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    Hollywood writing: where to see it, how to reach it and photograph it

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    Joel Fulleda

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    The written "Hollywood”That stands out from the top of Mount Lee is perhaps one of the best known images in all of Los Angeles (if not all of California) and you will surely want to immortalize it with your camera. For this it may be necessary to know which areas of the city you need to visit to better observe it.

    With this article we are going to discover the privileged places from which to observe theHollywood sign to be able to take home perfect souvenir photos. Many of these places will also take you to discover unusual corners of Los Angeles from which to admire the city and its surroundings in all its beauty.


    • Better viewpoints for photographing the Hollywood sign
      • The Griffith Observatory
      • Lake hollywood park
      • Mulholland Drive
      • Hollywood & Highland Center
      • Hollywood Reservoir
      • North Beachwood Drive
    • How to reach and photograph the Hollywood sign from behind
      • Preliminary warnings
      • Solution # 1 - from Lake Hollywood Park. Walk along Mulholland Dr or Deronda Dr
      • Solution # 2 - Take the Wonder View Trail Head
      • Solution # 3 - Take the Mount Hollywood Trail from the Griffith Observatory parking lot
      • Solution # 4 - Get to Sunset Ranch from Beachwood Drive
      • Solution # 5 - Bronson Caves
    • And photograph it from the top of a helicopter?
    • Other useful resources

    Better viewpoints for photographing the Hollywood sign

    Let's start with this overview of the best spots in Los Angeles from which to take a photo of the Hollywood Sign. If you do not intend to take a long walk, or the time you have available to visit the city is limited, this selection can be for you.

    The Griffith Observatory

    We are talking about the large observatory that dominates the hills above Los Angeles. Given its position, the Hollywood sign remains a bit secluded and in the distance (see the photo I took personally) but, given that the observatory is one of the recommended stops among the things to see in Los Angeles, it can certainly be taken in consideration also for all the interesting activities it offers to visitors.

    Lovers of the great classics of Hollywood cinema will also have one more reason to visit the Griffith Observatory. You will in fact be in the place made famous by the film Wasted Youth of 1955 in which James Dean plays a scene that has entered the history of cinema. In memory of this you will find a monument with the face of the young actor and you can immortalize it with the Hollywood sign in the background.

    The parking lot of the observatory is also one of the starting points for those who want to undertake the Mt. Hollywood Hiking Trail which we will talk about in detail later in the section dedicated to the paths to reach the summit of Mount Lee to approach the writing from behind.

    Lake hollywood park


    Il Lake hollywood park in my opinion it is the privileged point of view for photographing the Hollywood sign. It is an expanse of public green nestled between the hills and the narrow and winding streets overlooked by some of the most exclusive houses in the city. As we will see in the next section, this is also an optimal starting point for taking two routes that will take you to the top of Mount Lee to admire the panorama of Los Angeles from behind the sign.

    Mulholland Drive

    One of the scenic roads that run along the hills of Los Angeles that has the added advantage of having been immortalized in countless Hollywood films. For this reason it deserves a dedicated visit but, if you are a particular lover of David Lynch's works, you will surely have a special reason to take this excursion.

    Returning to the subject of this article, walk along the easternmost part of Mulholland Drive near the 101 Freeway, and you will come to a panoramic viewpoint called Hollywood Bowl Overlook. From here you will have a privileged point of view on the city that stretches below you, as well as on the Hollywood sign.

    Hollywood & Highland Center

    It is a large shopping mall located at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, right where a section of the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame is located. From the terraces of the shopping center you can enjoy a beautiful view of the hill and the writing.

    The best spot is on the bridge passage to the third level. Dwelling in this large mall can also be recommended for park your car given that, if you validate the entrance ticket in a bar, restaurant, or shop, you will pay only $ 2 for a two-hour stop. Considering the parking rates in Los Angeles this is certainly a pretty good deal.

