Griffith Observatory Hike

If you’re an outdoors enthusiast and visiting Los Angeles, checking out Griffith Park, one of America’s largest urban parks, should be at the top of your to-do list. Located on the east end of the Santa Monica Mountains, Griffith Park preserves over 4,200 acres of land.

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About Griffith Park

If you’re an outdoors enthusiast and visiting Los Angeles, checking out Griffith Park, one of America’s largest urban parks, should be at the top of your to-do list. Located on the east end of the Santa Monica Mountains, Griffith Park preserves over 4,200 acres of land.

If you’ve Googled how to get to the Hollywood Sign, you’ve probably been directed to information about Griffith Park or the Griffith Observatory. Unfortunately, the sign is protected by a chain link fence and fast-acting security, so there’s no way to hike *to* the sign. However, don’t feel discouraged by this information. Various routes that will help you hike behind the sign and to the best front-facing views are outlined below.

History of Griffith Park

Established in 1896, this cherished recreation hub used to be known for its historic landmarks. From the Greek Theatre amphitheater to the Griffith Observatory, Griffith Park was built based on the dreams of Griffith Jenkins Griffith, a wealthy mining investor.

The land the observatory sits on was originally part of a Spanish settlement called Rancho Los Feliz, which was subdivided and stayed in the Feliz family until Griffith purchased what remained in 1882. After visiting various parks in Europe, Griffith decided that Los Angeles needed a “great park” for the public in order to become a great city. He donated the land to the City of Los Angeles with the intent to make the city happier and cleaner.

Today, Griffith Park is enjoyed by millions of people from far and wide. There are a variety of hiking trails that lead to many historic landmarks, including the famous Hollywood Sign, the Bat Cave, Bronson Cave, from the 1960s Batman series, and the Griffith Observatory. Outside of hiking, Griffith Park has 28 tennis courts, three golf courses, a driving range, the Los Angeles Zoo, and much more.

Trails in Griffith Park

Brush Canyon Trail

Length: 6.4 Miles Round Trip

Elevation Gain: 1,050 Feet

Features: Panoramic Views of Hollywood

The Brush Canyon Trail is a 6.4 mile round trip trail that takes you behind the iconic white Hollywood Sign letters directly behind the Mount Lee summit. It’s almost completely exposed, with the exception of a shaded dirt path, so sun protection and plenty of water is recommended for this hike. The Brush Canyon Trail comes to a grand overlook of Los Angeles at 1.25 miles, where many hikers choose to turn around, but if you continue on the path, you’ll be able to summit Mount Lee. This hike is classified as easy and has some paved sections and many wide fire roads.

Hollyridge Trail

Length: 3.5 Miles Round Trip

Elevation Gain: 750 Feet

Features: Big Vistas, Historic Landmarks

Short and easy, the Hollyridge Trail is a popular route for Griffith Park visitors. It’s so popular that in April 2017, the trail was permanently closed due to a court order, but it is still accessible via the Brush Canyon Trail.

The city of Los Angeles has placed signs near the original trailhead that redirect hikers to Canyon Drive. Canyon Drive has a parking lot, sidewalks, trash cans, and restroom facilities for visitors. From there, hikers should start at the Brush Canyon Trail trailhead and hike 1.25 miles until the trail merges with Mulholland Fire Road, where you’ll be able to see side views of the Hollywood Sign. Once on the fire road, take a left toward Mt. Lee. Continue on the road until the junction for the Hollyridge Trail appears and then bear right.

Hikers should note that there is little to no shade on this trail and should plan to hike early or later in the day.

Burbank Peak Trail

Length: 3.0 Miles Round Trip

Elevation Gain: 875 Feet

Features: Big Vistas, Historic Landmarks

While this is the shortest trail to the Mount Lee summit, hikers must cross Cahuenga Peak, the highest peak in the park at 1,821 feet above sea level. Formerly known as the Wonder View Trail, the Burbank Peak Trail has many distinct features that indicate you’re heading in the right directions. Directly above the trailhead, hikers should be able to see Burbank Peak and the American flag that is typically at the top and serves as an unofficial September 11th Memorial. As you ascend, radio towers atop Mt. Lee will be visible in the east, and to the right, hikers should be able to see some tall buildings in Hollywood and the Lake Hollywood Reservoir.

