Hollywood sign – hiking tours, guided trips, prices, best viewpoints, trails

Image: Wikipedia.org

The Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles is one of the most famous landmarks in the World. 

More than 45 million visitors come to Los Angeles annually, and all of them see the sign at least once. 

Initially built in 1923, it is almost a century old and doesn’t just represent the film industry in Los Angeles but also the city and its people. 

In this article, we share everything you must know before visiting the massive Hollywood Sign.

Where is the Hollywood sign

The Hollywood sign is on the southern slope of Mount Lee, a hill in Griffith Park in Los Angeles, California, USA. Get Directions

It is just below the ridgeline of the 520 meters (1708 feet) high mountain. 


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Hollywood sign hours

Since the Hollywood sign is within Griffith Park, its timings are the same as the park’s hours. 

Griffith Park opens at 5 am and closes at 10:30 pm.


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Restrictions at Hollywood sign

Visitors can’t get close to the Hollywood sign and touch it.

The sign’s immediate area is not open to the public because it shares the space with Los Angeles’ communication tower.

The LA monument is surrounded by a fence to keep trespassers away, and 13 security cameras maintain a constant vigil.

A Los Angeles Police Department officer is stationed near the Hollywood sign all through the day.


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Hollywood sign tours

There are many ways to tour the Hollywood sign, the most prominent landmark of Los Angeles city. 

You can choose to travel on a tour bus, hike to the sign, or take to the skies in a helicopter and circle around the Hollywood sign. 

We list down some of the most popular tours to this American landmark and cultural icon overlooking Hollywood.

To Hollywood Sign by bus

This section describes three of our favorite Los Angeles coach tours that also include a stop to see and snap the Hollywood sign.

If you are interested in Hollywood celebrities and their homes, check out the Celebrity Homes tour.

During this two-hour guided tour of Hollywood, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills on an open-top bus, you will also stop at the Hollywood sign.

If you prefer something elaborate, check out this seven-hour Los Angeles tour.

During this tour, you window shop on Rodeo Drive, stroll through Beverly Hills and stop for lunch at Farmers’ Market at The Grove.

Post lunch, your group heads for Griffith Park Observatory to take in stunning views of the Hollywood sign.

The Los Angeles Grand Tour is another popular tour covering the city’s main areas, such as Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica Beach, and Griffith Observatory (to see the sign!).

Drive close to Hollywood sign by SUV

If you are a bigger group of 5 to 7 visitors, this full-day private tour of Los Angeles in an SUV makes perfect sense. 

You get to discover the city’s history and attractions and drive close to the famous Hollywood sign.

This Hollywood sign tour is available in three flavors: 3-hours, 5-hours, and 9-hours. 

If you prefer a private tour, you also have the option of booking a private Hollywood sign adventure hike.

Hiking to Hollywood sign

Hiking to the Hollywood sign is one of the most popular tourist activities during a LA holiday. 

After all, one of the best ways to see the Hollywood sign is by walking towards it. 

This Hollywood hills hike plus Griffith Park experience is the most popular hiking tour.

During this hike, besides getting to a vantage point to see the sign, you also get to see famous locations from films such as La La Land, Terminator, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Back to the Future II, and Rebel Without a Cause. 

At the end of the hike, which costs $52 per person, you also get to see 360-degree panoramic views of Los Angeles and visit Griffith Observatory for free.

If you prefer a cheaper hike, check the Hollywood sign hiking tour to Griffith Observatory, which costs only $35 per person.

If you want a comedian to lead your hike and show you Instagram-able locations, opt for the Hollywood sign comedy and pictures tour.

Hollywood sign from a helicopter

This is perhaps the best (and also the costliest!) way to see Los Angeles’ most famous landmark.

During this 20-minute helicopter tour over Los Angeles, limited to four people, you sour over the celebrity homes of both Beverly Hills and Hollywood.

