The Hollywood Sign that sits on the top of Mount Lee is perhaps one of the most famous images of Los Angeles (if not of California) and you will certainly want to capture it with your camera. So you may need to know which areas of the city you need to go to to get a better view.
In this article, we are going to explore the best places to observe the Hollywood Sign so that you can bring home the perfect souvenir photos. Many of these places will also allow you to discover unusual corners of Los Angeles where you can admire the city and its surroundings in all its beauty.
- The Best Viewpoints to see the Hollywood Sign without hiking
- How to get to the Hollywood Sign
- Preliminary Precautions
- Option #1 – From Lake Hollywood Park. Walk along Mulholland Dr or Deronda Dr
- Option #2 – Take the Wonder View Trail
- Option #3 – Take the Mount Hollywood Trail from the parking lot at Griffith Observatory
- Option #4 – Go to Sunset Ranch from Beachwood Drive
- Option #5 – Bronson Caves
- What about Photographing the Hollywood Sign from a Helicopter?
- Other Useful Resources
The Best Viewpoints to see the Hollywood Sign without hiking
Let’s start with this overview of the best spots in Los Angeles to take a picture of the Hollywood Sign. If you don’t plan to do a lot of walking, or the time you have available to visit the city is limited, this selection is for you.
The Griffith Observatory
We are talking about the incredible observatory that dominates the hills above Los Angeles. Given its location, the Hollywood Sign is still pretty far away (see the picture I took personally) but, since the observatory is one of the recommended things to see in Los Angeles, it can certainly be taken into consideration also because of 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’ll be in the place made famous by Rebel Without a Cause, made in 1955. The scene from the movie that features James Dean is iconic. As a reminder of this, you’ll find a monument with the young actor’s face and it is possible to take a picture of him 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 embark on the Mt. Hollywood Hiking Trail, which we will talk about in detail later in the section about the trails to reach the summit of Mount Lee that allow you to approach the Hollywood Sign from behind.
Lake Hollywood Park
Lake Hollywood Park, in my opinion, is the best viewpoint to photograph the Hollywood Sign. It is a large park nestled between the hills and narrow, winding streets and is surrounded by some of the city’s most luxurious homes. As we’ll see in the next section, this is also an excellent place to get on two trails that will take you to the top of Mount Lee to admire the view of Los Angeles from behind the sign.
Mulholland Drive is one of the scenic roads that run along the hills of Los Angeles. It has the added benefit of having been immortalized in countless Hollywood films. This is already enough to make it worth visiting, and if you are particularly fond of David Lynch’s work, you will surely have a special reason to make this excursion.
Returning to the subject of this article, go east on Mulholland Drive near the 101 Freeway, and you’ll arrive at a vista point called the Hollywood Bowl Overlook. From here you’ll be at an elevated point with a view of the city below as well as the Hollywood Sign.
Hollywood & Highland Center
The Hollywood & Highland Center 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. If you go to the terraces of the mall, you can enjoy a beautiful view of Mount Lee and the Hollywood Sign.
The best spot is on the third level crossing bridge. Another incentive to go to this large shopping mall is that if you park your car here and then validate your parking ticket in a bar, restaurant, or shop, you will only pay $2 for parking while you shop for 2 hours. Compared to the rates of other parking lots in L.A., it’s a pretty good deal.
The Hollywood Reservoir is an artificial lake and it is known to be one of the locals’ favorite places to run and exercise along a quiet and relaxing trail and observe interesting views. You’ll find the perfect spot to take a picture of the Hollywood sign at the Mulholland Dam. After taking some pictures, why not take a nice walk along the edge of the lake?
The Hollywood Reservoir has three separate entrances. If you decide to use your car (or to rent one), here are some tips on where to park depending on the entrance you decide to use. Obviously, you should always pay attention to any signs of no parking.
- Lake Hollywood Drive: This is the recommended entrance if you want to use the North Gate.
- Weidlake Drive: If you take this road, you will arrive at the Hollywood Reservoir entrance named after this road and once past the residential area, you will find a small parking lot to the left of the entrance. This is especially 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 will tell you about for the sake of providing accurate information, but I advise you not to use it because there are very few (if any) parking spaces near this entrance. We’re talking about the East Gate at the entrance of Lake Hollywood Estate that is distinguished by the nice barrier with the Hollywood Sign.
North Beachwood Drive
North Beachwood Drive is a 2-mile road and at the end of the road, you will find the entrance to the Sunset Ranch, which we will discuss in detail later. I recommend that you do not go all the way to the end. In fact, you will begin seeing some nice views of the sign at the intersection with Scenic Ave and then going towards the Hollywood Hills.
