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Photowalk Hollywood Sign

Hollywood Sign Photowalk: How and where to photograph

By December 15, 2018 No Comments

 

Photographing the elusive, hard to reach Hollywood sign in Los Angeles is not easy. 

Neighbors in the hillside district of Beachwood Canyon don’t want tourists traipsing up here, so city officials have done everything to keep people away. 

Hollywood sign
The Hollywood Sign, up close and person

You will see signs telling you not to be here (but not true) and “no hiking,” signs which mean–don’t get off the path and hike to the H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D letters. They don’t say you can’t take the Griffith Observatory hikes to see the sign. 

That out of the way, here are your best options for getting to the Sign: 

Griffith Observatory

2800 Observatory Road, Los Angeles

It’s really, really hard to park here too, unless you come up on Mondays, when the Observatory is closed. It has the easiest spot to park yourself in front and have the Sign behind you. But you can get closer. 

Parking is available down the street, in the Greek Theater lot, and there are a handful of spaces further up, closer to the Observatory. The city recommends using public transportation, like Uber and Lyft, and the DASH bus. 

Pose for a Selfie in front of the Hollywood Sign from the vantage point of Griffith Park and the statue of James Dean, on your Photowalk of the Hollywood Sign.
Get your Hollywood Sign Selfie by the James Dean statue in Griffith Park

Once here, you can pose by the statue of James Dean (who filmed Rebel without a Cause up here) or walk up the hill for the Charlie Turner Trailhead, which leads eventually to just below the ridgeline at the 1,708-foot summit of Mt. Lee.

The trails for the Hollywood Sign hike are clearly marked at Griffith Observatory.
The trailheads to the Hollywood Sign

If so inspired, from up here, you can climb up .9 tenths of a mile, uphill at the hall, to land behind the Sign’s 45-foot-tall aluminum letters, with one killer view of the city lights. This is best done at sunset, and you will need a flashlight to get back down safely. 

The Hollywood Sign from behind, as photographed on the .9 tenths of a mile uphill climb. Part of the #Photowalks series
Where to go to capture the elusive Hollywood Sign, on your Hollywood Photowalk. Part of the #Photowalks series

Signs abound with different hike possibilities within the park. 

Signs point to the various Hollywood Sign hikes at Griffith Park.
https://youtu.be/uhHtcmnRSuM

Lake Hollywood Park: 

3160 Canyon Lake Drive, Los Angeles

Go up Lake Hollywood Drive in Los Angeles and it will take you directly to the Lake Hollywood Park to see the Sign.
Go up Lake Hollywood Drive in Los Angeles and it will take you directly to the Lake Hollywood Park to see the Sign.

The signs up here will tell you you’re not wanted, but this is a park run by the City of Los Angeles, with limited but available parking. There are generally more spots available here earlier in the day than the Observatory but be on the lookout for the active person from the City of Los Angeles looking to give out parking tickets. 

Posing for a Hollywood Sign selfie in Lake Hollywood Park.
A Lake Hollywood Sign Selfie. Note we used a long lens to bring the sign closer.

Beachwood Canyon/Mulholland Highway

3390 Deronda Drive is a popular Waze/Google Maps address location to get you up there. Know that you’re basically swinging up Beachwood Canyon to Mulholland and doing your best to ignore the phony signs and hike to the trail. Hopefully these visuals will help. 

Parking is illegal up here on Saturdays and Sundays, so don’t even think about it. You can park on lower Beachwood and walk up a mile or so. You can take Uber/Lyft up and get dropped off, but there’s no reception up here, so you’ll have to walk (downhill) back, which should take about 15-20 minutes. The tourist busses also service the route. 

