As I flew from London Heathrow Airport back to Los Angeles earlier this month, I found myself seated alongside three giddy English women. Their destinations: Hollywood and Beverly Hills.
They marveled that I was familiar with the foreign landscape of Southern California, declaring that our smoggy bird’s eye view of the Los Angeles skyline was nothing short of beautiful.
I wasn’t quite on the same page, but after a month of overcast London skies, sunshine ““ however dingy ““ was refreshing.
Sheltered in Westwood, it’s easy to forget that L.A. is a tourist destination rich with an alternative kind of history.
So after 10 quarters, I’ve decided to stop procrastinating and become acquainted with the artistic, iconic and historic gems of the city I’ve called home for the last three years.
Since my days in the dorms I’ve navigated by inconsistent bus schedules, blaming L.A. public transportation for my limited city exploration.
And though I’ve seen a nice chunk of the urban jungle, I cannot proudly call myself a local Angeleno.
And so here I present my mission statement ““ to share my artistic and historical explorations each week and provide the information to get you there, all with enough money left in your pocket for groceries and a few dozen Diddy Riese cookies.
The Hollywood sign isn’t exactly a “hidden” treasure, but it has always been on my Los Angeles bucket list. Since its original construction in 1923 as a housing development advertisement for “Hollywoodland,” the sign has served as an eye-catching fixture atop Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills.
The sign was officially listed as a Los Angeles Cultural-Historical Monument in 1973 and is visible throughout Hollywood and even some downtown L.A. high-rise buildings.
And since there’s nothing quite more visually iconic to the Los Angeles area, I set out to hike to the fabled nine white letters for my first excursion.
There are several trails that lead to the monument, but after a little research, I decided to take the well-recommended Hollyridge Trail. The trail leads to a less photographed perspective ““ behind the sign’s 45-foot tall letters.
With limited parking facilities shared with Sunset Ranch horseback riders, it’s best to arrive early and on weekdays to ensure a space at the base of the trail.
I was feeling particularly ambitious and left Westwood at 7 a.m. to ensure that my roommate and I arrived shortly before 8 a.m., finding parking plentiful with few other hikers aside from a handful of local dog walkers.
The morning fog blanketed the hillside and prevented us from seeing the sign from afar, but it did provide an eerie point of view as we hiked through the fog and eventually above the low clouds, with a mythic panorama before us.
Hollyridge Trail follows a horseback-riding route, before veering left into a hiking trail. The trail is wide and partially paved, making it manageable for both experienced and non-experienced hikers, taking no more than 30 minutes to reach the top.
Because of our morning timing, the letters were not visible outright, but as we approached the crest of the hill, the sun burned off much of the cloud cover.
The sign is visible from behind a green fence and protected by a sophisticated alarm system, 24-hour surveillance and park rangers; however, the daring have carved alternative trails and climbed the fence to touch the letters.
(Be warned, though, the sign is private property. Trespassing penalties include a $103 fine, risk of a misdemeanor charge, as well as a police escort from the hills via helicopter).
Despite its proximity to the city, the trail includes a surprising amount of wildlife ““ we encountered rabbits, squirrels and an abundance of lizards (including one I paralyzed by accidentally stepping on it) as well as wildflowers and more vegetation than exists along the length of Wilshire Boulevard.
Hollyridge Trail is a worthwhile trek, offering a convenient slice of quiet beside what is arguably the loudest landmark in the land.
Are you crossing off a Los Angeles bucket list? Let’s compare notes. Email Roberts at [email protected]