How to get to the Hollywood Sign
This section is for those who are not satisfied just to see the sign from a distance but want to get as close as possible (who knows when you’ll be in Los Angeles again?). First of all, I want to make it clear that you cannot in any way touch the Hollywood Sign or get very close to it. In fact, the area is fenced and guarded by cameras and security personnel to avoid accidents and vandalism that have taken place over the years, even though these are rare occurrences.
If you want to get as close as possible the only solution is to climb to the top of Mount Lee and admire the view of Los Angeles from behind the Hollywood Sign. In other words, you can only reach that point where the radio antennas stand out.
Before seeing the routes to reach the top, there is some basic information that I must outline not only for the sake of your safety but also to help you understand that you will not get as close to the sign as you might expect. I advise you to read carefully so as not to encounter unpleasant surprises.
If you are going to reach the top of Mount Lee to see the view from behind the Hollywood Sign, the first thing you should know is that the residents of Beachwood Canyon (the residential area below the sign) are fed up with the crowds of tourists who flock to the top of Mount Lee either on foot or by car along the winding, narrow streets that climb up the Hollywood Hills.
The first consequence of this is that they have put up intimidating and misleading official-looking road signs all over this area that aim to discourage people from venturing into this part of Los Angeles. Some time ago there was even a petition to remove the Hollywood Sign from Google Maps.
The second consequence is that law enforcement agencies (both private and public) are present and ready to report any minor parking violations. So I advise you to try to avoid using your car and rely on Uber or similar services instead, or if you do drive, you should look out for no parking signs.
If you use a GPS, please know that the directions of Google Maps or other services are not entirely reliable. In fact, the last time we checked, when we searched for the Hollywood Sign in the various navigation services, at best, they redirected us to the Griffith Observatory.
If, thanks also to our advice, you finally manage to find the many trails to the top of Mount Lee, make sure to wear clothing and footwear suitable for walking. Another factor to take into account is the climate. In the summer, temperatures will rise considerably and you will not find many shady spots on the trail. Also, bring plenty of water with you.
Finally, remember that even if you’re not far from Los Angeles, you’ll be walking on trails in the middle of nature, so keep an eye out for snakes and other dangerous animals in the area.
Option #1 – From Lake Hollywood Park. Walk along Mulholland Dr or Deronda Dr
One of the best ways to photograph the Hollywood Sign up close and to reach the top of Mount Lee is to go to Lake Hollywood Park and then walk along two residential streets that climb up to the hills.
But let’s go in order. First, get to Lake Hollywood Park, where you can already start taking some nice pictures of the Hollywood Sign. My advice, as I mentioned before, is not to use your car because parking in the area is very scarce, and the police are constantly around to issue fines to those who do not respect the parking signs. In other words, this is the first taste of the hostility of the residents towards the tourists who come to this area.
The alternative to driving can be to take a taxi or an Uber, which is very successful and very reliable. If you really must drive your car, the best place to park could be along Canyon Lake Dr, but watch out for no parking signs (especially in the evening) and be very patient, because, as you can guess, this is a very busy area especially during the high season. If you want to continue the top of Mount Lee, this is where the 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 get there, you will have two options: The first route (which I recommend) is also the easiest and consists of walking along Mulholland Dr. Do not be intimidated when it becomes a dirt road that seems to lead to nowhere. Eventually, you will reach the gate that you see in this photo. To the left of the gate, you will find a walkway that will take you to the clearing marked on the map, and from there you can turn onto Mount Lee Dr, which will take you behind the Hollywood Sign. The video below describes the route I have explained to you up to this point.
The other way is to walk on Deronda Dr until you reach what seems like a dead-end road with two gates closed. Next to the gate on your left, however, you will see a small door that, if opened, will lead you to the same clearing we talked about before. Personally, I do not recommend this solution, because it is not guaranteed that you will find the door open (as you also noticed when you watched the first video) forcing you to go back “empty-handed”, even though it should be open from dawn to dusk and it is operated by an automatic system. Also in this case you can take a look at the video below to become familiar with this route.
You will have to factor in 50 minutes to an hour of walking to reach the top of Mount Lee (plus time to take pictures and catch your breath) in addition to the return trip, which at least will have the advantage of being practically all downhill.
Option #2 – Take the Wonder View Trail
I recommend that you park along Lake Hollywood Drive, because Wonder View Drive is a dead-end street with very little space to turn around. Therefore, avoid driving on Wonder View Drive and plan your route very well. It is better to walk a little longer than to find yourself having to make complicated maneuvers to turn around.
The route on foot is not easy but it is not too demanding either. It will take you 30 to 40 minutes to walk all the way to the Hollywood Sign, depending on your level of physical fitness. You have to add time to make stops to admire the view, fill the memory of the camera with pictures, catch your breath, and, of course, walk back.
