Living in Los Angeles, movies are part of everyday life. You’ll see base camps, outdoor sets, and iconic buildings closed for the day, due to filming. This makes it interesting when watching movies. My favorite Chipotle ended up being a Saks Fifth Avenue in the Dark Knight Rises, not to mention the many scenes of the TV show Castle was filmed in the same, exact building I live in, just a floor below. Let’s just say that many exotic places in movies look eerily like my neighborhood haha! One of the most iconic and recognizable landmarks of Hollywood is the Hollywood Sign itself! Appearing in many movies throughout the years, the Hollywood Sign is easily accessible by a hiking through Griffith Park and is a go to destination when visiting Southern California. Once you make it to the Hollywood Sign you will see a unique view of LA that is unlike most other views. Anyone that does this hike will be able to point at the Hollywood sign and say “I was there!” every time it appears on television or in the movies. Add in a pit stop to Bronson Cave, the Bat Cave from 60’s Television and Bronson Canyon, the backdrop to the climactic scene of The Searchers with John Wayne, all five Star Trek TV series, and over 100 other movies and shows, you will have made a full day of experiencing the essence of Hollywood nostalgia.
History of the Hollywood Sign
The sign was first erected in 1923 and originally read “HOLLYWOODLAND.” Its purpose was to advertise the name of a new housing development in the hills above the Hollywood district of Los Angeles. Crescent Sign Company was contracted to erect 13 letters on the hillside, each facing south. The sign company owner, Thomas Fisk Goff, designed the sign. Each letter was 30 feet (9.1 m) wide and 50 feet (15 m) high, and the whole sign was studded with over 4,000 light bulbs. The sign would flash in segments; “HOLLY,” “WOOD”, and “LAND” would light up individually, before lighting up entirely. Below the Hollywoodland sign was a searchlight to attract more attention. The sign was officially dedicated in 1923. It was intended only to last a year and a half, but after the rise of American cinema in Los Angeles during the Golden Age of Hollywood, the sign became an internationally recognized symbol and was left there. In 1949 the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce began a contract with the City of Los Angeles Parks Department to repair and rebuild the sign. The contract stipulated that “LAND” be removed to spell “Hollywood” and reflect the district, not the “Hollywoodland” housing development. The sign was later restored in 1978 by nine individual donors, after a public campaign raised awareness to the sign’s condition.
Bronson Cave was created by the Union Rock Company, which established Brush Canyon Quarry to extract rock for street construction during the early 1900’s. Bronson Cave‘s most famous role came in the 1960s, playing the entrance of the Batcave in the Batman TV series. While this may be the most famous use, the tunnel and the area around it has been used in more than one hundred movies and television shows. John Wayne’s previously mentioned movie The Searchers, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Lone Ranger, Dukes of Hazzard, Little House on the Prairie, and the Star Trek TV series are just a few to be named.
To the Bat Cave! Starting from the parking lot at the top of Canyon Drive, make your way north, up the dirt road until you get to a junction, approximately 1000 feet from the trailhead. Turn to the right and head back southward. After another 1,000 feet or so, you will see Bronson Cave, a drive-through tunnel carved into a 100-foot tall rock wall. There are three exits at the far end of the tunnel. One is big enough for a Batmobile and the others are crawl-through size. Walk right in and start exploring!
The Hollywood sign
This is when the real hike begins. After exploring Bronson Cave, head back to the main path towards Mount Lee. Shortly after continuing down the main path, it starts to steepen, giving you a nice bit of cardio for the next 2 miles. This is also where the shade starts to get scarce, so make sure you where sunscreen or a hat. Take time and enjoy the views, they are incredible. Roughly a mile from the trailhead, and two miles from the start if you went to the bat cave, you will come to a junction with another major trail. In fact, this trail is the dirt road section of Mulholland Drive! Hang a left and be careful for the four legged creatures joining you. The trail levels out here, as it wraps around the hill, providing some very nice views of the LA.
A little after a half mile on Mulholland, you’ll see the Hollyridge trail on the left that goes down towards the stables at Sunset Ranch. Another half mile, you’ll come to a paved trail junction. While you can see the Hollywood Sign off to the left from here, you’ll want to actually keep right and continue down Mount Lee Road. Follow the paved road to the summit and the top of the Hollywood sign! There’s a heavy grade chain link fence that makes pictures from the trail less than optimal, but if you keep going just a bit further, you can scramble up the little hill at the top of the trail and get a great 360 degree view of Southern California, from Downtown LA, to Hollywood, to West LA, Palos Verdes, Burbank’s studios and the San Gabriel Valley and even Catalina Island, on a clear day. You can even check in on Facebook or Instagram.
To get back to the trail head, it’s as simple as retracing your way back from the way you came. Except this time its downhill!
Here are some tips for exploring Bronson Cave and the Hollywood Sign:
- There is little to no shade along the trail. Bring plenty of water and dress in layers. Sunscreen and a hat are advisable as well.
- While the trail can get busy at times, make sure you leave a note in your car with where you’re going, as well as checking in with a friend or family member.
- The Hollywood Sign is guarded by a chain link fence and many security cameras. While there are cases of trespassing, the fines and penalties are pretty severe for doing so.
- There are warning signs for Rattlesnakes, but they are scarce. Just be careful as the like to sun themselves. Avoid them if you encounter them and they will leave you be as well.
Have you hiked to the Hollywood Sign? Tell me about it below! If you have any questions comment below as well! You can also follow along on our adventures by subscribing to our newsletter! You don’t want to miss it!