Are you a peak bagger? I have a hiking friend who loves to bag peaks — or for the uninitiated, hike to the summit. His goal is to reach the summit of as many of the high and prominent peaks as he can. He would love this trail, which takes you up three peaks in a short-but-steep 3.25 miles: Burbank Peak, Cahuenga Peak and Mount Lee (home to the world famous Hollywood Sign).
Time: 3 hours
Elevation gain: 1,691 ft
When to go: Year-round
Are you just looking for the shortest route to the Hollywood Sign? Well, that would also be this trail. While not for beginners, it is the shortest, quickest way to reach the famous Hollywood Sign.
Getting to the Trailhead
The trailhead begins at the end of Wonder View Drive in Hollywood, but you will have to park on Lake Hollywood Drive. There’s plenty of free parking along the street — which is also where you would park for the Hollywood Reservoir Loop. Here’s the trailhead map — click the pin for driving directions.
From the corner of Wonder View Drive and Lake Hollywood Drive, hike up Wonder View to the end of the street. Beyond the gate, the road becomes a gravel fire road, and shortly thereafter you’ll see the single track trail leading up stair steps cut into the slope.
The soil is loose, dry and dusty. Trail shoes are recommended. You’ll climb 600 feet in that first mile, gaining some great views of the Hollywood Reservoir and LA proper along the way.
When you reach the ridge, turn left and head to the lone pine tree on the summit of 1690′ high Burbank Peak. The tree is known as the Wisdom Tree, and is the only tree to survive of a devastating wild fire here in in 2009. The Wisdom Tree on Burbank Peak is a popular spot for geocaching, and there have at times been a summit register. It’s also one of the only spots on this trail where you have shade, so you’d be wise to pause here and enjoy it — the remainder of the trail is fully exposed.
With most of the elevation gain already behind you, backtrack on the trail, passing the junction the Wonder View Trail. Continue along the ridge line toward 1820 foot high Cahuenga Peak — the 12th highest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains. As you thread your way along the ridge line, you will look down over Burbank and the Valley to your left, and Hollywood and Los Angeles to your right. When you reach the peak, soak in the views. On a clear day you’ll take in the mighty San Gabriel Mountains to the east, and the serene Pacific Ocean to the south — reminding you why Southern California is such a great place to live.
The trail continues along the ridge, reaching a small clearing before connecting with the paved road for the last few yards to Mt. Lee and the Hollywood Sign. In the clearing are two plaques recognizing major contributors who made this trail and its inclusion in Griffith Park possible — Aileen Getty and Hugh Hefner. Yes, this is possibly the only hiking trail anywhere in the world that honors a Playboy.
You’ll follow the trail down to the paved road where you’ll join the throngs making their pilgrimage to the Hollywood Sign. Brush off their “where did you come from” looks and follow the road as it curves up behind the sign. For the best views of the sign and the city, keep going until you reach the top of 1690 foot Mount Lee.
When you’re ready to head back, you’ll retrace your steps to the junction with the Wonder View trail, and back down to the trailhead. All told, this trail can be easily hiked in about three hours.
If you want to extend the hike, you can add the 3.4 mile Hollywood Reservoir Loop trail. It’s mostly flat and has quite a bit of shade, depending on the time of day, and it begins at the bottom of the hill where you parked your car, making it a perfect option if you want to keep hiking.
Special thanks to Casey at Modern Hiker for introducing me to this awesome trail.
Cahuenga Peak Trail Map
Click on any photo to view a larger version. You can also leave comments on any photo.
Cahuenga Peak Hiking Tips
- Take plenty of water. And then take more. This trail is hot and dry, and you’ll need more than you think.
- While you can hike this year round, keep in mind that it gets hot and has full exposure. I recommend hiking in the cooler morning hours.
- There is wildlife. Be alert. There are rattlesnakes, deer and other animals in this area.
- Leave no trace. Take only photos, leave only footprints.
More Cahuenga Peak Resources
- GPS user? Download the GPX file[urldisplaymode=nomap].
- View the trail in Google Earth[urldisplaymode=nomap]
- Get a second opinion… Hiking to the Wisdom Tree and Cahuenga Peak – Modern Hiker
- Optional Hollywood Reservoir Loop hike
- An alternate hike to the Hollywood Sign, with a stop at the Bronson Cave
- History of Cahuenga Peak – Wikipedia
Cahuenga Peak Weather Forecast