Therefore, consider spending at least three hours to complete this walk. The ground on the trail is dry and dusty, so I suggest that you wear the appropriate shoes. In addition to this, keep in mind that the trail will be totally exposed to the sun and, especially in the summer, you will need to wear a hat and bring sufficient water with you.
The views you will see along the way will be very impressive, and perhaps even more beautiful than the other trails. You will reach a very famous viewpoint where the solitary Wisdom Tree stands out, which, besides being one of the few trees that survived the 2007 fire, will also be the only place where you will find shade.
Therefore, taking a break is highly recommended not only to admire the view but also to allow yourself a respite from the sun. If it’s a beautiful day without smog or clouds you can see the Los Angeles area, Universal Studios, Burbank, and much of the San Fernando Valley.
Once past the Wisdom Tree, the route continues along the mountain ridge. The positive aspect is that there are no more excessive ups and downs in this section, but, at the same time, it will coincide with the most difficult part of the route, because you will have to be especially careful when you reach the point where there are two or three steps along the ridge and the path will also become much narrower.
The last viewpoint before you resume walking on a paved road that will take you to the top of Mount Lee is called Hugh Hefner Overlook. The donations of the founder of Playboy have made it possible for this piece of land to become public property again and thus ultimately allow you to walk on this trail.
Option #3 – Take the Mount Hollywood Trail from the parking lot at Griffith Observatory
If the view of the Hollywood Sign from the rooftop terrace of the Griffith Observatory doesn’t satisfy you and you want to take a nice walk, head to the parking lot and take the Mount Hollywood Trail, also known as the Charlie Turner Trail. This trail takes you to Captain’s Roost, an overlook with one of the best views of the Greater Los Angeles Area. The view of the Hollywood Sign is fascinating (though I prefer a frontal view and from here, the sign is seen from a slightly lateral view) as you can see from the photo.
The route is very easy and it will take just over 20 minutes to get to Captain’s Roost. For this reason, it will also be very crowded with tourists who, especially in the high season, decide to take this route with the scope of taking a unique souvenir photo.
Once you arrive at Captain’s Roost, you can decide to go back or start your journey towards the Hollywood Sign. However, the trail to reach the top of Mount Lee is very long (at least an hour and a half one-way plus stops). In this case, my suggestion is that you evaluate whether you have time for such a long walk and, above all, if you feel up to it.
Option #4 – Go to Sunset Ranch from Beachwood Drive
Sunset Ranch is a popular destination for those who want a different way to visit the Hollywood Hills. It offers many types of hikes along the Hollywood Hills, some of them on horseback with an evening barbecue included, which can definitely make your experience special.
Reaching this place is very simple. Just go to the end of Beachwood Drive. From there you will embark on the trail that leads to the Sunset Ranch and the Hollyridge Trail. This easy trail will lead you to the paved Mount Lee Dr, which will take you to your destination.
Please note: Unfortunately, due to a lawsuit filed by Sunset Ranch (which complained about the inability to organize hiking tours due to the high number of tourists passing through the area), as of April 18, 2017, access has been closed to tourists who want to take the trail from the end of Beachwood Drive. While waiting for this legal dispute to be resolved by the courts, you may access Sunset Ranch, but do not go on the trail on your own.
Option #5 – Bronson Caves
In addition to being one of the most convenient ways to reach the top of Mount Lee, this route will allow you to discover an interesting location used in a television series.
But let’s proceed in order and start by saying that if you plan to drive, it is best to park along Canyon Drive, but be mindful of any no parking signs. The route to the top of Mount Lee starts right at the end of Canyon Drive, but if you want, you can take a little detour first to discover the place we mentioned above.
Following the signs to Bronson Canyon / Caves, you will come to tunnels carved into the rock which were used in the 1960s as the entrance to the Batcave in the Batman TV series, in which Alan West played the famous hero. Making this detour will not take long and will be an opportunity to take some interesting photos of the Hollywood Sign (as well as give you a curious anecdote to tell when you get home).
To get to the top of Mount Lee, you just need to drive all the way along Canyon Drive, until the paved road becomes a dirt road and continue to the intersection with the Mulholland Trail, which will take you to the famous Mount Lee Dr. The route is not too difficult, although it will take you at least three hours (with stops) to get there and back.
What about Photographing the Hollywood Sign from a Helicopter?
All the options we’ve talked about so far require good organization and physical exertion (in case you are in the mood to do some hiking), but why not participate in a tour that is already planned?
Among the many tours in Los Angeles to choose from, I highly recommend the helicopter tour. This is because it will give you a fantastic view, not only of the Hollywood Sign, but of the entire city and its main attractions. You can find out more about the helicopter tour by clicking on the link below.
Other Useful Resources
Now that you’ve discovered the best places to photograph the Hollywood Sign, here are some other useful items to help you plan your stay in Los Angeles.