One of LA's most distinguishing icons, the famous Hollywood sign proudly stands on Mt. Lee (Mount Lee) in the Hollywood Hills, overlooking Los Angeles and the California movie industry it has come to symbolize. This LA landmark first appeared on its hillside perch in 1923 as an advertising gimmick for a real-estate development called Hollywoodland. Each letter stands 50 feet (15 meters) tall and is made of sheet metal painted white.
The best view of the Hollywood sign is from down below, at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Bronson Avenue. Other top viewing spots include the Hollywood and Highland Center, the top of Beachwood Drive, and the Griffith Observatory. Most Los Angeles and Hollywood sightseeing tours include at least a glimpse of the sign, while some Hollywood sign tours include a helicopter ride or a hike into the Hollywood Hills to see the sign from behind and a visit to the observatory. On hiking tours, a tour guide shows travelers to the optimal vantage points for the best views over Beverly Hills. Tours depart from downtown LA, Anaheim, and as far away as Las Vegas.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The sign hasn’t been lit up since New Year’s Eve of 2000, but its bright white letters often make it seem to glow in the night.
- Guided tours allow for safe photo op stops so there’s no need to make a dangerous stop in the middle of the mountain road.
- Dogs are permitted on hiking trails so long as they arekept on leash.
- Hikers should bring sun protection and water.
- Hiking to the letters themselves is strictly prohibited (you’ll be met with a chain link fence and security cameras), but the Brush Canyon Trail brings hikers to the peak right behind the sign.
How to Get There
You can reach the sign on foot by taking the 6.4-mile (10.2-kilometer) round-trip hike on the Brush Canyon Trail in Griffith Park; the trailhead is at the end of Canyon Drive. Alternatively, visitors can drive into the hills for a closer look, arrive on a horseback riding excursion, or fly in on a helicopter tour for great aerial view.
When to Get There
The sign is always there, you just have to decide when you want to see it. Try a sunrise hike for fewer crowds and some solitude, or take in sunset from the hills while enjoying great views over homes of various movie stars in downtown Los Angeles. Griffith Park and its hiking trails are open daily from sunrise to sunset. Thanks to Southern California’s warm weather, the hike can be made any time of year.
Hollywood Sign History
Once aglow with 4,000 light bulbs, the sign once had its own caretaker, who lived behind the letter L until 1939. Originally constructed to spell Hollywoodland, the sign’s last four letters were removed in the 1940s as they started to crumble. In the late 1970s, celebrities Alice Cooper and Hugh Hefner joined forces with fans and other stars to save the famous symbol.