Closed Access Route Leads Blogger To Griffith Park Observatory
I went searching for the Hollywood sign the other day.
Oh, I’ve seen it before, many times in fact, but only from distances: Hollywood Blvd., the walkway at the Hollywood & Vine shopping center, from the freeways.
But even after 20 years of living in Los Angeles, I had never been up close to it. After reading about the closing of a gate at what had been the main access point, I decided it was time to set things straight.
So on a sunny Thursday, a friend and I took off from Hermosa Beach to Hollywood. We went up the narrow resident street, N. Beachwood Drive (which of course is nowhere near a beach but then again the Huntington Gardens are in Pasadena, not Huntington Beach) and could see the iconic landmark getting ever closer thru the windshield. It was exciting!
We parked and BUMMER! The gate at the end was closed, shut down by Sunset Ranch Hollywood Stables which had previously allowed people to go on part of its property to reach the sign. I was under the mistaken impression that this was to be closed the next week.
A couple of friendly police officers standing by their huge motorcycles directed us to the Griffith Park Observatory, where they said we could walk a trail. Griffith Park!? I had not been there in years and did not recall any access from there to the Hollywood sign.
But okay, we went the three or four miles and drove up a narrow and winding road that brought to mind making the drive up to Lake Arrowhead. For more than a mile, cars were parked along the side of the street.
Turns out the cars were parked there for two reasons; the observatory parking lot was full plus it cost 4 bucks an hour to park while parking along the side of the road was free. We parked for free.
We walked up a dirt trail about a half mile up to the observatory – where I sprained my big toe badly on a tree root that reached up and grabbed it then threw it to the ground – all the while trying to spot the Hollywood sign.
When we reached the summit – boom! There it was, standing tall and proud on that famous hill. There’s an observation platform where you can get a lot of good views of it and take the obligatory selfies. There’s also a trail – perhaps even a road – of about a half a mile where you can get closer to the sign.
By this time, we were running short on time as I had to get back to host my Twitter chat, #TheNightlifeChat, so this was as close as we were getting to the sign on this day. But while there, we did take a few minutes to walk around and check out the observatory.
Inside, it’s pretty cool. Just to the right there’s an area that shows the movement of daytime and nighttime, the ocean tides and other interesting things of nature. Some of the displays were dark and reminded me of the bridge of the starship Enterprise.
There is free access to the observatory, by the way. You do pay to go into the Planetarium but you can walk around everywhere else, including on the decks and rooftop for no charge. The views are out all over Los Angeles – vast, sprawling Los Angeles – and down deep into a canyon.
It’s amazing that you can see a downtown skyline in one direction and an uninhabitable, steep valley in the other. There are several hiking trails through that valley to explore.
And the views of the Hollywood sign were great.
But still, in a way, it was frustrating not to have achieved our objective. I’ve seen photos of foreign tourists taking selfies right under the letters of the sign and on the day we set out to do this ourselves, all we got was tantalizingly close to them.
Still, we quickly agreed, it gave us a reason to get up there again. You see, when you live in the South Bay Beach Cities, you hardly ever leave the South Bay Beach Cities. Locals even refer to this area as “the bubble.”
Perhaps this was a sign, so to speak, that we need to get out of “the bubble” more often and see more of L.A.
Griffith Park Observatory Location, Address & Map: