Update, 2016: This post has been updated several times over the years to reflect trails that have been closed and reopened. All information is current to the best of my knowledge.
Living in Hollywood, like I did for almost seven years, it was the one question I got asked more than anything else: “What’s the best way to see the Hollywood sign?” Being the generous LA resident that I am, the kind of person who knows exactly how vital money from both Omahaians and Okinawaians is to our economy, I always took the time to patiently explain to the inquirer where they could find the most low-impact, high-impression view. From the fourth-floor viewing platform of the Hollywood and Highland mall. I’m serious.
View from Hollywood and Highland via Hollywood Sign Trust
95% of people are satisfied with that view, as well as its proximity to Forever 21. But another 5% think they can get EVEN CLOSER. Yet like the people who live in the neighborhood it names, the Hollywood sign is elusive, and slippery.
Just when you think you know where it is, it vanishes behind another stucco turret. In fact, the people who live in Beachwood Canyon—the tangle of narrow streets just below the sign—even designed their homes with extra turrets, just to confuse tourists. But with the advent of the GPS, technology now helps drivers to confidently navigate those nasty twists and turns deep in this residential area. And the neighbors, who believed their stucco turrets would forever trump satellite technology, are becoming as nasty as the hairpin curves they live on.
Tourists Go Away photo via Curbed LA
Now a piece of land art that spells out the puzzling words “TOURISTS GO AWAY” has been created by some frustrated Beachwood sculptor near one of the places where tourists like to go. This work is so abstract in nature I’m not sure exactly what it’s trying to say, but I think it’s a bad strategy on behalf of the artist, anyway: I mean, don’t you think tourists will come up here just to see the Hollywood equivalent of the Spiral Jetty?
As Curbed LA noted, the new installation shares real estate with my other favorite Hollywood sign. In case you can’t read Beachwood Pidgin, that sign says: “No trespassing private property violaters will be persecuted.” That’s right. I had no idea that the violaters in our midst had such ideological or religious differences from the rest of us that they needed to be persecuted. But with this type of grasp on seventh-grade English, I doubt the signmaker did either.
But I’m not going to send you to the land of “GO AWAY TOURISTS,” whatever that means, because, in all honesty, that’s not the best place to see the sign if you want to get EVEN CLOSER. The best place is near Lake Hollywood Park, located at 3204 Canyon Lake Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90068. I made a map of the area to help you find it. To prove how great this location is, I’m going to show you a photo taken of me and Keith here.
Look how close we are to the sign! See how famous we look! We even appear younger and thinner! This photo was taken exactly where that camera icon is on my map. You do not have to drive through Beachwood Canyon to get there. You can get there from the 101. It is absolutely the best option if you’re driving. You can relax in a secret dog park and check out Madonna’s old house and Moby’s old house. Then, if you must, you can keep walking towards the sign for as long as you want, unencumbered by your car and fear of potential persecution. You violater.
But I’m not going to lie to you. Since we’re talking about the best way to see the Hollywood sign, I have to say that the very best way to see the Hollywood sign is like this. Hopefully as part of an awesome three hour round-trip hike from Bronson Canyon where there’s plenty of parking. Or as part of a shorter hike from the end of Beachwood Canyon Drive where there’s access to transit only one mile from the trailhead (while you’re there, hike the Beachwood stairs). Or most preferably, as part of the Big Parade, the 40-mile urban hike through LA that ends at this very spot. Tourists are, of course, welcome.
It’s true, it has gotten harder and harder to see the Hollywood Sign over the years. Read more about access issues in my article at Gizmodo: Why People Keep Trying to Erase the Hollywood Sign from Google Maps. But rest assured, you can still get there from here.
I put all of these tips, plus a car-less way to get to Griffith Observatory, another great viewing and hiking-to-the-sign spot, on the Google Map I made. If you want more detailed maps of the park itself, check out Modern Hiker’s excellent guides.