Saturday, June 9, 2012

Hike 2012.033 -- Griffith Observatory to base of the Hollywood Sign

Hiked Friday, June 8. I was at the Griffith Observa-tory again this afternoon. I had an interview for a part-time "Museum Guide" position. Happy to say should soon be my evening job, at least a few nights a week.

After my interview and surprisingly immediate notification that I was hired (and discovering that I'll need to get a TB test and live scan fingerprint -- which wouldn't be that annoying, except I had to go through an exhaustive background check for my current full-time job, and had the tb test and livescan check for my other part-time job just four months ago), I decided it was time to hike.

Figured on taking the "low road," to the base of the Hollywood Sign. Alas, you can't get nearly as close as I thought you could. At the end, I could have sworn I saw people on the flat area near the water tank. But there's a no trespassing/no loitering sign below that flat area, so you need to stay further down and away. How disappointing is that?

It occurs to me I did not give directions to the observatory in my last post.

To get to the observa-tory, there are two major approa-ches. First, one can take the Golden State Freeway (I-5) to Los Feliz Blvd. Take Los Feliz west about two miles to Vermont (or Hillhurst--it's slightly shorter that way, but also less obvious). Turn right on either Hillhurst or Vermont, and head north about a mile, driving past the Greek Theater, and on up the mountain, eventually passing through a tunnel. A left turn after the tunnel leaves you about 1/2 mile to wind on up to the Observatory parking lot. Depending on when you get there, there's a fairly good chance the lot will be full, though if you have the patience, you may find a spot before long. Or you can park on the narrow road heading up to the Observatory.

Alternatively, could also take the Hollywood Freeway (US 101) to Vermont or Western. If you take Vermont, it's about two miles north to Los Feliz, which you would cross, then continue up the hill as above. If you take Western, it's about one mile north to Los Feliz. From there, you would either make a right and drive about one mile, then make a left at Vermont, or you would you would go about 500 feet, then make a left turn on Fern Dell. Fern Dell would take you on a winding road to the Observatory. You would be deposited on East Observatory Road, just south and west of the tunnel that the folks coming up from Vermont would have gone through.

If you park right near this intersection, you'd also be near Mt. Hollywood Drive, a paved but gated road that is only open to hikers, bikers, or horse riders.

In my case, since I had business at the Observatory, I tried to park closer to the top. Didn't wind up all that much closer, though, since I don't have the patience to wait for an open slot.

There's a couple of banks of structures, each of which contain 4 or so individual, ADA-accessible flush toilets. That means you've got lots of room and some privacy, so I changed clothes in one of them after my interview.

I then walked back down Observatory Road, dropped my interview clothes in the car, grabbed my camera, and continued down to Mt. Hollywood Drive. It was about 6:15pm.

As noted earlier, it's gated, but paved (somewhat worn). I walked Mt. Hollywood Drive west about 1 3/4 miles, most of which had a modest but continuous incline. There's a wooden post with a "43" painted on it at the junction with the Mullholland Trail. I'm sure somewhere there's a map that explains what the numbers mean and where they are, but I don't know where it is.

I followed the Mullholland Trail west a little over one mile, to Mt. Lee Drive. Along the way, you ignore two wide trails that come in from the south (left). The first of them would have taken you down Brush Canyon, to Camp Hollywoodland. The second would have taken you to Sunset Ranch Stables.

At Mt. Lee Drive (paved), a right turn and one mile would take you to the top of Mt. Lee. However, having just been there earlier in the week, I made a left, wanting to get near the bottom of the Hollywood Sign.

After about half mile of losing altitude, I reached a couple of gates. One gate kept cars from driving up the road I had just walked. On the other side of that gate was a street sign saying this was Mullholland Highway. Later, when I got home, I saw on the Tom LaBonge map that there's supposed to be a trail that heads to the northwest from here, and deposits you further down, to Canyon Lake Drive. Or, I could have continued down on Mullholland Highway about 1/2 mile, to Lake Hollywood Park. Either way, I would then have been moderately close to Lake Hollywood (reservoir). From there, the map seems to indicate a non-auto road that almost (but not quite) circumnavigates the lake.