Besides seeing the iconic Hollywood sign from above, you also enjoy stunning views of the coastal mountains and Pacific ocean.

Hollywood sign horseback riding

If you are up for an additional dose of adventure, we recommend the Sunset Ranch Hollywood, the only horse ranch in greater Los Angeles.

Image: Viator

Many equestrian trails run through Griffith Park, offering visitors on horses a never-before opportunity to explore the beautiful Hollywood hills.

During the horseback-riding tour under the leadership of an expert guide, you will get fantastic views of the iconic Hollywood sign and a 360-degree perspective on Los Angeles County. 


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Hollywood sign viewpoints

The best way to view the Hollywood sign is by going on a hike among the oak-studded hills of Griffith Park.

If you can’t hike, there are many other excellent viewpoints spread all over Los Angeles, from where you can get a good view of the Hollywood sign.

Because of the sheer size of the Hollywood sign (it is 45-feet tall!), it is best to see the landmark from a distance. 

From Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory offers many Hollywood Sign viewpoints for those willing to walk around and see. 

However, the closest view of the sign is along the railing on the right side of the parking lot as you face the Observatory.

If you go all the way, you might also check out the Observatory, which is free to enter. 

Some tourists prefer to book guided hike tours to the Griffith Observatory, because locals know the best stories and spots.

From the trail Behind Griffith Observatory

Many Griffith Park hiking trails on Mt. Hollywood start from the back corner of Griffith Observatory’s parking lot.

Start walking along the main trail till you will see a sign saying, “Berlin, Los Angeles’ sister city, 5,795 miles.”

Once you pass this sign, you can’t miss the strategically placed bench looking out to the Hollywood Sign. 

An excellent viewing spot for the Hollywood sign. Image: Tripsavvy.com

From Dante’s View

Dante Orgolini was a Brazilian journalist and artist who lived in and loved Los Angeles.

In 1964 he initiated a small garden and then roped in other volunteers to create this mountainside garden oasis in Griffith Park. 

Even today Dante’s View is tended to by the volunteers. 

Its high vantage point provides an incredible view across the Hollywood Sign on Mount Lee. 

To get to this viewpoint, you must start from Fern Dell in Griffith Park. 

From Hollywood & Highland

If you want to catch stunning Hollywood sign views without much effort, we recommend visiting Hollywood & Highland, a popular shopping mall in the area.

There are many spots in the entertainment complex dedicated to clear views of the famed sign.

If you have a few quarters, try out the coin-operated telescopes to get a closer view. 

From Hollywood Bowl Overlook

Mulholland Highway is a scenic road in Los Angeles that runs approximately 50 miles through the western Santa Monica Mountains.

The easternmost viewpoint on Mulholland Drive (near the 101 freeway), is known as the Hollywood Bowl Overlook and offers stunning views of the Hollywood sign.

From Lake Hollywood Park

If you are in LA with your family and kids, Lake Hollywood Park is the perfect place for a picnic and a good view of the Hollywood sign. 

There is lots of parking, many locals come with their kids, and there is laughter all around. 

This space is one of the best parks near the Hollywood sign.  

Hollywood sign from behind

So what if you can’t hike up to the front of the Hollywood sign? Several hikes from within Griffith Park help you get right behind the massive sign. 

That’s the closest you can get to the Hollywood Sign.

From behind the sign, you can see how the landmark looks in the foreground even as the city of Los Angeles looms in the background. 

From behind, the Hollywood sign will read DOOWYLLOH.

From Canyon Lake Drive

Canyon Lake Drive is the best option if you don’t want to get down from your car but want to take good photographs of the sign.

Follow the directions on Google Maps and keep driving till you can see the Hollywood sign. 


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Hollywood sign at night

As can be expected, visitors can’t go on hikes to take in Hollywood sign views at night. 

However, you can drive on one of the beautiful roads such as Mulholland Highway or Canyon Lake Drive to see how the 100-years old Los Angeles landmark looks after dark. 

