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hollywood hills hikes

9 Hollywood Hills Hikes That Aren’t the Hollywood Sign

You can only marvel at those big letters so many times...

By / April 22, 2018

Everyone needs to make the trek up the hill to the Hollywood Sign at least once, but for adventurous spirits, there are plenty of other hidden treasures waiting on less trafficked trails nearby.

While many of these hikes still offer views of the sign itself, your eye will no doubt be drawn to lesser-known (but no less interesting) sights. Whether you’re looking for a workout or a history lesson (or both), these trails will certainly deliver.

From iconic architecture to hidden staircases to spectacular views of Los Angeles, we’ve picked nine of the best hikes in the Hollywood Hills.

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Glendale Peak

One of the more underrated Griffith Park hikes, the Glendale Peak trail takes you up a relatively steep incline to some incredible views of Downtown LA, the San Gabriel Valley, and the San Gabriel Mountains. From the trailhead at Vermont Canyon Road, the round trip is a total of 3.3 miles, and while it’s not as crowded as the Mount Hollywood or Mount Lee trails, it can get busy during peak times.

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Bronson Cave Trail

This trail is great for visitors to LA who might be looking for a short, easy hike with the payoff of some interesting Hollywood history. From Canyon Drive, follow the fire road up the hill until you come to a junction and turn left into the quarry. You’ll see a small cave that has been featured in many movies and television shows, including the original Batman series and Star Trek.

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Hollywood Hightower Secret Stairs

This street hike takes you up the hidden stairways of the Hollywood Hills into a secluded community behind the Hollywood Bowl and features some fascinating architecture and LA history. The “Hightower” is an architectural oddity—an elevator that was built in the 1920s to take residents from street level up into Alta Loma Terrace and has been featured in many films and novels. Other notable buildings include Marlowe’s apartment from Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye and homes designed by both Frank Lloyd Wright and his son.

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Griffith Park Zoo

This short, spooky hike takes you into the old Griffith Park Zoo, which closed in 1966. Rather than being demolished, the abandoned structures were left standing and converted into a leafy picnic area. You can still walk into many of the enclosures, which are carved from strange angular rock formations and lead into creepy, graffiti-covered tunnels and cages.

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Amir’s Garden Trail

Amir’s Garden is named for Iranian immigrant Amir Dialameh, who created the garden in the 1970s after a brush fire swept through the area. The surprisingly lush, green oasis is nestled among the dry scrub of Griffith Park. In the garden, you’ll find a mix of native and exotic species such as agave, jade plants, banana trees, and succulents.

Lake Hollywood Reservoir Walking Trail

This flat, easy trail takes you in a 3.5-mile loop around the Hollywood Reservoir, an artificial lake in the Hollywood Hills. The lake was built in 1923 as an emergency water supply and is perfect for a quiet stroll on a sunny day. You’ll even be treated to some unusual views of the Hollywood Sign, particularly after making the simple climb to look out over the Mulholland Dam.

Wisdom Tree

If you’re looking for a serious workout, this steep and rugged three-mile hike will certainly get your heart rate up. If you make it to the top, there’s the added payoff of some sweeping, spectacular views of LA featuring an Instagram-worthy lone tree perched on the edge of a dramatic cliff.

Beachwood Canyon Secret Stairs

This street hike begins near the original Hollywoodland development, the first gated community in LA that was home to people like Humphrey Bogart, Bela Lugosi, and Bugsy Siegel. As you wind your way up several hidden staircases, you’ll walk past other fascinating sites, like a home that once belonged to Debbie Reynolds and a faux Hollywood castle.

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Runyon Canyon

Every LA dog owner knows this hike, which features off-leash areas, panoramic views, and even the odd celebrity sighting. The hike itself is around three miles and relatively easy, though if you come during peak times, you’ll generally find the trail overrun by hikers and their four-legged friends. This being LA, the dogs are mostly of the small and pampered variety, but if you’re not a dog person (they’re out there), then you should probably avoid this trail.

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Matthew O’Shannessy is a writer living in Los Angeles. He grew up in Tasmania, Australia and moved to LA via Melbourne where he joined an art collective and worked for the Melbourne International Film Festival. His work has been published in various magazines and he’s currently co-editing an arts anthology. He lives in Echo Park, but you can often find him scouting out the San Fernando Valley.

More articles by Matthew O'Shannessy

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