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Hikes to the Hollywood sign have left a trail of lawsuits




The freshly painted Hollywood Sign is seen after a press conference to announce the completion of the famous landmark's major makeover, December 4, 2012 in Hollywood, California. Some 360 gallons (around 1,360 liters) of paint and primer were used to provide the iconic sign with it most extensive refurbishment in almost 35 years in advance of it's 90th birthday next year.  AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck        (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
The freshly painted Hollywood Sign is seen after a press conference to announce the completion of the famous landmark's major makeover, December 4, 2012 in Hollywood, California. Some 360 gallons (around 1,360 liters) of paint and primer were used to provide the iconic sign with it most extensive refurbishment in almost 35 years in advance of it's 90th birthday next year. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

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The Hollywood sign was created in 1923 as a real estate ad, but it was never designed to be a hiking destination. It was a blow to tourists when one of the most accessible paths to it closed on April 18.

Before that, about 15,000 visitors every month would take pictures of the sign by walking along Beachwood Drive in Hollywood past Sunset Ranch Hollywood Stables.

But in a lawsuit against the city, the ranch argued that the flood of hikers interfered with its business. The judge in the case agreed.

Now, a gate blocks off public access to the trail.

Modern Hiker's Casey Schreiner stands in front of the now-locked gate that once led into Griffith Park from Beachwood Dr.
Modern Hiker's Casey Schreiner stands in front of the now-locked gate that once led into Griffith Park from Beachwood Dr.
Leo Duran/KPCC

However, last week the heirs of Griffith J. Griffith, who donated the land to Los Angeles to create Griffith Park, joined the fight. They argue that public access to the park should not be restricted.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti weighed in, too, telling KABC that he might propose a gondola up to the sign.

KPCC's Leo Duran talked with Casey Schreiner from Modern Hiker about the history of the path, and the latest in the legal battles.

See Modern Hiker's recommended alternative paths to reach the Hollywood sign

Interview highlights

How did this path become so popular?

This trail is the shortest and the easiest of the many routes you can take to the Hollywood sign ... It got popular because it was easy and also because this is where Google Maps would send you if you were looking for the Hollywood sign.

Back through 2011, if you searched for "Hollywood sign" on Google Maps, it would basically send you to this trail head because it's the end of the road. Then there's a gate, and then you're on the fire roads inside Griffith Park to get there.

Kenneth Hansen with the LA Department of Recs and Parks stands guard at the former entrance to the Hollywood sign from Beachwood Dr. Since April 18th, the department has had to turn away tourists hoping to get close.
Kenneth Hansen with the LA Department of Recs and Parks stands guard at the former entrance to the Hollywood sign from Beachwood Dr. Since April 18th, the department has had to turn away tourists hoping to get close.
Leo Duran/KPCC

What were some of the problems the ranch and nearby neighbors had with the tourist traffic?

The streets are very narrow and there isn't a ton of parking here. This street was very often clogged with traffic and with hikers walking on the sidewalk ... Some of the residents here were very vocally upset about their neighborhoods streets being overrun by hikers, being overrun by tourists.

There were some complaints that these roads weren't designed to handle that type of traffic, which is a fair complaint.

This is a residential neighborhood. These are some of the oldest streets in L.A. so they're not really designed for modern cars in general, let alone a lot of them.

Correction: In the interview, Schreiner identified the Los Feliz Homeowners Association as one of the parties working to reopen the gate. The group is actually titled the Los Feliz Oaks Homeowners Association.

Is it by design that there is a lack of clear, defined hikes in Griffith Park to the Hollywood sign?

Griffith Park is not necessarily the most well-designed park in terms of access for pretty much anyone.

Griffith Park celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, and that's when they finally got trail signs on the trail junctions and trailheads ... It's a tremendous resource to the citizens of L.A., so people want to use it.

And when you have something as famous as the Hollywood sign, you have people who want to see it, you have people who want to hike up to it and you have people who just want to take their photo in front of it.

Is there an effort to create a place where tourists can easily reach the sign and take pictures with it?

You would hope there would be an effort like that, but it doesn't seem to be happening.

It is disappointing to see that, you know, the city isn't working harder in trying to fix this.

Basically all they're doing by shutting down this trailhead and going to other trailheads is moving that problem somewhere else.

The Hollywood sign in the distance as seen from Beachwood Dr in Hollywood.
The Hollywood sign in the distance as seen from Beachwood Dr in Hollywood.
Leo Duran/KPCC

Modern Hiker's recommended alternatives to see or reach the Hollywood sign

Easier - Berlin Forest in Griffith Park

The trail itself is a broad, open path lined with pines.

It’s one of the few hiking areas in Griffith Park that’s reliably shaded, and although the walk itself is short, it’s certainly lovely in its own way.

Tougher - Wisdom Tree and Cahuenga Park

This trail features relentless ascents and tremendous views of Griffith Park, heading to a unique lone tree and geocaching area.

The trail then traverses a ridge east toward recently saved Cahuenga Peak with an even more rugged option to continue to Mount Lee and the Hollywood Sign. One of the most fun trails in Griffith Park.