How to photograph the Hollywood sign

How to photograph the Hollywood sign

Easily the biggest star in Los Angeles, the Hollywood sign is both easy to photograph and very elusive.

It stands atop Mt. Lee and looks down on Los Angeles, so it’s easy to spot from anywhere in the city. But if you want to see it up close, you have to climb to get there. The best shot is through a residential area, and the people of Beachwood Canyon have put up barriers and no parking signs to keep you away.

So what to do? There are different, authorized ways to see the board without bothering residents though, so if you’re not aware of the options, please read.

View only

Griffith Observatory, one of the busiest tourist attractions in Los Angeles, has a vantage point of the sign, at the statue of James Dean, but the sign looks small in the distance. I wouldn’t make this my first stop. The Ovation Mall (formerly Hollywood & Highland) has a similar lookout on the fourth floor, and the sign is even farther away than Griffith’s. Parking is very difficult at the Observatory and city officials recommend getting there by public transportation. You can also park in the parking lot of the Greek Theater during the day and take a shuttle bus up the hill. (Or climb the mile yourself.)

That said, anyone coming to Los Angeles should definitely pay a visit to the Griffith Observatory. It has the best scenic city views in town, especially during magic hour.

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Easiest to get to

Lake Hollywood Park, which is near Universal Studios, has a much better view of the sign, public parking, and facilities than Griffith or Ovation. This is probably the most logical stop for out-of-town visitors, due to the ease of getting there. Keep in mind, however, that there are only a limited number of parking spaces, so you’ll want to get there early before the spaces are all used up.

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Walks

For the best view of the board, you have to work for it. The Brush Gorge walk is off Bronson Avenue, has ample parking (over Lake Hollywood) and facilities. It will take you at least an hour to hike uphill to get to the sign, but you’ll get two great close-ups. Here your jump in front of the board will come out perfectly. You also get great views of Los Angeles from above from this vantage point.

From the Brush Canyon hike, you can also walk all the way to the top, right behind the Hollywood sign letters, with the city in the distance. Anyone visiting should do this at least once.

Brush Hike gives you another bonus: a chance to enter the “Batcave” used in the 1960s TV show “Batman”, which you pass as you climb.

The Mount Hollywood Griffith Park hike, which starts at Griffith Observatory, is a longer climb that also takes you to Mt. Lee brings. Count on two to three hours of climbing.

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Difficult

Cahuenga Park Trail

This is how Allhikes.com describes it: “Meet this 3.9 mile loop trail near Los Angeles, California. Generally considered a challenging route, it takes an average of 2 hours 36 minutes to complete.” The Hollywood Sign Trust, which manages the Sign, calls it “difficult” even though it is the shortest of the walks. That would be because it is the steepest.

The Hollywood Sign Trust, which manages the sign, celebrates the Centennial all year round, but the actual birthday is believed to be December 8.

And the Trust has a great birthday present for everyone. Plans have been announced to build a visitor center that would make visiting the sign much easier. The idea is that visitors park, board a shuttle bus and are taken to a special vantage point.

“Over the years, visitors and locals alike have expressed a keen interest in an ‘up close’ experience where they can learn about the roots of the Hollywood Sign, its storied stories and the epic hopes and dreams the Sign remains inspire,” said Jeff Zarrinnam, president of the Hollywood Sign Trust.

So let’s all say happy birthday and hurray for Hollywood!

More photos can be viewed here.