July 22, 2019
From densely populated canyons covered by leafy canopies to barren mountainsides that are home to rattlesnakes and coyotes, there is a wide variety of ecosystems along Hollywood’s hiking trails. While the pathways surrounding the Hollywood landscape are not exactly designed for solitude, the panoramic scenery, people-watching opportunities, and potential for celebrity sightings are more than enough to make up for the masses. Whether you are looking for the perfect view of the Hollywood sign or are trying to forget it exists, the perfect trail awaits.
Hollywood Sign Hike
The 5.1-mile out-and-back Hollyridge Trail leads to the Mount Lee Summit via the Aileen Getty Ridge Trail, providing the best view available behind the Hollywood Sign. While plenty of trails (and Home Depot parking lots) provide brilliant views of the sign, there are hardly any access points to the back of the icon.
Though this landmark has become synonymous with the greater Los Angeles area, it surprisingly originated as an ad campaign announcing the Hollywoodland housing development. Regardless of how it came about, the sign’s majestic poise remains today, thanks to the trail’s elusive nature—and the $1,000 fine that hooligans may face should they get too close to the towering letters.
With the sign’s delicate nature in mind, head out through Canyon Drive, just two blocks east of Beachwood Gate. It’s important to wear hiking shoes and to bring lots of water, as the steep hillside provides little to no shade. Setting out early in the day or late in the afternoon is recommended in order to combat these harsh conditions, but be sure to come in after sunrise and to leave prior to sunset, when the trails are closed. Trekking poles and baseball hats are not out of place along this moderately rated hiking trail, so don’t be afraid to bring them along, either.
The Mount Lee Summit will lead to an intimidating-looking fence, but fear not: Your efforts have not been wasted. Head toward the fence and walk left, up the dirt path. This is the real end of the Hollywood Sign hike, which will reward you with the panoramic views you set out to find.
Griffith Park Trails
As Los Angeles’ largest historic landmark and one of the biggest municipal parks in the entire continent, Griffith Park has a lot to offer. The entirety of the park covers just over 4,500 acres, encompassing 53 miles of hiking trails. Griffith Park opens at
5 a.m. and closes at 10:30 p.m., so you have ample time to experience the open natural areas. Keep an eye out for the local wildlife—which includes quail, deer, rodents, and rattlesnakes—as you check out some of the best hiking trails in L.A.
Griffith Park Zoo
The now-abandoned zoo serves as one of the coolest Griffith Park trails—and one of the least talked about. While the approximately 1.5-mile loop is absent of life today, it was once the bustling site of the original L.A. Zoo. After the zoo moved locations to its current digs, the old spot was taken over by Griffith Park and spruced up with quaint picnic tables and shrubbery. While it is easy to miss, the zoo’s enclosures are hidden in plain sight, just beyond the merry-go-round.
Once you arrive at Griffith Park, follow the signs up to the merry-go-round parking lot. From here, look for the gated road with a dirt path just beyond it. Though this road is closed to vehicles, the hiking trails are open to pedestrians, so trek on, taking the right trail at the fork. The pathway weaves around and eventually brings you to cages and enclosures that once held all kinds of animals, both large and small. After climbing around the exhibits; strolling along the trails; and pretending to be lions, tigers, and bears, continue following the route to find yourself back at the merry-go-round.
The Bronson Caves, also known as Bronson Canyon, is a section of Griffith Park that was formerly home to the Union Rock Company quarry. This quarry dug caves and crushed rocks, which were used in the creation of city streets during the 1910s and 1920s. Soon after, however, the quarry was abandoned, and the land was renamed the Bronson Caves, thanks to a neighboring street.
While the history is enough to draw some geology fanatics to the Bronson Caves, most visitors are more interested in the site’s film career—specifically its role as the Batcave in the 1960s Batman series. The half-mile route to the caves is easy and can be considered a walking path rather than a hiking trail, though three lengthier pathways lead past the caves, providing plenty of opportunities for those wanting to continue their trek.
Brush Canyon Trail
Much like the aforementioned Hollywood Sign hike, the Brush Canyon Trail allows hikers to see behind the iconic landmark, offering scenic views of its frontside along the way. Park inside the Griffith Park gates, and walk north to the trailhead to begin the hike. After about 1.5 miles, a fork in the road presents the option to go left toward the Hollyridge Trail and Mount Lee Drive via the Mulholland Trail, or to veer right toward the Griffith Observatory. Whichever way you choose, many other hikers are bound to join you along the way.
Runyon Canyon is one of the most popular hiking locations in Los Angeles, boasting a multitude of trails. Walk along the three-mile loop to take advantage of the park’s offerings, and make sure you come prepared for a photo-op—it is not uncommon to run into celebrities (just try your best to not literally run into them).
Once on the trails, expect millionaire mansions, Hollywood Sign views, and cityscapes to replace the traditional trees and groundcover of a wilderness hike. While it’s not quite what a true hiker might expect from hiking trails, these pathways are just about as good as it gets in the middle of Los Angeles.
Bring a camera to capture the sweeping views, and give yourself ample time to find parking. It is in the middle of L.A., after all.
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