    Hollywood Reservoir

    The Hollywood Reservoir is a man-made lake known to be a favorite with locals for running and stretching their legs along a quiet and relaxing path, and observing interesting views. You will find the perfect spot to take a photo of the Hollywood sign at the called dam Mulholland Dam. After taking your photos why not consider taking a nice walk along the edge of the lake?

    The Hollywood Reservoir has three distinct entrances. If you decide to use your rental car, here are some tips on where to park depending on the entrance you decide to use. Obviously, for all solutions, pay close attention to any no parking signs.

    • Lake Hollywood Drive: this is the recommended solution if you want to use the North Gate.
    • Weidlake Drive: following this road you will arrive at the homonymous access to the Hollywood Reservoir and, once you have passed the residential area, you will find a small parking area to the left of the entrance. This solution is particularly recommended if you don't want to walk too far to get to Mulholland Dam.
    • If you want, there is also another entrance that I point out just for the record but I advise you not to use it because there are very few (if any) parking possibilities in the neighboring areas. We are talking aboutEast Gate at the entrance of Lake Hollywood Estate which is distinguished at least by a nice entrance bar with the Hollywood sign.

    North Beachwood Drive

    North Beachwood Drive is a three-kilometer road at the end of which you will find the entrance to the Sunset Ranch, which we will discuss in detail later. The advice is not to follow it all, but know that they start to have appreciable views on the writing from the intersection with Scenic Ave onwards continuing towards the Hollywood Hills.

    How to reach and photograph the Hollywood sign from behind

    This section is for those who are not satisfied with seeing the writing from afar but want to get as close as possible (after all, how many times will you be in Los Angeles again?). First of all, however, there is a necessary premise to make: that is you will not be able to touch the writing in any way or in its immediate vicinity. In fact, the area is fenced and monitored with cameras and security personnel to avoid accidents and acts of vandalism which, although rarely, have nevertheless occurred over the years.

    If you want to get as close as possible the only solution you will have will be that of climb to the top of Mount Lee and admire the view over Los Angeles from behind the inscription of Hollywood. In other words, you can only reach that point where the radio antennas stand out.

    Before seeing what are the paths that will take you to this place, there are some premises fundamental to do that concern not only your safety but are especially useful to understand that it will not be as immediate a path as one might expect. I suggest you to pay special attention in order not to encounter unpleasant inconveniences.

    Preliminary warnings

    The basic premise if you intend to reach the summit of Mt Lee to see the panorama from behind the Hollywood sign, is that the residents of Beachwood Canyon (the residential area under the sign) can no longer stand the crowds of tourists who throng both on foot and by car along the winding, narrow streets that lead up the Hollywood Hills. The first consequence of this is that they have carpeted the area of intimidating road signs and official-looking misleading ones, which aim to discourage people from venturing into this area of ​​Los Angeles. Some time ago a petition was even started to remove the writing from Google Maps.

    The welcome of the residents
    Unofficial signs

    The second consequence is that the police (both private and public) are present and careful to report every slightest infringement regarding stops and parking. So the advice is to try to avoid using your machine by relying on typical services Uber, or pay particular attention to prohibition signs.

    If you use a navigator, do not rely too much on the indications of Google Maps or other services. The last time we checked in fact, once we typed the search for Hollywood sign, the various navigation services, at best, redirected you to the Griffith Observatory.

    If, also thanks to our advice, you have finally managed to set out on the various paths to reach the top of Mount Lee, take care to wear suitable clothing and footwear to the walk. Another factor to take into account is the climateIn fact, in summer temperatures will rise significantly and you will almost never have a chance to shelter in the shade. So bring one with you supply of water appropriate.

    Finally, remember that, even if you are a few steps from the city of Los Angeles, you will walk on feelings in which nature still reigns supreme, so pay particular attention to the possible presence of snakes and other dangerous animals in the area.

    Solution # 1 - from Lake Hollywood Park. Walk along Mulholland Dr or Deronda Dr

    One of the best solutions both to photograph the Hollywood sign up close and to reach the summit of Mount Lee is to reach the Lake hollywood park, and then walk along two residential streets that rise towards the hills.