You'll get closest to the Sign by starting at the corner of Mullholland Hwy. and Ledgewood Drive.
The corner of Mulholland Hwy. and Ledgewood Drive will start leading you to the Sign. 
Signs look to keep pedestrians away, but in reality, you'll allowed to hike--just not drive and park.
This looks like you’re not allowed to hike in here, but it’s not true. You can’t drive through. Pedestrians are welcome, and this is the way to get the best, closest view of the Sign. 
Continuing on the hike, it still looks like you're not allowed to be on these roads, but you are.
As you continue down the road towards the hike, it still looks like a no-go, but that’s not true. Just don’t park your car. 
The Deronda Gate, which looks like it's someone's home, but in fact, it leads to a park. Walk right in. Turn left and go up the hill a few feet, and you're at the park where you get the closest frontal view of the Hollywood Sign. Turn right,. and walk for .9 tenths of a mile, and you're headed to the back of the Hollywood Sign, for one of the most spectacular views in Los Angeles.
The Deronda Gate, which looks like it’s someone’s home, but in fact, it leads to a park. Walk right in. Turn left and go up the hill a few feet, and you’re at the park where you get the closest frontal view of the Hollywood Sign. Turn right,. and walk for .9 tenths of a mile, and you’re headed to the back of the Hollywood Sign, for one of the most spectacular views in Los Angeles. 
The hike that leads to the park for the view of the Hollywood Sign.
The hike that leads to the park for the view of the Hollywood Sign
The Hollywood sign, as photographed from the Deronda Gate hike
As photographed from the Deronda Gate hike. 
Posing for a Hollywood Sign selfie from the Deronda Gate hike
The Hollywood Sign Selfie, from the Deronda Gate hike. 
https://youtu.be/7CcYESVtHbs

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce invites you to view the sign from the Hollywood and Highland Mall, off the Hollywood Walk of Fame, from a fourth story overlook in-between some restaurants. If you’re in the area, by all means, go take a look, but take it from us–you can do better. 

The Sign is really far away, and on your smartphone, the Sign will look like a spec. 

The Hollywood and Highland Mall has an observation deck for Hollywood Sign Selfies, but good look seeing the Sign in your photos.
The Hollywood and Highland Mall has an observation deck for Hollywood Sign Selfies, but good look seeing the Sign in your photos. 

Thoughts…

Selfies have played havoc with a certain community in Hollywood.

They have provoked homeowners to get street signs erected that tell tourists they’re not wanted there, about posts that tell drivers they won’t be able to get up the hill to their desired destination–when in fact they can, because of selfies.

People who live in the Hollywood Hills hate the fact that tourists have been arriving and traipsing through their neighborhoods, all in pursuit of the elusive Hollywood Sign selfie.

Of course they’ve been coming for years, but not like now. And there’s a good reason why.

So, the Hollywood Sign is to my part of town what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, and the Empire State Bldg to NY.

It’s the no. 1 most coveted Selfie spot, which, in an Instagram age, is very important. But unlike the Eiffel and NY skyscraper, the Hollywood Sign, which is nearly 100 years old, is not just plop in the middle of a city, but a residential neighborhood.

For decades, folks have lived there, without incident. But that all changed in the era of smartphones and navigation apps.

Now the apps take tourists directly up the hill, to Hollywood Sign viewing spots, despite city officials begging Google and Apple to re-direct folks to a parking lot in Griffith Park, miles away.

Because people have a need to be photographed in front of icons, to prove they were there on social media.

This didn’t happen before.

Now, the movie studio Warner Bros. has proposed building a $100 million aerial tram to route people from the studio up the hill to a new viewing spot for the Sign, as a way to solve the issue.

Because let’s face it. People aren’t going to stop wanting to have their photos taken in front of the Sign. Something has to be done.

I spent a bunch of time at the Sign recently shooting a video for my YouTube channel about where to go to photograph the Sign. (Shamless plug: youtube.com/jeffersongraham)

The view of the L.A. basin from Palos Verdes, including downtown, the Hollywood Sign and the Griffith Observatory
The view of the L.A. basin from Palos Verdes, including downtown, the Hollywood Sign and the Griffith Observatory

I know how hard it is to park. Virtually impossible, unless you try it during the week.

You can take an Uber or Lyft up there, but you’ll have to walk back down the hill. You know why? There’s no phone service by the Sign viewing area, and thus, good luck connecting on the app.

In spending time up there, I thought the answer was pretty simple. Build a parking lot for the Selfie crowd, put them in a bus to go up there and see the Sign and haul them back.

That would be a whole lot easier, with less red tape. But then, what do I know? I just live here.

This much is certain: selfies are not going away. We all live in a Selfie world now, whether we like it or not, and have to deal with it.

https://youtu.be/ofNKDD-dEsw