Is Hollywood sign lit up at night?

When the Hollywood sign was in 1923, it was studded with around 4,000 light bulbs. 

The sign flashed in segments – first ‘HOLLY’ then ‘WOOD’ and then ‘LAND.’ 

Yes, that’s what it was before it got shortened to HOLLYWOOD. 

Just below the Hollywoodland sign was a searchlight to throw more light on the attraction. 

However, when the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce got it repaired in 1949, they reduced the sign to just HOLLYWOOD and removed the lights. 

The lights were probably removed from the landmark, perhaps because they wanted to avoid the ongoing electricity cost. 

Since then, the Hollywood sign has only had lights on 31 Dec 1999, which was done for the 2000 New Year’s Eve celebration.

Many tourists have claimed that they have seen Hollywood sign lit up at night. 

That’s because the sign is large and white, which means it gets to reflect a lot of the light coming from Hollywood just below the mountain. 


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Hollywood sign hike trails

It is possible to hike up to the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles.

Several trails leading to the Hollywood Sign are available from the official Griffith Park entrances. 

The best part of following a Hollywood Sign trail is the stunning views of the landmark you get to enjoy at your own pace, even as you hike towards it. 

If you prefer that a local guide leads you during the Hollywood sign hike, we suggest you book one of the guided hike tours

If you plan to go on the trek yourself, check out the following Hollywood sign trails – 

Mt Hollywood Trail

This Hollywood sign hike from Griffith Observatory is the easiest of all the hiking trails. 

The distance is about 4.8 kms (3 miles), and the shortest route starts from Griffith Observatory’s parking lot. 

The Mt Hollywood trail takes around 90 minutes to 2 hours to complete. 

Brush Canyon Trail

The Brush Canyon trail is perfect for moderate hikers and gets you close to the Hollywood sign.

If you opt for this trail, do make a quick trip to Bronson Caves. These caves were the home of the Batmobile in the 60’s Batman TV series.

This trail is 10.5 km (6.5 miles) long and usually takes a little more than three hours.  

Cahuenga Peak Trail

The Cahuenga Peak Hike is the most difficult of the trails and is recommended only for experienced hikers.

Besides, this is the trail on which P-22, the park’s resident mountain lion, is spotted. Thankfully, only after dark. 

The trail starts at the Aileen Getty Ridge trail.

 Note: Summer or winter, you must carry plenty of water and wear covered footwear. 


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Hollywood sign pranks

The Hollywood sign is one of the most famous signs in the World, and as a result, has been the target of pranksters from all walks of life. 

Here are some of the best Hollywood sign pranks executed to perfection over the years- 

Hollywood to Hollyweed

In 1976, 21-year old Cal State Northridge art student Danny Finegood had to do a project that involved working with scale.

As luck would have it, on January 1st, 1976, the state passed a law decriminalizing marijuana, thus providing Finegood the perfect opportunity. 

Along with his three friends, the art student draped bedsheets on the two O’s to turn them into e’s and caught the whole world’s attention overnight. 

Image: LA Times

Interestingly, Finegood earned an ‘A’ on his assignment.

Go Navy!

Navy’s football team was scheduled to play the Army’s team, perhaps for the first time, at Rose Bowl.

A group of Navy Midshipmen decided to motivate their team by ensuring the Hollywood sign said ‘Go Navy.’

Unfortunately, they covered a few of the letters of the sign and left the others as is. As a result, the sign read GOLLNAVYD for a day. 

Maybe the motivational trick worked because the Navy won the game 42-13.

Raffeysod

This was one prank, which people didn’t understand for a week. 

On New Year’s Day of 1985, someone had changed the Hollywood sign to RAFFEYSOD, and the LAPD was puzzled. 

Nobody could figure out why until a New Orleans rock band, The Raffeys took credit for the prank during a concert in Venice.

