elevation profile of Mount Lee

google earth profile of mount lee

Get up close and personal with two of L.A.’s landmarks on this moderate 6.5 mile out-and-back in Griffith Park — the iconic Hollywood Sign AND the Batcave from the 60′s TV series “Batman.” This dog-friendly route is popular with local hikers, fitness buffs, and equestrians, and is a good way to tack a local workout into your hiking routine. This mostly shadeless route is rarely steep, but it does have a very steady incline for almost the entire route. Be sure to bring water – especially if it’s a sunny day – and watch out for rattlesnakes!

A heavy writing workload and a really persistent shoulder injury had kept me off the trail for a little while, so when Team WWED invited me along for a short local hike, I really couldn’t pass up the opportunity. So we decided on a trail that I, as an Angeleno of 6 years and counting, had never done – a hike to the Hollywood Sign.

At the end of Canyon Drive, north of Franklin, there’s a small parking lot near the gated trailhead, as well as a larger spillover lot just a bit further south. Park here and hike north – but before the gate, hang a sharp right onto a dirt road.

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This is not on the route to the Hollywood Sign, but this very short side-trip will take you to another Hollywood landmark – the Bronson Caves – perhaps better known as the BATCAVE.

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You can (and should) walk through the cave if you’re not claustrophobic. It’s very short, just be sure to stomp around a bit in case any rattlesnakes are taking a nap in there.

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These caves are probably most recognizable from the 60′s Batman series, but they’ve also been used in a lot of movies, too. Here’s a YouTube clip I found that shows some of the angles and shots in films like Army of Darkness and The Searchers (which is a really amazing western if you haven’t seen it yet):

On a clear day, it is also possible to see the Hollywood Sign from the other side of the Caves. While we could make it out, the hiking weather on this particular day was “extra hazy.”

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Return back down the dirt road and take a left at the pavement, heading toward this locked gate.

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You are now on the dirt-path continuation of Canyon Drive. Here, the trail begins its moderate but relentless climb – about 600 feet in a mile. There’s a bit of shade in these early parts of the trail, but it’s few and far between – so if it’s hot or sunny, be prepared to sweat!

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Like I mentioned, this is a popular trail. You’ll be sharing it with joggers, dog-walkers, babies in action-strollers, hiking groups, boot camps, and equestrians. Be sure to give the horses ample room if you’re passing.

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About 1.1 miles on the Canyon Drive Trail, you will reach a three way junction with the Mullholland Highway – another wide dirt path. Take a left at this junction and hike west. For the next 0.9 miles, the trail is mercifully level, although you’re still exposed to full sun.

You’ll also start to see the Hollywood Sign from some interesting side angles, too (interesting = difficult to see):

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If it’s clear, you’ll actually have better views of the Griffith Park Observatory and Mount Hollywood to the east.

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1.7 miles after starting on Canyon Drive, the fire road hits another 3-way junction with Beechwood Drive. Keep to the right to stay on the Mullholland Highway and continue another 0.3 miles to another junction – this time with the paved Mount Lee Drive.

If you just want views of the Hollywood Sign, you might be better off taking a right here and descending a bit – but if you want to top Mount Lee and get behind the sign, take a sharp right onto Mount Lee Drive and start steep incline.

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From here, it’s about another 0.9 miles to the summit of Mount Lee. The road wraps around the north side of the peak, so you’ll get a few valley views before the road turns back to the south face. If it were less hazy, you’d be able to see the San Gabriels pretty well from this vantage point, too:

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As soon as the road rounds a sharp bend to the south face of the peak, you’ll be able to see the Hollywood Sign behind the scenes – and through a fence.

Even though you can’t get really close to the letters, it’s pretty cool to see them from this angle, and realize how big they actually are.

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… and just in case you were thinking of it:

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Just to the left of the locked gate at the Mount Lee radio towers, there’s a short path that climbs to the actual summit of the mountain, just next to some USGS seismic monitoring equipment. Soak in the views of L.A. and the Hollywood Reservoir from here, then return back the way you came.

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Thanks to Team WWED for the invite and hiking company.

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Casey Schreiner

Founder and Editor at Modern Hiker
In addition to writing about the outdoors, Casey is also a seasoned television producer.He was the Head Writer on G4's "Attack of the Show," co-writer and host of "The MMO Report," and the Series Producer / Head Writer of pivot's "TakePart Live."
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This post was written by Casey Schreiner on May 18, 2010

27 Comments

  • Great write-up! I especially enjoyed your pictures.

  • Melanie says:

    Hoping to take this hike this weekend. Does there happen to be any place along this path for a picnic? (Even if its just a nice grassy area, out of the way of hikers)

  • Cam says:

    heading out to LA this week to visit our daughter. I usually hike Fryman every morning, but I think I’ll do this hike one morning, sounds wonderful:)

  • Jeffrey Boal says:

    To heck with The Bat Cave. The first movie I know of that was filmed at The Caves was the original ‘Invasion of The Body Snatchers’ from 1956 starring Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter. Not to mention that Beachwood Village, one canyon to the west also played a large part in the movie. Also the Mullholland Highway bridge over the Hollywood Freeway was featured.

  • jill says:

    Is this information still accurate? I am looking to do this hike next weekend.

  • Josh says:

    Hi :) I just was talking about hiking up there! Thanks for the useful information! I appriciate it! Great work :) x

  • Josh says:

    Thank you for this post it was super helpful when I went and did this hike yesterday. I have linked to it from my recap you can find here.

    http://opadventureteam.com/2011/02/22/hiking-to-the-hollywood-sign-the-batcave-and-mt-lee/

    Thanks again I appreciate it!

  • O says:

    Great hike. Your directions were perfect, as was the weather. It was amazingly clear, especially on the valley side (which I think is rare). It took me about 2.5 hours even though I took my time.

  • Alex Sabio says:

    Cool Hike. Now it’s checked off my bucket list. It took me 2.5 hours, and I took my time and took a bunch of pictures. I wish I would have know about the Batcave! The only downside is all the smog. I wish it were a clear day, they say you could see the Pacific Ocean on a clear day in the background.

  • Thanks for the writeup! I hiked this twice recently using the route you suggested and it was wonderful.

  • Tyler says:

    Hey Chanceblue, Ill do it for 10 bucks.

  • Naomi says:

    Like this hike. Really get a chance to see ALL of Los Angeles.

  • Chanceblue says:

    These pictures are great. Would anyone know a tour guide who can take a group of 30 to the Hollywood sign and back? They are willing to pay a fee.

  • SoCal Hiker says:

    I’ve added this to my “must hike” list. Sounds like the quintessential LA hike.

  • maryrocks33 says:

    I did this hike today and the weather was perfect with a little breeze:)Really great views of all of Los Angeles, all the way to the coean and out to the San Gabriels! There seemed to be a trail, that if I went right instead of left I would make it over to Griffith Park Observatory…Is that correct?

  • Tyler says:

    Next time you do this hike watch for the end of the fence right before the road turns the corner to the sign. There is an awesome single track trail to the taller Cahuenga peak and beyond. It seems like your doing something wrong but the land beyond the fence is now city property and unofficially part of Griffith Park. Its a great change of scenery and no one goes up there. Also there are some great single track trials that follow the ridges to the sign rather than walking on a horse pie fire road. See you up there!

  • Adayak says:

    Cool write up – I never knew the batcaves from the 60s Batman were actually filmed up by the Hollywood sign. That trivia will come in handy some day I know it.

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