Mt. Lee via Cahuenga and Burbank Peaks

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The “Lone Pine” on Burbank Peak

The steep approach to Burbank Peak

Mt. Lee  via Cahuenga and Burbank Peaks

  • Location: Wonder View Drive and Lake Hollywood Drive in Hollywood.  From downtown, take Highway 101 to the Barham Blvd. exit.  Turn right on Barham, go 0.3 miles and turn right on Lake Hollywood Drive.  Go 0.5 miles and park on the corner of Lake Hollywood Drive and Wonder View Drive.  From the 134 Freeway, take Forest Lawn exit.  Go 2.3 miles on Forest Lawn and turn left on Barham.  Go 0.8 miles and turn left on Lake Hollywood Drive and go 0.5 miles to Wonder View Drive.
  • Agency:  Griffith Park
  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,300 feet
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG-13 (Steepness, terrain, elevation gain)
  • Best season: October – May
  • USGS topo map:  Burbank
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; hiking poles
  • More information: detailed trip report here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 7

Great scenery and interesting history make this one of the most enjoyable hikes in the Hollywood Hills and Griffith Park.   This hike travels through the western end of Griffith Park, land once owned by Howard Hughes.  Although short, the steep ascent to the ridge and the rugged terrain between Cahuenga Peak and Mt. Lee make this a challenging hike.

This route visits three summits in the Hollywood Hills, each with their own character.  Burbank Peak (1,690 feet) is the westernmost of the three, known for the single pine found on its flat summit.  Cahuenga Peak (1,820) is the highest point in the Hollywood Hills.  Mt. Lee (1,680) apparently has some sort of sign on it that people seem to like seeing.

The route begins with a quarter mile walk up private Wonder View Drive.  Though paved, the street is nice and quiet and provides views that make the reason for its name obvious.  On the way up, you’ll see downtown L.A., the Hollywood Reservoir and more.

When Wonder View Drive ends, look for a single-track trail bearing right, heading steeply up the slope of the hill. Despite the intimidating grade (it climbs about 500 feet in half a mile) and occasionally rocky terrain, this part of the trail provides some very enjoyable views to the south. After making a switchback, the trail reaches the ridgeline between Burbank and Cahuenga Peaks. Here, you get great views to the north, including the San Gabriel, Verdugo and Santa Susana ranges.

To get to Burbank Peak, head left and make a gradual climb. You can sit beneath the shade of the lone pine, also known as the Tree of Knowledge. This is the westernmost peak of the Hollywood Hills and arguably has the best views of the three summits on this route.

From Burbank Peak, head back east and follow the ridge to the summit of Cahuenga. (The trail splits a couple of times on the way, but the two forks merge quickly, so it doesn’t matter which route you take). Though taller, Cahuenga’s summit isn’t as scenic as Burbank Peak’s, and there isn’t really any place to sit and enjoy the view. It is a good spot to catch your breath, however, before continuing on to Mt. Lee.

From Cahuenga’s east slope, the trail continues steeply downhill. Although the terrain is a little rough, the trail is easy to follow. There is one short drop that will probably require hands as well as feet, but other than that, there’s nothing that a couple of hiking poles can’t solve. After dropping steeply, the trail climbs a knoll, drops again and then approaches Mt. Lee. Just before reaching the service road, take a left and head briefly downhill. (It may appear as if you should go right and uphill; the author did this, almost knee-capping himself on a jagged rock, only to find that the route was a dead end.) You join the service road, head right and follow it past the sign to Mt. Lee’s summit.  Here, you can look at the Hollywood Sign from above, and take in the rest of the view before heading back.

Text and photography copyright 2012 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

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Hollywood Sign (Mt. Lee) from Brush Canyon

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As seen in the Nobody Hikes in L.A. Guidebook!

Hollywood Sign (Mt. Lee) from Brush Canyon

  • Location: Griffith Park.  From Los Angeles, take the 101 freeway to Gower Street (exit 8C), take the Beachwood Drive ramp, stay straight and go right on Franklin.  After half a mile, take a left on Canyon Drive, follow it to the end and park.  From the Valley, take the Vine exit off highway 101 and keep left at the fork to get to Franklin.
  • Agency: Griffith Park
  • Distance: 5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,050 feet
  • Suggested time: 2.5 hours
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Best season:  Year round (hot in summer)
  • Recommended gear: Sun Hat
  • USGS topo map: “Burbank”
  • More information: here
  • Rating: 5

Now that we’ve established that the famous Hollywood sign is not on Mt. Hollywood, let’s look at where it actually is: Mt. Lee.

There are several ways to reach the 1,680 foot summit, and this one starts with a quick ascent on the shaded Brush Canyon trail.  After 1.1 miles and 600 feet of elevation gain, you get to the dirt Mulholland Trail.  At this point you have some nice views of Brush Canyon on the left.  Head left on the Mulholland Trail, and after about half a mile, stay to the right as the Hollyridge Trail merges.  After another quarter mile or so, take a right Mt. Lee Drive, which is paved but closed to traffic.  Mt. Lee Drive curves up around the north side of a ridge, taking in views of the San Fernando Valley and the San Gabriel Mountains.  After about half a mile, the trail curves to the left and arrives at a fence that blocks further access.  From here, you get a good aerial view of the famous sign, and on clear days you can see to the ocean to the south and Mt. Baldy to the east.

If you’re pressed for time but still want to see the Hollywood Sign, it can also be accessed by the Hollyridge Trail, which is a shorter (3 miles, 750 feet elevation gain) hike.  To get to this trailhead, stay on Beachwood Drive and follow it to the end.

Text and photography copyright 2012 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.