    But let's go in order. First you reach Lake Hollywood Park, where you can already start taking some nice pictures of the sign. The advice, as mentioned before, is that of don't use your car because the parking lots in the area are very scarce, and the police are constantly present to issue fines to those who do not respect the prohibitions. In other words, this is the first taste of the unfriendly climate on the part of the residents towards the tourists who flock to these areas.

    The alternative to the car can be to use a taxi or the Uber application which, at these latitudes, is very successful and very reliable. If you really can't help but use your car the best place to park may be long Canyon Lake Dr. but pay attention to any prohibition signs (especially for the evening hours) and arm yourself with patience because, as you can guess, it is a very busy area especially in high season. If you want to reach the top of Mount Lee now your real adventure begins (strictly on foot).

    Your goal will be to reach the point marked on the map at the end of Deronda Dr. To do this you will have two options: the first (which I recommend) is also the simplest and consists in going all the way Mulholland Hwy, do not be intimidated when it becomes a dirt road that does not seem to lead to anything, and reach the gate you see in this photo. On its left you will find a passage that will take you to the clearing marked on the map, from which you can take Mount Lee Dr which will take you right behind the Hollywood sign. The video below describes the route that I have explained to you up to this point.

    The alternative is to walk Deronda Dr. until you get to what looks like a dead end street with the two gates closed. Next to the gate on your left, however, you will see a small door which, if open, will lead you to the same clearing we told you about earlier. Personally I do not recommend this solution because not sure if you find the door open (as you have also noticed when you watched the first video) forcing you to go back "empty-handed", even if it should be opened with an automatic system from dawn to dusk. Also in this case you can take a look at the video below to clarify your ideas.

    Expect to walk 50 minutes to an hour to reach the summit of Mount Lee (plus time to take pictures and catch your breath) plus the return, which at least has the advantage of being pretty much all downhill.

    Solution # 2 - Take the Wonder View Trail Head

    The recommended parking is long Lake Hollywood Drive, Because the Wonder View Drive is a Dead-end road with very little space to make a U-turn. So do not take it by car and plan the itinerary very well. Better to have to take a few more steps on foot than to have to make complicated maneuvers to go back.

    The walk is not easy but not excessively prohibitive. To travel all the way up to get behind the Hollywood sign it will take from 30 to 40 minutes depending on your physical condition. To which must be added the stops to admire the view, fill the memory of the camera with photos, catch your breath, and of course the return route.

    In total, therefore, expect to spend at least three hours for this walk. The terrain on the trail is dry and dusty, so suitable shoes are recommended. Beyond that, consider what the path will be totally exposed to Sun and, especially in summer, it will therefore be necessary to have a hat and sufficient water supplies with you.

    The panorama you will see along the route will be very suggestive, and perhaps even more beautiful than the other trails. You will reach a very famous viewpoint where a lone tree called stands out Wisdom Tree which, in addition to being one of the few trees that survived the 2007 fire, will also be the only place where you will have shade.

    A stop is therefore particularly recommended not only to admire the view but also to give yourself a respite from the sun. If it is a beautiful day without smog or clouds you will be able to see, in addition to the Los Angeles area, also Universal Studios from above, the city of Burbank and much of the San Fernando Valley.

    Once you have passed the Wisdom Tree, the path continues along the ridge of the mountain. This will have the positive aspect of no longer having excessive ups and downs to deal with but, at the same time, it will coincide with the most difficult part of the route because you will find yourself facing two or three steps along the ridge where you should pay particular attention, and the path will it will also do much tighter. The last point before meeting the paved road again that will take you to the top of Mount Lee is called Hugh Hefner Overlook. The founder of Playboy, thanks to his donations, has made it possible for this piece of land to return to public property and therefore, ultimately, to allow you to walk this trail.

