When your friend asks if you want to go on a trip, to California, no less, for an entire week and you manage to score round trip tickets for less than $150, you say YES! That’s what you do. No questions asked.
We both love to hike so our itinerary was full of amazing hikes in the Southern California area, including The Hollywood Sign and at least 5 national parks (Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon). We had a very ambitious plan that included google maps pins, crashing with her brother and camping in tents to save money, buying groceries and keeping them cool in a styrofoam ‘cooler’ in the back of our rented SUV, lots of sunscreen, our camelbaks, and a solid selfie stick- a must have. We were all set!
Day 1- Arrived at LAX and headed to Santa Monica. Even though I had been to LA before, I had never had In-N-Out Burger so that was my first order of business. What an experience! Oh, and the burger was yum too :).
Next was some beachtime however the water was way too cold for me to go in so I just lay there and watched the gorgeous sunset. After that, we headed to Third Street Promenade to have a look around- there’s always something going on there. It’s an area of Santa Monica where cars aren’t allowed and there are lots of shops and restaurants.
Day 2- My goal for this day was to hike to the Hollywood sign. Like literally to the sign. Not to somewhere I can get a good enough view in the distance (cough cough , Griffith Observatory) but somewhere I could actually touch the letters if not for the fence they put there to keep off vandals. The last time I was in LA, I failed at this goal. I had researched on the internet how to get there and it was rather vague. One of the tips was to park on a certain street and then start the hike but when I got there, I couldn’t find parking. It’s a residential area with signs posted everywhere about how you needed a permit. I didn’t want a ticket and I didn’t want to get my rental car towed so I abandoned that plan.
This time around, I was with a local, it was his car, his research also told him to go to that same neighborhood, those parking signs were still there. I am not sure where the courage came from this time, but we decided to park there. We started the hike and right from the beginning, my thighs began to scream. I had thought I was in shape- I guess my thighs, not so much. A few minutes later, we got to a gate that said “Runyon Canyon”. I began to doubt that this would get us to the sign especially when the map at the start of the trail that we briefly glanced at didn’t seem to mention “Hollywood Sign” but we kept going. After a while, we asked someone and they told us this wasn’t the hike.
However, it was a cool place and I was assured this is where everyone in LA went, so we kept on going. It really was a great hike, but it wasn’t going to take us to the Hollywood Sign so we turned back around and headed to the car. And guess what- we had a ticket waiting for us, $163 to be precise. We hadn’t even been gone an hour, I don’t think. So the lesson here is: pay attention to those parking signs in LA!
(meanwhile– random LA street art below …)
We were still determined so we went to Griffith Observatory, which the internet told us was one option for starting the hike to the Hollywood sign. It also said this was the shortest option- 3 miles round trip. I was excited about that because I knew my thighs wouldn’t last too long at this rate, especially as we had another hike planned for later in the day too. But again, I was skeptical because the last time I was in LA, I got as far as Griffith Observatory, saw the Hollywood Sign, went on some trails to get closet to it, and after a few hours still didn’t get any closer and gave up.
We got to Griffith Observatory but had to park about a mile and a half away because everyone and their mother was there that day. So that’s where our hike started from- already at a 3 mile surplus. By the time we got to the observatory, we definitely needed a break. It was a very hot day and it was an uphill climb. I only had a 500 ml bottle of water so I was thankful for the opportunity to refill it, use the potty, and look around in the observatory in air conditioning before continuing the hike.
We met others who had the same goal we did and were also clueless on how to get to the sign so we kind of followed them for a while. But then we got the feeling they weren’t going the quickest way so we parted ways. Funnily enough, we ran into them several times during this quest so that was reassuring in a way.
There is no other way to describe the next few hours except it was gruelling, it was uphill most of the way, some parts very steep, and very many times I wanted to call it quits. There weren’t very many signs to reassure you that you were on the right track and when there were signs, they would say you were 1 mile away, for example, and after hiking for a mile or so, you’d see another sign saying you were 0.8 miles away. How does that work????However, my friends encouraged me to keep going- the beauty of doing things like this with friends. When one begins to give up, the others encourage them and together you go far, you may even make it to your destination! The views were stunning though, I’ll give it that.
Eventually we got to another sign that gave two options- hike to the front of the sign or hike to the back of the sign. Hiking to the front was shorter. Obviously I was all over that but again, the wisdom of friends prevailed and we chose the longer hike. Let’s just say we did get to the sign, and finally got to see the reward for our labor. Being behind it though, you don’t get to see the sign as it looks in the movies but still it was a very cool vantage point. There was a little crowd there and they didn’t look as tired as I was so I wondered if there was a shortcut we just didn’t find.
We of course got our obligatory pictures (and selfies) but because we were so close to the sign, we couldn’t get all the letters in one picture. Lol. Also, one girl decided to sit down in front of one of the letters so most of my pictures have her in it. She wasn’t even taking pictures, just sitting there. It wasn’t even in the shade either. Sigh, humans!
While at the top, I couldn’t help but think about our friends that were also trying to get to the sign and if they made it or if they would ever make it. As we were heading down, we found them and I was so happy for them- and also happy that we were on the way back!
One would think that going back, being downhill, would be easy. Honestly, it was hard- if not harder. I felt the same way hiking the inca trail to Machu Picchu. It was my favorite game during those 4 days of hiking- asking myself “which do you prefer, uphill or downhill?”. The game becomes quite entertaining after 2 days of hiking in the wilderness in extremes of temperature and sleeping on the hard cold ground, carrying about 30 pounds of gear. Lovely time!At the end of the day, the trusted fitness tracker said the Hollywood Sign hike (excluding the earlier hike at Runyon Canyon) was a grand total of 10 miles. At the end of it, I was almost in tears and my hips were on fire. But we did it! We hiked to the Hollywood Sign and now it’s off our bucket list.I fell asleep in the car on the way home- I was that tired. Needless to say, we didn’t make it to any other hikes that day. Just went back home, grabbed some food, and hobbled to the beach to relax.
So was it worth the pain, soreness, and limping for the next few days? Definitely 😀
Have you ever hiked to the Hollywood Sign? Have you ever even considered it? I think you should 🙂