Not sure where the trail from here to Lake Hollywood would start, but, knowing it's there, the next time I'll look harder.

The other gate near the end is one that could easily be walked around, except it had signs prohibiting trespassing and threatening prosecution and those who would dare to seek a better view of the Hollywood Sign. So, somewhat disappointed, and running out of daylight, I turned around. It was about 7:15pm.

I retraced my steps, back on Mt. Lee Drive, then right on the Mullholland Trail, then right on Mt. Hollywood Drive.

After getting back on Mt. Hollywood Drive, I walked about 3/8ths of a mile, then took the "Three Mile Trail, on the left side of the road, which ascended about 3/4 of a mile before meeting with one of the plethora of trails that lead up to the top of Mt. Hollywood.

Apparently, there was some sort of major meet-up there on Friday. Probably about 80 people (and a horse or two) were crowded around the picnic benches near the top. There was also lots of food and lots of conversation. However, I felt a little bit like a party crasher, so I didn't stay long.

Fortunately, on my way back to my car, I took a wrong turn, and wound up heading back down the Three Mile trail. While that would have taken me back to Mt. Hollywood Drive and a perfectly reasonable route back to my car, I wanted to return via the Charlie Turner Trail, which would give me better views of the Observatory dome.

The diversion was fortunate, however, because I got to see a young deer, watching me from a curve up ahead. I snapped several pictures, then returned up to the path I wanted. Got my night views of the dome (one's at the top of this post--kinda hazy, though; I'll have to try again on a clear night), and returned to my car, following the Charlie Turner Trail to just after the bridge over Vermont Canyon Drive, then took the short, steep trail down to Observatory Drive. From there, I walked along the road the 1/8 mile or so to my car. It was about 8:40pm, by then. It was plenty dark by then, but still not too cool, and the path is, of course, is generally wide and easy. I love summer.

This entire set of paths I took today were well-defined, and the vistas are open enough (and you're surrounded by the greater Los Angeles metro area), so if you have some vague mental map of the geography around you, you should not lose your bearings. The trails do climb if you're bagging a peak, however, and there's not a lot of shade around here if you're hiking in the middle of the day. These are more morning or evening, or winter hikes. Avoid the heat of the day, and/or bring something to drink and maybe a snack, and they're pretty easy. Not as big of a payoff as heading to the top of Mt. Lee, though.

About five miles total for the day, and maybe 400 feet of gain.


  1. Awesome Skyhiker, congrats on what sounds like a dream job!

  2. Thanks, Mark! It's not enough to live on, but I'm looking forward to getting paid for doing something that I often do for nothing. ;D

  3. Hey Skyhiker, I've been keeping up on your hiking site. Really cool trips. Thanks for your comment on my Palomar Mtn entry. Palomar is one of our gems in San Diego County. I hope to hike in the San Gabriels soon. Maybe baden powell or something. Take care. Happy trails...

  4. Congrates, Skyhiker! That should be a fun job. I've occasionally been benefited by the knowledgeable folks at the observatory. I love that place!

  5. Aaron--No kidding, man: That was a crazy-scenic place for a wedding. If you got some bison wandering around the river, you could have told me that was Yellowstone, and I would have believed you.

    Dan--Thanks, I'm looking forward to it, too. Going to take another week or so to take care of the stuff that will let me go to work, assuming I don't get called in for jury duty at an inopportune time. I'm on call next week.

  6. Congrats on the part-time museum guide job at Griffith! That sounds wonderful. One of the trade magazines I get at work had a nice article on the revamping of the museum a couple of years ago. The new displays are really nice. Maybe this will lead to a full time position in the future. You never know!

  7. Definitely looking forward to starting, although it'll be taking a bite out of my hiking time!