How to see the biggest star in Los Angeles: the Hollywood Sign
In 1923, the late Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler was instrumental in having a big sign erected for his "Hollywoodland" real estate holdings, a $21,000 billboard that was intended to last a little over a year.
Instead, it morphed into a free-standing Sign.
One hundred years later, the "Land," from the Sign is long gone, but what has remained is this simple truth: the Sign has become the most iconic symbol of Los Angeles, our Eiffel Tower or State of Liberty.
But unlike the Paris and New York icons, ours is located in a residential neighborhood in the Hollywood Hills and hard to visit. Neighbors don't want us traipsing up there, and have put up obstacles and no parking signs to keep us out.
This confuses many tourists, who just want their souvenir shot (complete with them jumping in front of the Sign) and to go on to the next attraction.
There are several, authorized ways to see the Sign without bothering the residents, however, so if you're not up on the options, please read up:
Griffith Observatory, one of the busiest tourist attractions in Los Angeles, has a viewing area of the Sign, by the James Dean statue, but it's pretty far away. Getting a photo of yourself under the Sign won't be that great. The Ovation Mall (formerly Hollywood & Highland) has a similar viewing area, on the fourth level, and the Sign is even more distant. Parking is hard to come by at the Observatory, and city officials recommend taking public transportation there. You can also park in the Greek Theater parking lot during the day and take a shuttle bus up the hill. (Or climb the mile yourself.)
Easiest to get to:
Lake Hollywood Park, which is near Universal Studios, has a way better view of the Sign, public parking, and facilities. However, there are only so many spaces, so you'll want to get there early before the spaces are all gone.
For the best views of the Sign, you'll have to work for it. The Brush Canyon hike is off Bronson Avenue, has plenty of parking (more than Lake Hollywood) and facilities. It will take you at least one hour to hike uphill to get to the Sign, but you're afforded two great, close-up views. Here's where your jump in front of the Sign will work out perfectly. From this vantage point, you'll also get killer views of Los Angeles from high above.
The other choice is going directly behind the Hollywood Sign letters at the top of Mt. Lee, with the city in the distance. If you haven't done this before, it's definitely worth leaving the Bubble and giving it a try.
Brush Hike gives you one more bonus: a chance to go into the "Batcave" used on the 1960s "Batman" TV show, which you'll pass as you climb.
The Mt. Hollywood Griffith Park hike, which starts at Griffith Observatory, is a long climb that will also take you to Mt. Lee. Expect two to three hours of climbing.
Cahuenga Park Trail
Here's how Allhikes.com describes it: "Get to know this 3.9-mile loop trail near Los Angeles, California. Generally considered a challenging route, it takes an average of 2 h 36 min to complete." The Hollywood Sign Trust, which manages the Sign, calls this one "hard", even though it's the shortest of the hikes. That would be because it's the steepest.
The Trust is celebrating the Centennial all year long, but the actual birthday is considered to be Dec. 8th.
And the Trust has a great birthday present for everyone. It's announced plans to build a Visitor Center that would make visiting the Sign way easier. The idea is that visitors would park, board a shuttle bus and get whisked up to a special viewing area.
“Over the years, visitors and locals have expressed great interest in a ‘close-up’ experience where they can learn more about the roots of the Hollywood Sign, its legendary stories, and the epic hopes and dreams the Sign continues to inspire," said Jeff Zarrinnam, chair of the Hollywood Sign Trust.
So let's all say Happy Birthday and Hooray for Hollywood!