Hiking the Hollywood Sign

After over a decade of living in Southern California, I finally managed to complete the notorious Hollywood Sign hike. It had been on my “do someday” lineup ever since I watched Greg Araki’s beyond bizarre movie Nowhere back in the late 90s. I’ll be the first to admit, however, that I’m curious by nature and just about everything I’ve never done before is something that I want to do eventually. And so, as you can well image, I have one long list.

I’d like to be able to report that the hike was everything I expected it to be and more, but in reality the experience was both pretty cool and somewhat anticlimactic. First, the positive part: tucked into the side of the Santa Monica Mountains, there are a few different trails that will take you either near or to the sign, but I wanted to get as close to the letters as possible (more on that in a minute) and thus picked the longer route that ends above and behind the 44-foot tall DOOWYLLOH letters.

The trail was filled with all sorts of beautiful flora and fauna, the hike was just stimulating enough to count as a workout, and the views from the top were amazing. Seriously – if you schedule it on a clear day, you can see forever from up there.

Now for the meh part: I have watched entirely too many movies that make it seem like even though it’s illegal to climb around on the letters, maybe you still could somehow sneak into one of the Os and let your legs dangle over the side, taking in the views while spouting philosophy and feeling all badassery and free. Not so: apparently even if you can get past the fencing and sensors surrounding the sacred letters, the penalties are huge and police helicopters descend into the area the second they sense a breach. That sounds like a lot of drama for a little high. Sigh.

All of that said, I’m glad I did it and would probably go again if anyone I know needs a hiking buddy. And it’s probably just as well I didn’t take the trip until now, because any younger and I might have risked the whole “cops in helicopters” debacle to get just a few moments of that true Hollywood Sign bliss.