The Hollywood sign is a classic L.A. landmark, and has been since its original “Hollywoodland” construction in 1923. In the late 1970s, it needed a full rebuild, and the late Hugh Hefner stepped in to host a fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion wherein he auctioned off letters for sponsorship to A-list L.A. celebrities, like Gene Autry.
The Hollywood sign has seen some tumult over its 97-year reign, but, ultimately, the community (and somehow every time, Hugh Hefner, who was also instrumental in raising $12.5 million for the sign in 2010) worked to save it each time when the sign was in danger of crumbling or falling into the hands of real estate developers.
The Hollywood sign is nothing short of iconic, not only because of what it stands for in the Los Angeles entertainment industry, but because of all the big names who have helped to keep it alive for nearly a century.
The closest neighborhoods—and therefore, the best places to see the sign—are Hollywood and Los Feliz. Hollywood has a lot of quintessential sign view points, and Los Feliz is home to Griffith Observatory, which has perhaps the most famous Hollywood sign vantage point. As a Los Feliz local, I’ve broken down the best places to see the Hollywood sign:
Some spots are major tourist attractions for a reason. Griffith Park is one of them. Yes, everyone knows to go to Griffith Park when they visit Los Angeles. But that doesn’t mean it’s a spot to be avoided. On the contrary, I’ve lived in Los Angeles for six years, and I trail run in Griffith Park regularly. With 43 moderate hiking trails, Griffith is expansive. And, of course, it all centers around the famed Griffith Observatory, which you can climb for some of the best views of the city. The lawn in front of Griffith Observatory is the classic view of the Hollywood Sign.
Insider tip: Instead of driving up to the observatory and parking in utter chaos, park at the Fern Dell Drive entrance to the park. Across from the trail head, grab a coffee at The Trails Cafe (which is just as adorable as it sounds), and then hike the easy 1.3-mile Firebreak Trail to Griffith Observatory. You can’t miss the observatory-bound trail—it’s the direction everyone’s going in.
The Hollyridge Trail
For a mid-hike view, you won’t do better than taking the Hollyridge trail. The Hollyridge trail is one of the off-the-record winners for Best Hollywood Sign Hike. There are a few reasons for the low-key hype. First, you get a mid-hike shot of the sign. Yes, you can always grab a super-clear shot of the Hollywood Sign from the end of Mulholland Drive. But it’s crowded and it’s clear that you didn’t trek for that photo. The Hollyridge trail makes it look like you trekked—which you did, for four miles (just over two hours). And of course, the best part of the Hollyridge Trail view: it’s not obstructed with tourists. Go on a weekday, and you’ll have the place to yourself.
Insider tip: L.A. hikers swear by Modern Hiker’s guides to the best trails in the city. For a trail map on steroids, consult Modern Hiker’s guide to Hollyridge.
Barnsdall Art Park
I’m partial to this Hollywood sign view because it’s in my neighborhood—it’s where I walk my dog and picnic on the weekends. Barnsdall Art Park is a Los Feliz gem, adjacent to the intersection of Hollywood Blvd and Vermont Ave. The bordering Silver Lake hubbub pairs perfectly with the charms of hyper-local Los Feliz village. You can drive or climb the stairs to the top of Barnsdall Art Park. From there, you’ll have an unobstructed view of the Hollywood sign overlooking the neighborhood below. Barnsdall Art Park is also home to Hollyhock House, which was Frank Lloyd Wright's first-ever commissioned building in Los Angeles.
Beachwood Drive north of Franklin Ave
A favorite photo-op amongst Instagramming locals, North Beachwood Drive has an iconic L.A. street with the Hollywood sign backdrop view. Beachwood Canyon is slightly west of Trails Cafe and Fern Dell Drive. For this route, you’re heading into the neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Specifically, you’ll be just north of Franklin Village, a lovely enclave with cute boutiques and restaurants sandwiched between Los Feliz and Hollywood proper. From Franklin Village/Franklin Ave, you’ll turn on Beachwood Drive and head north to Glen Holly Drive. Park where you can, and walk to get your clear, un-Instagrammer-obstructed view of the Hollywood Sign.
Insider tip: There’s a Van Leeuwan in Franklin Village, if you care to finish your Hollywood sign experience with an ice cream cone. Or for a true L.A. experience, you can visit the UCB Theatre in Franklin Village for some post-sign-viewing improv.
Hollywood Blvd and Highland Ave
The argument against going to Hollywood and Highland is that it’s very much like going to Times Square. And that’s a perfectly valid argument—it’s congested and there’s a Ripley’s Believe It or Not at Hollywood Blvd and Highland Ave, need we say more? Nonetheless, this famous intersection is home to Hollywood history and a great view of the Hollywood sign. It’s where you’ll find the Dolby Theatre, the Oscars hosting venue. For prime sign-sightings, you’ll head inside the Hollywood and Highland shopping complex, ascend to the second floor, and walk toward the rear patio.
Insider tip: Parking near this intersection is a bit of a nightmare, but there’s a metro station connected to the shopping mall with the Hollywood sign view. Take the red line to Hollywood and Highland to spare yourself the L.A. parking drama.