On the bucket list for most tourists visiting southern California is seeing the historic Hollywood sign.
The Hollywood sign has towered over the Los Angeles area since 1923. Of course back then, it was real estate developers, not movie producers that wanted to capitalize on the region’s ties to glitz and glamour. The giant letters (measuring a whopping 43′ x 30′) once spelled out: “Hollywoodland” – a pricy $21,000 investment to promote a new upscale subdivision. As the Great Depression set in, real estate crumbled and the sign no longer had a purpose. However, locals had come to love it and would eventually save it from complete demolition.
You’d think that finding the perfect view of the giant sign would be a piece of cake. After all, it’s visible from most of the major movie studios and while driving through many Los Angeles neighborhoods. But in most locations, the sign appears too far away when taking a photo. Long ago, visitors could actually hike up to Mount Lee and get right next to the towering letters. These days, the Hollywood sign is actually protected by barbed wire, lasers, webcams, helicopter patrols, and yes – even the Department of Homeland Security.
So where does a tourist go to get the perfect picture of the Hollywood sign? On a recent visit to southern California, I finally found the perfect spot! The place is called Lake Hollywood Park and offers the best opportunity for a memorable photo with the Hollywood sign in clear view.
Knowing the location and getting there are two completely different things. The roads that lead to the park are often small and winding with little room for error. Some of them are even one way which makes it incredibly awkward if you make a wrong turn and have to yield to a local who lives here. Speaking of locals, it’s worth noting that having strangers regularly driving down your street or walking by your house must be annoying. So while I’d expect nothing less from my readers, it’s worth reminding you to be respectful during your adventure.
Your GPS probably won’t be fool proof either. At one point, we assumed the park was only accessible by foot and parked to take a walk on a blocked off, paved roadway. Deception continued after we passed a large roadblock that said “Hollywood”. After walking for a bit on the path, even spotting the Hollywood sign for a few moments, a couple of kind ladies told us the park was actually about a half mile away.
Lake Hollywood Park is operated by the Los Angeles Parks & Recreation Department and is open to the general public. It was definitely a spot for travelers looking for the best Hollywood sign photo, but there were a lot of locals playing with their dogs and just enjoying a nice morning outdoors. You can park your vehicle on the steep hill directly beside the park. My best advice to you is to go early. We arrived a little before 8:00 in the morning, which worked out perfect to avoid crowds. Arrive later in the day, you’ll probably have complete strangers in your photos or not find parking.
Here are a few random fun facts about the Hollywood sign:
- The sign once had its own caretaker in the early days. One night the man had too much to drink and crashed his car over the cliff, destroying the letter “H”.
- By the 1970’s, the Hollywood sign was in horrible condition. Of all people, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner held a fundraiser at his mansion to raise money to restore it. Each letter was “auctioned” off for $27,700. Among the individuals that saved letters – Alice Cooper, Andy Williams, and Gene Autry.
- The sign has only been lit up once since 1949 – that was for the 1980 Olympics which were held in Los Angeles.
- If you’re going to hike up the mountain for a view behind the Hollywood sign, you’ll be super close to Bronson Cave – which is known to many as “The Bat Cave” from the popular 60’s television series – Batman.