Los Angeles

7 Epic Hikes for a Close-Up View of the Iconic Hollywood Sign

Trek to one of LA's most famous landmarks.

Photo by Michelle Rae Uy for Thrillist
Photo by Michelle Rae Uy for Thrillist
Photo by Michelle Rae Uy for Thrillist

Perched atop Mount Lee in the Santa Monica Mountains, the Hollywood Sign represents one of LA’s most significant monuments. Yet most never get the chance to see the sign up close and in all its 45-foot glory, instead settling for distant photos of the landmark captured from the Hollywood and Highland intersection or the Griffith Observatory. But to truly experience the grandeur of these iconic letters, you must trudge those dirt trails and make that trek up. Within Griffith Park-LA’s own Central Park, but better, with 4,310 acres that make it one of the largest urban parks in North America- there’s a tangle of trails and numerous trailheads that serve as jumping-off points to this LA emblem. From effortless footpaths meant for non-hikers to challenging trails for the more experienced ones, here are the seven best hikes to reach the Hollywood sign.

Photo by Michelle Rae Uy for Thrillist
Photo by Michelle Rae Uy for Thrillist
Photo by Michelle Rae Uy for Thrillist

Mulholland Highway Trail

Hollywood
Starting point
Parking: Hollywood Reservoir parking near the gate on Weidlake Dr; street parking is available as well.
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2 miles round trip

Only locals really know about this mile-long gold-and-green stretch that skirts around the eastern fringes of the Hollywood Reservoir. Well, them and a handful of tourists that stumble into its northern terminus after posing for obligatory Hollywood Sign photos. Start at the southern end where there are some parking spots near the dam entrance, and work your way up to Canyon Lake Drive where photo opportunities abound. This is a gentle climb, so pack some supplies and carve out time for a picnic at Lake Hollywood Park. On your way back, don’t rush. Views of the reservoir and nearby mansions are stunning, especially as it approaches sunset. The Mulholland Dam is worth a stop before you hop back in the car.

Innsdale Drive Trail

Hollywood
Starting point
Parking: Street parking along Innsdale Drive and Canyon Lake Drive.
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: up to 4.4 miles round trip

The Innsdale hike to the Hollywood Sign can be as easy or as challenging as you want it to be.. It’s a lovely one-mile hike from the trailhead at the end of Innsdale Drive through the winding Mulholland Highway fringed with flowering shrubs to the very Instagrammable viewpoint, making it perfect for romantic first-date walks. However, if you’re looking for a bit of a challenge, continue on along Mt. Lee Drive and make your way up behind the sign where you’ll be treated to shimmering views of the sprawl, especially if you wait past sunset. Pack a wide-angle lens to get all those letters in your frame.

Fern Dell Nature Preserve to Mount Lee

Griffith Park
Starting point
Parking: Ample street parking along Fern Dell Drive.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Distance: 12.5 miles round trip

Don’t be intimidated by that over ten-mile distance. This hike, which takes you from the quiet Fern Dell Nature Trail through the wide yet dusty West and Mt. Hollywood Trails, is merely trading a shorter, tougher trek for a long and gradual incline, making it friendlier to inexperienced hikers. There are some small sections that might take your breath away (literally), but they are very few and far between. Plus, the road is paved with vistas stunning enough to distract from them. There’s hardly any shade, so this isn’t a middle-of-the-day type of adventure, but it’s a spectacular one to do closer to sunset.

Photo by Michelle Rae Uy for Thrillist
Photo by Michelle Rae Uy for Thrillist
Photo by Michelle Rae Uy for Thrillist

Mt. Hollywood and Mt. Chapel Trails to Mount Lee

Griffith Park
Starting point
Parking: Ample paid parking along W Observatory Road and the Griffith Observatory parking lot.
Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 6 miles round trip

Starting at the Charlie Turner Trailhead across the parking lot from the Observatory, this trail feels like an amalgamation of everything Griffith Park has to offer: expansive dusty tracks, shrub-fringed footpaths, craggy bluffs. It’ll take you to Mt. Hollywood for sweeping views of the Observatory and the Hollywood sign itself, best seen at sunset, then on to Mt. Lee for more covetable views. While some parts of this hike might not be for the less intrepid, especially the untampered Mt. Chapel Trail that’s off the tourist trail, it’s more rewarding than it’s given credit for. It does call for a pair of hiking shoes with excellent traction, however, and swap out those shorts for something longer to avoid thorny stabs from the overgrown brush.