    Solution # 3 - Take the Mount Hollywood Trail from the Griffith Observatory parking lot

    If the view of the Hollywood sign from the Griffith Observatory observation deck doesn't satisfy you, and you feel like stretching your legs with a good walk, head to the parking lot and take the path Mount Hollywood Trail, also known as the Charlie Turner Trail. Thanks to this path you can reach one of the privileged points of view from which to observe the urban area of ​​Los Angeles or Captain’s Roost. The view on the Hollywood sign is fascinating (even if still a little too lateral for my taste to be able to fully appreciate it) as you can see from the photo.

    Bench along the Mount Hollywood Trail
    Captain’s Roost

    The path is very easy, to get to this point it will take you just over 20 minutes, and for this reason it is also very crowded with tourists who, especially in high season, decide to take this walk in search of a more original souvenir photo than usual.

    Once you arrive at Captain's Roost you can decide to go back, or to start your approach path to the Hollywood sign. Consider that a very long route (at least an hour and a half one way plus stops) to reach the top of Mount Lee. The advice in this case is to evaluate carefully if the day allows such a long walk and, above all, if you feel like it.

    Solution # 4 - Get to Sunset Ranch from Beachwood Drive

    Il Sunset Ranch is one of the best known attractions among those looking to add a touch of originality to their walk along the Hollywood Hills. It is a facility that offers many types of hikes along the Hollywood Hills, some of which also to horse and with attached evening barbecue, which can certainly give a touch of originality to your adventure.

    Reaching this place is very simple: you just need to go to the end of Beachwood Drive where the path starts which, in addition to leading to the Sunset Ranch, allows you to walk theHollyridge Trail. This trail will take you with relative ease up to the asphalted road of Mount Lee Dr thanks to which you will reach your destination.

    Please note:: unfortunately due to a legal dispute opened by the same Sunset Ranch (who complained that it was impossible to carry out their excursions due to the high number of tourists passing through the area) from 18 April 2017 access has been closed to tourists who want to walk this trail from the end of Beachwood Drive. While waiting for this legal dispute to be cleared up by the judiciary, you can access the Sunset Ranch but not take the trail on your own.

    Solution # 5 - Bronson Caves

    This solution, in addition to being one of the most comfortable ways to reach the top of Mount Lee, will lead you to discover a curiosity of the Hollywood film world.

    But let's proceed in order and let's start by saying that, if you plan to use your car, it can be very convenient to park along Canyon Drive paying attention to any prohibition signs. The path to the top of Mount Lee starts right from the end of Canyon Drive, but if you want to take a little detour first, you will discover the curiosity we have mentioned.

    View from the Bronson Caves
    Bronson Caves

    Following the signs for Bronson Canyon / Caves in fact you will come to some tunnels dug into the rock that were used in the sixties as an entrance to the Bat-Cavern in the Batman television series, in which Alan West played the well-known hero. Taking this detour will take you little time and will also allow you to take interesting photos of the Hollywood sign (as well as having a curious anecdote to tell once you get home).

    To reach the top of Mount Lee, on the other hand, you just have to go all the way Canyon Drive, until the asphalted road becomes a dirt road, and continue to the intersection with the Mulholland Trail, which will take you to the well-known asphalted road of Mount Lee Dr. The path is not overly difficult, even if you have to take into account at least three hours (with stops) to go and return.

    And photograph it from the top of a helicopter?

    All the options we have talked about so far include a good deal of planning and physical commitment (in case you want to do some walking trails), so why not rely on an organized activity ready for you?

    Among the many tours in Los Angeles that you will have available, I recommend one in particular: the helicopter one. This is because it will undoubtedly allow you to have a privileged view, not only on the Hollywood sign, but on the entire city and its main attractions. You can find out more about this type of tour by clicking on the link below.

    Los Angeles VIP helicopter tour

    Other useful resources

    Now that you have discovered the best places to photograph the Hollywood Sign, here are other helpful articles to help you plan your stay in Los Angeles.

    • our tips on where to sleep in Los Angeles
    • what to see in and around Hollywood
    • tips on how to get around Los Angeles
    • advice on renting a car in Los Angeles
    • finally our travel guide to Los Angeles with all the insights you need to discover the secrets of the city of angels.
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