Griffith Observatory/Hollywood Sign Hike
The highlight of my L.A. trip was hiking from the Griffith Observatory to the Hollywood sign on New Years Day. I initially had planned to go the day before but the weather was gloomy. I'm glad I didn't try to do this Saturday because I had lunch plans with a friend. If you do this hike, allot 4-6 hours!!!
I had done a bunch of research online but some of the information is confusing until you get there yourself. The number one thing to know is that there are multiple ways to hike up to the sign. Though I haven't explored all the other ways, I feel like starting from the Observatory makes the most sense due to parking and facilities and the views are just breathtaking all the way!
The Observatory opens at 10 am and is closed on Mondays. I thought if I got there a little before 10 am I would have no problem grabbing a parking spot in the lot. I could not been more wrong! I arrived around 9:45 am and the lot was completely full. However, you can also park on the road up/out of the Observatory. I highly recommend you eat breakfast before coming--there are no food facilities and if you're gonna trek 8-10 miles roundtrip, you are gonna be hungry and thirsty!
I had ended up grabbing Burger King breakfast on the way which I am so glad I did. Below is the view of all the trails going up to the mountain from where I parked my car. I have no idea if these trails lead up to the Observatory but some probably do. I ended up parking on the road out of the Observatory, off to the side. A ton of cars were parked this way, up on the curb of the road. Basically, if you see a spot on the way to or from the Observatory, just take it! I ended up having to park in a way that my car was on a slant. Californians are super friendly. I was nervous with squeezing into the space and this random guy behind my car helped guide me into the space, and even lifted a big rock from the ground so I wouldn't hit it! And he disappeared before I could say thank you! Trust me, that type of kindness and thoughtfulness is rare in NYC!
I then went to the Observatory to use the bathroom before I started the hike. Although there are bathroom facilities right by the parking lot, there was a long line for them. At the Observatory (which is about a 5 min. walk from the lot), there were no lines and it's free to go in and the facilities are clean.
At 10:30 am, I finally started my hike. The trail starts right to the north of the parking lot (easy to spot). Even though there were a lot of people on the trail, it was never overwhelming. By the time I came back in the afternoon though, the Observatory was SWARMING. The lines for the bathroom were like 10x longer than in the morning, and it felt more suffocating as people milled around the grounds of the Observatory. I think people who arrive in the afternoon just come for the views from this area and maybe do a short walk on the trail. Morning is definitely best to enjoy this place without hordes. I think getting here by 10 am is safe, but any later it might feel frustrating.
Anyway, at the very start of the trail, there is a sign and map. Definitely have a look!
As you can see above, there are MULTIPLE trails. If you don't want to hike all the way to the Hollywood sign, you don't have to. You can just go up to Mt. Hollywood summit, which is about 1.5 miles from the parking lot one way.
This little box on the bottom informs you how to get to the sign, which is 4 miles away, one way! To get there, you basically have to hike all the way to the top of Mt. Hollywood, then go down all the way behind it on another trail (there is only one). You'll come into concrete road (but there are no cars), make a right, and walk a bit further where you will see a gate. Make that left entrance to get back on the trail towards the sign. If you stay on the concrete road, you end up somewhere else. Basically, just follow all the signs you see! They are clearly marked and look like this:
Just keep following the signs to Hollywood Sign. Even though it's listed three times, it just means there are certain overlooks. Just keep going until you get to it. And when in doubt, ask someone coming from the opposite direction if you're going the right way! It's good to check, because like I said there are multiple trails in this area. Following the signs will take you to the sign but it's easy to miss if you're not paying attention. On the way back, I ignored a sign, thinking I knew the way to go. I ended up going down the trail to Canyon Drive and had to climb up a steep hill to get back on track. My quads or appetite were NOT happy with this detour!!
As gorgeous as this hike was, it was definitely a quad kicker. I consider myself pretty active and fit and I was tired after 1.5 miles!! The walk from the parking lot is steep but manageable. So if you're not as active/fit, allot more time. All in all, it took me two hours to get to the top, and a bit over two hours to get back (due to the detour). My legs were so exhausted by the end of the hike and I knew if I sat down, I was not getting back up! There's not too many places to rest on the hike either. You can sit at the top (on the ground) but there are no benches or anything on the way up (well, there was a bench on the Canyon Drive trail detour, which is how I realized I went the wrong way because I did not remember seeing it on the way there!).
The view of La La Land from the top of the Hollywood sign is breathtaking. I got here around 12:30 pm. Thank goodness I had a huge bottle of water. This hike definitely dehydrated me!I What better way to spend the very first day of 2017!
I forgot to mention, the night before on NYE, some pranksters changed the sign to say "Hollyweed." Lol. I only caught the sign when it said "Hollywoed", the authorities were quick to change it back. By the time I reached the sign the letters were back to normal.
On my way back to the Observatory, I stopped by the top of Mt. Hollywood summit (I bypassed it earlier). You can also go to another viewpoint called Captain's Roost nearby but I skipped that since I was so tired and just wanted to eat. Below is the view from Mt. Hollywood summit.
By the time I got back to the Observatory, it was 3 pm. I wanted to check it out but like I said earlier, this place was swarming with tourists! So I ended up just leaving. Another reason to start your day here as early as possible: it took me over an hour to get out!!!!!! Because there ar a ton of people here as well as at the park down below at the base, there was so much traffic. I think I got into my car around 3:45 and didn't get out of the Griffith Park area until close to 5:30. I did put my time to good use though--I ended up calling a bunch of restaurants because so many were closed on New Years Day! I ended up eating pizza at Gjelina Take Away, which was thankfully open (and so delicious--will do a food post too).
I really enjoyed this hike though and it's one of the best ones I've been on. I'm not a huge hiker, and this one was challenging, beautiful, and very safe, which is very important to me as a female solo traveler. I'll also post my thoughts on two other hikes I did (Runyon Canyon and Culver City Steps) but of the three this was my fave for sure!