Distance: 2.8 miles round trip
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Time: 75 minutes
Bring: iPod, Gatorade
I leave the car at the Griffith Observatory and head north of the parking lot to the Mount Hollywood Hiking Trail entrance. First thought: It’s civilized, with stone benches, elegant landscaping, and a rail fence. Next thought: The Hollywood sign—which will soon be visible in the distance—isn’t on Mount Hollywood. Weird.
I pass through Berlin Forest, which was planted with 20 or so trees to celebrate L.A.’s sister city in Germany. Walk down to the stone path that runs over Vermont Avenue and head left (west) on the first leg of a long switchback. There’s a father of two with a big yellow flower behind his ear (his grinning kids hold fistfuls of blooms). A hairpin turn takes me east and steeply up.
This junction (pictured) is like life: It offers several paths and forces you to choose. One goes sharply down, back to the footbridge. Another goes straight up, but the footing looks iffy. A third heads left, but I like the east-facing fourth: a wide dirt road. Call me chicken. Up a slight incline is Dante’s View, where benches and picnic tables encourage taking a break. I do, albeit briefly. The sun won’t set for hours, but I want to be on top in the ever more golden light.
Having looped around the backside of the hillock and taken in the expanse of the San Fernando Valley to the north, I reach the summit. Those metal things that look like gym equipment are actually hitching posts (but you can do a few stretching exercises if you’re in the mood). As I gape at the 360-degree view, a helicopter flies by just below where I’m standing. Surreal and so real all at once.
There’s that Hollywood sign! And downtown! And Century City! If it were clearer, I’d be able to see the ocean, maybe even the Channel Islands. Now it’s time to retrace my steps. Or I could try out some of those other paths. You never know where life is going to take you.
Photograph by Dustin Snipes