Photo by Michelle Rae Uy for Thrillist
Photo by Michelle Rae Uy for Thrillist
Photo by Michelle Rae Uy for Thrillist

Brush Canyon Trail to Mount Lee

Griffith Park
Starting point
Parking: Ample paid parking at Bronson Park; street parking outside the gates is also available.
Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 6.4 miles round trip

The Brush Canyon Trail is a favorite among Angelenos, which means that that trailhead parking lot gets pretty packed, especially on weekends. It’s well worth scavenging a spot for, but if you’re a late afternoon or a night hiker, we’d recommend parking outside the gates, anyway. This 3.2-mile trek to the sign is ideal if you want to work up a sweat with its 1,050-foot elevation chance and minimal shade, which is why it’s best tackled when the sun is low. Take your time if you must do it in the morning and are not used to uphills. Luckily, an occasional tree should offer a bit of respite from the heat.

Riverside and Hogback Trails to Mount Lee

Griffith Park
Starting point
Parking: Ample street parking along N Vermont Canyon Rd; The Greek parking is available when there’s no event.
Difficulty: Moderate to challenging
Distance: 9 miles round trip

Hikers typically tackle the Riverside and Hogback Trails when making their way up to Mount Hollywood. That steep section of the Hogback Trail that takes you up to Dante’s View and Mount Hollywood, while a tad tough, is fun and rife for Instagrammable hiking photos. However, since Griffith Park’s trails are interconnected, you can certainly hit the 3-Mile Trail or the North Trail and make your way to Mt. Lee as well. In fact, we’d recommend it for a more challenging and energizing hike. Luckily, most of the way is wide and well-established, making it less daunting to novice hikers. Before crossing that small bridge, meander along the captivating Henry’s Trail, a wilder out-and-back path to Glendale Peak, and take a much-needed breather before heading back out.

Photo by Michelle Rae Uy for Thrillist
Photo by Michelle Rae Uy for Thrillist
Photo by Michelle Rae Uy for Thrillist

Burbank Peak Trail

Hollywood
Starting point
Parking: Street parking along Lake Hollywood Dr.
Difficulty: Moderate to challenging
Distance: 3 miles round trip

Those who are intensely turned off by steep uphills should either avoid the Burbank Peak Trail or really lean into it and make it your next big challenge. It might be among the shortest routes to the Hollywood Sign, but it’s hardly the easiest, steadily climbing more than 700 feet from the trailhead and hitting two peaks in the first mile. And, just in case that doesn’t push you past your boundaries, it’s a slightly narrow and craggy scramble up as well. Trust us when we say it’s well worth the sweat and silent tears, however, as there are many tantalizing spots worth pulling over for (and to use as an excuse to catch your breath), like the Wisdom Tree. Start your hike very early in the morning, and you’ll bathe in glorious rolling fog.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Michelle Rae Uy is a Los Angeles freelance travel, tech and gadgets writer covering everything from computing to the latest in green commutes to the best adventures in Europe and Asia. She currently contributes for TechRadar, T3, IGN and Business Insider, as well as Thrillist. When not testing cool gadgets, she spends her time gallivanting around the world and cuddling with her cats, Bow and Arrow.

Los Angeles

How to Spend a Weekend in Topanga Canyon

Nature and the arts collide in this beloved canyon community.

Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

Situated in the Santa Monica Mountains and known for its vibrant creative community, Topanga is one of Los Angeles’s most prized destinations for art and outdoor enthusiasts alike. And while LA boasts its own sprawling landscape of fun to tap into, you’d be remiss to miss a chance to explore this tucked-away collection of state parks, and cafes, and restaurants-especially when it all rests just 20 minutes away from the city. From a quaint caf√© with dazzling canyon views to a world-renowned, open-air theatre, here are the best ways to pass some time in Topanga now.

Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray

Friday

Book dinner at Inn of the Seventh Ray
Owner Lucille Yaney opened this iconic restaurant in 1975 after spotting the property on a drive through the canyon with her late husband Ralph, and it’s safe to say she had a good eye. The land perfectly fits into Yaney’s vision of a romantic, alfresco dining space with tables tucked into cozy nooks and gazebos, all beneath canapes and fairy lights. Today, Yaney co-owns the venue with executive chef consultant Brad Miller. Together, they continue to fulfil the restaurant’s original mission to serve pure, natural foods reflective of the season’s best. That approach appears in dishes like 8-Hour Black Vinegar Braised Short Rib with creamy rosemary polenta, duck bacon Brussels sprouts, and caramelized onion and fig jam; Roasted Mushroom Toast with oyster mushrooms and sherry tarragon cream; and Beets & Whipped Black Pepper Creme Fraiche. Consider the carbs here. Pastas and sauces are made in-house and from scratch, as is the bread (available regular or gluten-free), an order of which you won’t want to miss. Check out the wine list, too, which offers a robust organic and biodynamic selection that has helped the restaurant garner some impressive accolades in recent years.

