Friday, May 13, 2011

Hike 2011.035 -- Mt. Hollywood

Hiked Thursday, May 12.

I had a job interview slated for Friday, so I wanted to take a short hike on Thursday. Originally, I was thinking of finally heading to the Santa Ana Mountains. However, since I haven't been there, yet, I am still worried about finding an acceptable hike to do once I get there. In other words, I'd like to have a planned hike and a back-up or two in my pocket in the event of road closures and what not.

Finally settled on a late-afternoon hike from the Griffith Observatory. I enjoy the observatory, but usually only get out there 3-4 times a year. Not sure when the last visit was. Since then, they've introduced another show, dealing with the Northern Lights. So my plan was to head out there, get a ticket for a planetarium show, then, depending on the timing, either do a hike before or after the show.

As it turned out, I arrived there a little after 3:30pm. Tickets for the 5:15pm showing off "Light of the Valkyries" (the Northern Lights show) went on sale at 3:30pm, so the timing was perfect. I bought the tickets, then went for my hike. I'd have about 90 minutes to complete it.

Mt. Hollywood is the peak immediately south of the observatory. The shot at the top of this post shows what it looks like from the steps of the observatory. It's a little deceptive, however. The summit appears much pointier from this perspective than it actually is, and deceptively close. I wouldn't be surprised if the "as the crow flies" distance was just 1/2 mile or so from summit to dome. But the trail makes numerous long and sweeping switchbacks upon the face of the rise, so you wind up covering 1.5 miles or so each way.

You might even be able to see the trail head in that first picture. It's at the south end of the parking lot at the Observatory, and extremely well-signed. Trust me--if you're in the right parking lot and looking for it, you can not possibly miss this trailhead!

Of course, depending on when you arrive, parking in the lot may or may not be possible. If you're forced to park down the road, there are actually several alternative routes that would also get you to the top of Mt. Hollywood. They'd be obvious, once you got your bearings. But if this is your first attempt here, you should probably just walk up the road to the main lot. When you get to the lot, look behind you (to the south end, opposite from the dome).

There's a blue sign at the trailhead, which looks just like street signs all over Los Angeles. It says, "Mt. Hollywood Hiking Trail." There's also a gate across the "trail's" beginning, as the trail is actually a dirt road. Maybe 150 yards from the start, there's a sign for the Berlin Forest, planted in honor of one of Los Angeles' many sister cities.

Pine trees line this section of trail. The Hollywood sign (which is on south face of nearby Mt. Lee) is visible to your left as you climb.

At the first level-off the trail goes over the tunnel that you pass through if you got to the Griffith Observa-tory via Vermont Avenue. Immediately after you've crossed over that area, you have a choice. The dirt road begins a sweeping climb to the left. Meanwhile, straight ahead, there's a steeper and shorter trail that cuts off much of the switchback's distance. In the picture above, the dirt road is the lower cut, while the trial is the upper cut.

Because of the short distance involved, I took the longer way, along the dirt road. Regardless of which route you take, you quickly climb above the observatory level, with plenty of nice views behind you. Along this first climb, there are sections where the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles are right behind the observatory complex. One of these days, I'd like to hike up there in the evening at get a pretty picture of the doom and skyline, all lit up.

After just under a mile along the dirt road, there's a well-defined trail that comes up from the left. It rises to road level via a number of retaining beam steps up from what I assume is Dante's View. A row of palm trees and several benches mark that area.

Shortly after that, the dirt road swings to the north side of Mt. Hollywood, and dips down a little bit. If you stay on the dirt road, you give up about 20 feet or so of altitude here before the road turns sharply to the right and heads up a broad approach to the summit. From the north, you see that the summit is not pointy, but flat. A number of benches are at the top, along with places to tie up your horse (if you had a horse).

Once around the ridge line, you can see Burbank, Glendale, and Pasadena to the north and northeast. The San Gabriel mountains provide a nice backdrop, and a different perspective on the mountains versus how I normally see them from due south.

If it's clear, Century City, West L.A., and Santa Monica are off to the west. San Pedro would be to the south. On the day I went, things were pretty hazy and you couldn't see much towards the west or south.

You can return the way you came, or take one of the shortcuts (at least one of which seems engineered, so I'm pretty sure it's an actual trail and not just a use trail).

Somewhat pricey foods and drinks are available in the Obser-vatory, which has its food catered by Wolfgang Puck. I'm convinced he's devaluing his name by associating it with some pretty mediocre food, but what do I know?

Total walking for the day was about three miles. Altitude gain is about 650 feet. At the top, you're above the Hollywood Sign, but still below the summit of Mt. Lee. You're also practically on the same line of sight as the letters of the Hollywood Sign, which is a unique vantage point: If your name were "Olly Woo," I'd definitely want to get up here and take a picture of the thing!

Temperatures were in the upper 70s, which was not too bad. The breeze helped. And the observatory show gave me an excellent chance to cool down and let traffic thin out before the drive home.

Funny thing about this hike is that, despite my many trips to the observatory, I never really noticed the hiking trail. It's a nice option to add to your trip to Griffith Park.

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