long as you know that, you can plan your trip around it.
So even though some websites and sources say that the hike is illegal, it’s not. Climbing to the actual sign (i.e. touching it) is illegal however and can land you a hefty fine. But by all means, hike up to the front view of the sign or even the back of it. The hike is fairly easy and besides, how many people can say they’ve hiked up to the Hollywood Sign?