Check into Topanga Canyon Inn
In addition to plenty of excellent Airbnbs available to rent in the Canyon, there’s Topanga Canyon Inn, a charming bed and breakfast comprised of two Mediterranean-style buildings-Casa Blanca and Casa Rosa-both built by the owners. Guests can enjoy bespoke design details in each room, along with gorgeous mountain views from their own private balcony. Come morning, join other travellers for breakfast, served daily at Casa Rosa.

Saturday

Get coffee at Café on 27
Ready your camera for a coffee date at this AM eatery and caf√©, where ample (and busy) outdoor seating offers some of the Canyon’s best views. A full breakfast and lunch menu is available (complete with hearty orders like eggs Benedicts, soups, and club sandwiches), but for lighter morning fare, spring for a pastry and any of their specialty drinks, such as the turmeric latte or Moroccan mocha.

Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock

Hike Topanga State Park
Spanning 11,000 acres and 36 miles of trails, Topanga State Park is the largest state park within the Santa Monica Mountains and one of the world’s largest parks within city limits. Visitors can access the grounds via more than 60 entrances. Once on the trails, enjoy sweeping vistas while exploring the region’s range of plants, habitats, and wildlife, including several resident bird species.

Grab lunch at Topanga Living Café
Guided by their Topanga upbringing and need for a community gathering spot with great eats, sibling team Agustina Ferguson and Bayu Suryawan opened this daytime eatery in 2016. Ever since, locals and visitors have found refuge in the caf√©’s warm, airy space and nourishing, hyper-fresh fare-all California-inspired with global influences. Check it out in plates like the Island Style, a breakfast salad with Balinese corn fritters, a poached egg, and house-made chilli jam, or the tacos (Baja Fish or Baja Shrimp, Carne Asada, or Kabocha Squash), made-to-order and served on handmade tortillas. If you’re seeking something shareable, try the Farmers Market Crudite, a seemingly humble order whose bright beet hummus reminds us that eating your vegetables is, indeed, very cool. And take a drink to-go. The team here takes great pride in their coffee (organic espresso, courtesy of their iconic pink La Marzocco machine) and a lineup of made-to-order smoothies, juices, and teas. Shop your way through town
Visitors can stroll through the town centre’s most popular shops for various fun finds, including Moona Star, Pebbles, and Topanga Homegrown. Be sure to stock up on specialty, local snacks at Canyon Gourmet and satiate your sweet tooth while you’re at it. The organic soft-serve there is a must. Pro tip: Top it with any of their artisanal syrups for a winning combo, namely, the vanilla with cardamom.

Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum

Catch a show at The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
This beloved open-air theatre has hosted productions for decades and is recognized worldwide for its Shakespeare interpretations. In addition to its annual summer season, which includes works like Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the venue hosts concerts, rehearsals, and classes throughout the year for budding actors and playwrights of all ages.

Snag a slice at Endless Colour
This family-run pizza joint specializes in from-scratch pies with clever topping combinations (think purple potatoes, fontina, and truffle oil in the Purple Molly Potato or spinach, leeks, and goat cheese in the Super Greens). Bring some friends, order a pie or two, and check out the drinks list, which includes offbeat options like orange wines and hard kombucha.

Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery

Sunday

Check out The Canyon Bakery’s “Sunday Funday”
Situated on the grounds of the aforementioned Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, this bakery specializes in naturally leavened breads, pastries, cakes, and cookies using locally sourced, whole grain flours. There’s a takeout window on Sundays, from 9:30 am until the bakery sells out. A strong following lines up for favourites, such as whole grain croissants and gluten-free pizza, so be sure to arrive early to get your fill.

Try tacos to-go at La Chingona
On your way out of town, grab some tacos at La Chingona, where a team puts forth fresh, organic, gluten- and dairy-free tacos. Orders range to include options like grass-fed beef (carne asada), shrimp (wild-caught), and soy chorizo and can be fashioned into plates beyond tacos, too (think tostadas, salads, and bowls). Open only on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays; this taco stand sees good demand. Plan accordingly, pending your travels, especially to savour an order or two of the churros.

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Nicole Schnitzler is a contributor for Thrillist.

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