*Of the hill.  With the big letters on it.  Without getting arrested.

So it turns out that going to the Hollywood sign is totally illegal.

This came as a surprise to me. The first I heard of it was via a security loudspeaker, informing me in a nasal, politely threatening tone that I was about to get arrested.

Most cities don’t make it against the law to go to see their most famous icons close up, but then again, Los Angeles ain’t most cities.

Knowing the potentially serious consequences (hefty fines, arrest, slipping and tumbling to your death), if you’re still tempted to get up close and personal with these 9  heavenly letters, this is how I did it.



Words & pictures by Daryl Jones.

1. Point your car at the sign and drive.

The sign can be seen for miles around, so I figured I’d just point my hire car in its general direction and drive to the base of the steep scrubby hills. You’ll know where to stop because there will be big boom gates blocking the way.

image copy 5

2. Never read the signs.

If you have any suspicions that you might be going somewhere dangerous/illegal, don’t read the warning signs.  It helps you be more convincingly ignorant when questioned later regarding the full extent of your knowledge.

If you’re a shitty actor like me, you need all the help you can get to make your cover story believable.

Also, the signs always exaggerate the dangers in order to deter the faint of heart from continuing their noble quest.

image copy3.Hit the slope head on.

Just walk on up.  There’s a couple more scary-looking signs that I didn’t read, and a bunch of little trails heading up to the top, each following a different ridge line.

It gets really steep and all the dirt is really tumblydowny near the top. It’s like some kind of annoying rock climbing treadmill, with the surface constantly moving out from under you.

Also, if it’s hot you’l be a super dirty sweatmonster in no time.

image copy 34. Don’t stay for long!

When you get to the sign take some pictures quick-smart! There are motion detecting video cameras all over everything and within seconds a scratchy voice will come over the old-school megaphone speakers saying

“You in the red stripy shirt. You are trespassing.  You will be arrested and fined.  Return to the road immediately.”

If you’re not wearing a red stripy shirt they’ll probably say something slightly different. I didn’t know where the road was to return to, so that made compliance difficult.  I just continued my slippery scurry up the hill.

photo copy 35. Hit the sweet trails up top.

Turns out there are some legal ways to get to a place where you can get a tiny view of the corner of the back of the H.  The generosity and ingenuity of LA Tourism is stunning.  Walk the ridgeback all the way along to the west to the Wisdom Tree (pictured) for a stunning almost 360-degree view of LA.

image copy 66. Leave before dark, like I didn’t.

I only knew my illegal way back to the car.  Turns out that at night the cops get even more strict.  Within a minute of slipping over the fence to dip back down past my old friend H, I found myself frozen in a spotlight, squinting to make out the owner of the imposing male cop voice, ordering me back to the fence or face arrest.  I wondered how exactly he’d go about arresting me if I didn’t willingly come back up the slippery slope. I didn’t really want to find out, so I came back up.

image copy 77. When talking to cops, have an accent, and be super polite.

Turns out this was the nicest LAPD officer ever.  He basically said that people want to deface the sign all the time, and if I promised not to mess with it and to be careful I could continue down past the sign to my car.  He even told me that he wouldn’t be looking at the cameras if I needed to stop and take some photos.  We traded adventure stories for a while why he pretended to be getting me in big trouble for the benefit of the tape, and down I went.  It’s a bit sketchy in the dark though, so see #6 above.


What do you do when you get to France? Whip over and have a squiz at Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower, right?  Egypt?  Get all up in a pyramid. New York? Get under the skirt of Miss Liberty herself. So when you find yourself in Hollywood it is only natural to try get up the sign. But if you do, be careful! The story could easily have a much less happy ending!

If the City of Angels was smart though, it’d be charging some coin to climb the letters, not arresting the people who give it a shot.

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2 Responses

  1. Cub

    The ever daring, most times dashing, Mr Jones. Time to free-climb a national monument!


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