HOLYWOOD for the Pope

In 1987, Fox used the sign to promote its new programming, and Danny Finegood struck again to make it OLLYWOOD, a mockery of Oliver North’s involvement in the Iran-Contra Affair.

But the most fascinating was when the sign became HOLYWOOD because Pope John Paul II was visiting. 

Finegood strikes again

In 1990, Finegood used the backdrop of the Gulf War to change the sign to OIL WAR. 

This was Finegood’s last attempt at changing the sign before his untimely death in 2007. 

The same year, LAPD installed a state-of-the-art security system at the Hollywood sign to discourage such pranks.

Hollywood ‘Stay home’

This incident was one of the most popular digital pranks about the Hollywood sign.

When the Coronavirus pandemic started, images said to be that of the Hollywood sign was circulating on Twitter and Instagram, showing it as “Stay Home.” 

It was found to be a modified video.

To play a prank on someone, check out this Hollywood Sign generator.


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Hollywood sign’s history

A real estate development company erected the Hollywood sign at its current spot in 1923.

Back then, it read HOLLYWOODLAND, and each letter was 9.1 meters (30 ft) wide and 15.2 meters (50 ft) tall, making it a massive structure.  

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Hollywoodland was the name of the area above the hills, where the real estate company wanted to sell residential plots to the upwardly mobile of the city.

The massive advertising stunt was to last only for a year and half, after which the company expected to pull down the sign. 

However, the sign became famous worldwide in a short time – an internationally recognized symbol for Hollywood.

Since it was too popular to be pulled down, the real estate company let it stay. 

How the Hollywood sign changed

Till 1939, the real estate company was able to pay for a caretaker for the sign, who lived in a cottage behind the first L. 

However, after paying for the sign’s upkeep for 16 years, the company left it to its fate. 

In 1944, the landowners where the sign stood deeded the land north of Mulholland Highway to Los Angeles city, and as a result, the landmark became part of Griffith Park.

By 1949, the Hollywoodland sign had been without a caretaker for a decade and completely dilapidated. 

However, when Los Angeles authorities decided to tear down the sign, there was a huge public outcry to preserve what was now an integral part of the city. 

Hollywood Chamber of Commerce stepped in and decided to get it repaired. 

They had only one request – the sign must represent the whole of Hollywood and not just the housing area. 

As a result, only ‘HOLLYWOOD’ was retained, and ‘LAND’ got removed from the sign.

Hugh Hefner saves the sign

The wood and sheet metal used to rebuild the Hollywood sign in the early 50s deteriorated with time, and by the 1970s, it was in bad shape.

In 1978, the founder of Playboy magazine, Hugh Hefner, started a public campaign to fix the neglected landmark. 

He wanted to rebuild it with permanent materials such as concrete and steel and a better foundation so that it lasted longer.

During his fundraising auction, nine Hollywood celebrities contributed approximately $27,777 each, totaling $250,000.

Hugh Hefner rescues the sign again

In 2010, Hugh Hefner saved the Hollywood sign for the second time. 

Some real estate developers wanted to purchase 138 acres around the sign, and build luxury properties on Mount Lee.

A conservationist group called Trust for Public Land decided to collect $12.5 million and buy the property before it got into the developers’ hands. 

This campaign was called ‘Save The Peak.’

With just a week left for the deal to happen, the group was about $1 million short. 

Once Hugh Hefner came to know, he donated the final $900,000 so that the land the 138 endangered acres behind the Hollywood sign could be bought and protected. 

Popular attractions in Los Angeles

# Universal Studios Hollywood
# Warner Bros Studios Hollywood
# Madame Tussauds
# Los Angeles Zoo
# Petersen Automotive Museum

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Ankita Roy: Having grown up amongst beaches, Ankita Roy prefers coastal holidays. Besides seafood, she is a sucker for the way sand feels on her feet, and sea breeze on her face. Favorite Cities: Cape Town, Edinburgh, Tokyo, Sydney

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