As the son of a loyal PEOPLE magazine subscriber, I knew deep-down that a trip to Los Angeles would not be complete until I climbed up to the Hollywood sign. You’d think that with this being the case, I would have done it maybe my first time to LA, or if not, surely my second time, but nope; It took me three times to finally shut up and hike up to the damn Hollywood sign…and this time, I would do it twice.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my past three trips, it’s that LA people are all about things like juicing, yoga on the beach, and hikes. I’m about all of those things too, but the minute I mentioned I wanted to go for a hike to say…the Hollywood Sign, it’s like my LA street cred plummeted.
Not that much existed in the first place…
Them: “You want to hike to the…Hollywood…sign? That’s so touristy!”
Me: “Oh, well, you gotta do it once, right? Have you ever done it?”
And that’s exactly why these people have never been up there, would never know that what you’d think is a tourist trap is actually a pretty tourist-less landmark….at least to the location I went to. Let’s go back to that morning:
When I woke up Saturday morning, I thought to myself, hey, what better time to hike up to the sign than with a mini hangover after a night out on Hollywood. Somehow the CouchSurfing host I stayed with knew the right people to get us into VIP with free drinks from some white-haired man who looked like Penn from Penn & Teller. Valentino, I believe his name was. Nonetheless, no matter how late I let myself stay out, I have a personal rule that I don’t let myself sleep in too much when I’m on a mission to see a new city. That’s why I found myself with groggy eyes and an untrusting balance at 8:30am when “I’m a Thug” by Trick Daddy (my alarm) told me to get my a$$ up.
Not too far from his two-story apartment off Hollywood & Vine (seriously this is the third time I’ve landed a ballin’ CouchSurfing host) was the Hollywood Sign perched on top of the Santa Monica Mountains. Having done absolutely no research whatsoever, I took off North and figured that as long as I could keep my eye on the sign, that I could find a way up there.I walked down Hollywood Boulevard, through probably were what some movie lots, and under a few highway overpasses until I reached Beachwood Avenue, an avenue with a direct, straight-on view of the sign – a calm, residential street to snap some pictures.
As I made my way down the avenue, I pulled out my phone to check Google Maps to at least make sure this street wasn’t some dead-end. I noticed I had no service, which I first just brushed off as my crappy T-Mobile prepaid plan until I realized I didn’t have service for nearly thirty minutes. K, my plan isn’t that bad. I asked a few random strangers on the street if they had service, to which they all responded, “Nah, when you live up in the Hills like this, you never have service.”
At the end of Beachwood Canyon, I stopped into Beachwood Café, a trendy lil’ restaurant-café number with a 50s touch. I charmed a waitress into letting me use the WiFi connection without buying anything (oh c’mon people, a small coffee was $2.75). As I was reloading my Google maps of the winding Hollywood Hills, I asked the cashier if she had ever been to the Hollywood Sign and if it was possible to get close enough for a nice view. She said,“It’s funny! I’ve actually never been up to the Hollywood Sign and I’ve lived here for awhile. I don’t even think you can get up there anymore. They’re scared of vandalism.”
Next door, I met Luis, a cashier for Beachwood Market, where I finally stocked up with a bottle of water, and of course, a chocolate milk (how could I not?). I knew this could be last opportunity to ask directions, being so close….and yet so far, so I had no shame, unleashed the tourist inside of me, and in front of all of the trendy Hollywood Hills residents, I blurted out:
“HOW DO I GET TO THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN?”
Luis grabbed my receipt and wrote the three streets I needed to know in order to make it up there: Beachwood, Ledgewood, Mulholland. He mentioned that he thought there was a dog park up there.
As I passed a few yellow “No Access to the Hollywood Sign” signs, I thought to myself hahaha, right and carried on. I knew I must be on the right track if I could see a huge white H getting bigger and bigger. Since there was no sidewalk after turning left on Ledgewood, I often found myself playing real-life Frogger, dodging in-and-out of the BMWs, Mecedez, and occasional soccer mom vans zooming past me. I continued walking up, noticing the incline and thinking to myself specifically for this blog that if anyone wants to walk up to the Hollywood sign, the main travel tip I could ever offer you is to have some strong glutes…which, after living four years in New York City is a given.
I found Mulholland and turned right, passing another set of “No Access to the Hollywood Sign” signs and then seeing….a park ranger issuing tickets, not to people, but to parked cars. I walked closer to see what would happen (hey, I did not come THIS far to turn back now), and that’s when he said,
“Have a good day, sir.”
Phew. 1 point for Damon, 0 for people who drove here. The landscape had changed from lush green to dusty, yellow desert – clearly the perfect landscape for the new pair of shoes I had just bought the day before. I rounded the corner, and wa-bam, smack dab in my face, the world-famous Hollywood Sign.
A few strangers, one nice waitress, one cashier named Luis, and one park ranger later, and I had made it…for free. A childhood of seeing this sign in magazines, movies, and video games, and I had finally made it…and suprisingly enough, there were only about five people up there.
Moral of the story kids is to not believe everything a local tells you. To the waitress at Beachwood Café, you actually are allowed up there, and to the cashier at Beachwood Market named Luis, there was no dog park…? To the sticklers to the rules, you actually can pass the “No Access to the Hollywood Sign” signs, and to the haters who think it’s oh-so touristy, think again.
DIRECTIONS TO THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN:
The entire trip listed in this blog took about one hour and fifteen minutes by foot from Hollywood Boulevard.
I later took the trip with Jo and found out you can take the DASH bus to the grocery store at the end of Beachwood, at which the nice man, Luis, gave me directions. The bus costs 50 cents, is air-conditioned, and picks you up at Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. The last stop is at the end of Beachwood, and then you will continue walking North on Beachwood, eventually turning left on Ledgewood, and then right on Mulholland. This option takes about 45 minutes total.