The Burbank Peak Trail ascends to the Wisdom Tree, a lone pine survivor of the 2009 wildfire on Burbank Peak.There is a trail register near the tree with wishes addressed to the Wisdom Tree. If the goal is to summit Mt. Lee, continue the way you came for ⅓ mile toward Aileen Getty Ridge Trail, which follows the ridge that will take you straight across and behind the Hollywood Sign to Mt. Lee.

Innsdale Drive via Mulholland Dam.

Length: 4.6 Miles Round Trip

Elevation Gain: 750 Feet

Features: Head On Views of Hollywood Sign, Historic Landmarks

The Innsdale Drive trail is not well known but takes you to some of the best front-facing views of the Hollywood Sign. The trail begins at the north entrance of the Hollywood Reservoir. Street parking is available from 6:30 a.m. until well into the evening depending on the season, and a posted sign is nearby with up to date hours. Dogs are not allowed on this trail.

While it is an easy, flat and paved path, that doesn’t mean it’s boring. Within a matter of minutes, hikers are met with extraordinary views of the Hollywood Sign with the Hollywood Reservoir in the foreground. At the one mile mark, views that were once restricted by a chain link fence open up as you cross the historic Mulholland Dam. The dam was completed in 1924 and is still active. Once you’ve crossed the dam, there will be water fountains and portable toilets available. Continue on Mulholland for 1.7 miles and stay left at the junction toward Wetona Drive. At 2.2 miles, you will emerge from the wilderness to a popular overlook of Lake Hollywood and the Hollywood Sign.

At 2.6 miles, turn right at Innsdale Drive. Hikers will meet a gate and continue for 0.8 miles on Innsdale Drive. The trail ends abruptly at 3.0 miles, but if you’re looking to add more miles to this hike, you can keep left at the Mount Lee Drive junction and hike to the top of Mount Lee.

Hollywood Sign via Charlie Turner Trail

Length: 8.8 Miles Round Trip

Elevation Gain: 575 Feet

Features: Panoramic Views, Historic Landmark

Photo Credit: Flickr

In order to access this trail, you must first start at the Griffith Observatory. You can either hike there via the Western Canyon Trail, or you can park via the limited parking lot at the Observatory. The trail takes you up Mount Hollywood, which is just above the Observatory and offers the most panoramic of Los Angeles from 1,625 feet above sea level. For a view of Vermont Canyon and Western Canyon Road, cross the saddle, otherwise continue on the Charlie Turner trail as a gradual ascent begins almost straight up the side of Mount Hollywood. During the ascent, hikers will come to a multi-trail junction with options to shorten the trail, if you’re short on time.

To continue on the Charlie Turner trail, keep right at the horseshoe bend. From there, you’ll finally get a glimpse of your destination, the Hollywood Sign and another multi-point junction with a steeper path to the right and a wide dirt trail straight ahead approaching Dante’s View. At Dante’s View, picnic tables and water fountains are available, making it the perfect place to rest before continuing on your hike. From there it is a short distance to Mt. Hollywood, and when you’re done, turn around and descend in the same direction you came.

Additional Information and Tips

Parking for the majority of the hikes in Griffith Park is only available in residential areas, unless stated otherwise. For this reason, hikers should exercise their manners here and follow all posted park rules.

In both the parking areas, as well as the trails, hikers should follow all “Leave No Trace” principles by disposing of all trash, including litter you may find on or around trails, and leaving the areas just as or better than you found it.

Most of the hiking trails in Griffith Park are dog friendly, but there are a few exceptions, including but not limited to, the one outlined above. Per city laws, dogs must be kept on leash at all times. If you’re looking for an off-leash experience for your furry friend, there is an off-leash dog park in Griffith Park on North Zoo Drive.

Hiking shoes are not necessary for these trails, but comfortable athletic shoes are recommended. Hikers should also bring plenty of water and sun protection, as well as a few snacks for longer hikes.

Whether the goal is to see the Hollywood Sign from almost all angles, travel back in time at Griffith Observatory, or summit multiple peaks in a single day, Griffith Park offers something for everyone.


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