Mount Lee

A full and fun day of hiking in Hollywood.  I planned to see a lot and was able to squeeze in everything – a 13.7 mile adventure.  In addition to Mount Lee I also made stops at Mount Bell, Amir’s Garden, Cahuenga Peak, Burbank Peak and Bronson Caves.

1     2   Although this is not that close to my home, getting there was very easy – just one freeway and only a couple of turns after that.  I parked at the trailhead parking lot for Brush Canyon Trail.  There is plenty of free parking.

3     Mount Lee can be readily identified by the large antenna on top.

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I soon made my way up to Mount Hollywood Drive.  This is a paved road but it seems to be closed to regular vehicle traffic.  I did see some park maintenance trucks and a police cruiser driving on it however.  My next stop was Mount Bell.  My book said to go right at the junction and pick up the trail on the left.  This is incorrect and cost me about 20 minutes as I wandered around looking for this phantom trail.  None of the trails are marked and no one I asked knew where Mount Bell is.  Photo 2 – This  dirt trail is the one to Mount Bell.  To get there I went left at the junction, walked down about 30 yards and then wen right up the trail, the opposite of what my book said to do.  This was the one glitch in my trip, a little frustrating but no big deal.  After I climbed the hill I soon came to a Y fork.  The two roads shown here encircle the top of Mount Bell.  There are several little trails heading to the top.  Some parts are steep and overgrown but it’s a short climb.

8     9     10   Photo 3 – Marker at the top of Mount Bell

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13   From the top I could look down on the trails below.  The dirt trail to the left was the one I had just gotten off of to get to to this spot.  The paved road on the right is Mount Hollywood Drive.  Both lead to the peak in the distance, Mount Hollywood.  Photos 2 and 3 – Mount Hollywood on zoom and extreme zoom

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In the opposite direction is Mount Lee and Cahuenga Peak.  If you look closely you can see the paved Mount Lee Drive winding up the back of the mountain.

15     16     17   I headed downhill away from Mount Bell and towards Amir’s Garden, passing a cave on the way.

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I arrive at Amir’s Garden.  The path is lined with several beautiful succulent varieties.

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26   I was lead into a quiet, shady oasis with benches and picnic tables.  There is also a water fountain.  The garden is well irrigated and lush.  Every few yards there are openings that lead down to terraced paths clinging to the hillside.  Photo 2 – I found this sign amusing.  It’s to thank those who helped get a flagpole installed in the garden, but one person’s name has been crossed off the list.  Random vandalism or is there more to the story?

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29   Photo 1 – Some of the dirt stairs have large ups and downs.  Photo 3 – Now retracing my steps up the mountain and looking back at the lovely and peaceful Amir’s Garden.

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Across the way is the Verdugo Mountains, where I hiked last week.  I now know that the bowl shaped area I could see from the top of the Verdugos is made up of a lot of the land that I hiked today.

31   On extreme zoom, Verdugo Peak is the high point right in the middle with the antenna on top.

32     33   I hiked back to the top and headed in the direction of Mount Lee and the HOLLYWOOD Sign.  Traffic, both hiker and equestrian (and snake), really picked up.  A lot of people use this trail.

34     35     36   Views along the way of Griffith Park Observatory and Downtown LA.  The dirt road becomes paved, with one road going to the left and one uphill to the right.  I took the one to the left first which took me beneath the HOLLYWOOD Sign.

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The paved road dead ends with a nice view of the sign, but it’s better when you climb up the hill to the flat area above the road.  As I and a dozen or so others stood around taking photos we heard a policeman yelling at someone in a “restricted area”.  I thought it was from above, like someone at the top had hopped the fence and was trying to head down to the sign, which is illegal.  I then realized the yelling policeman was in a helicopter and he was yelling at me and the rest to get back down to the road.

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I backtracked and headed up the windy Mount Lee Drive.  The freshly laid black asphalt made for a hot trip.  Photo 2 shows Forrest Lawn Cemetery.

41     42   The road dead ends at the top above and close to the sign.  There is a fence in-between the road and the sign that makes it hard to get a good photo.

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Behind the HOLLYWOOD Sign

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The Hollywood Reservoir from Mount Lee

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Griffith Observatory from Mount Lee

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In one direction is the antenna on Mount Lee, in the other direction is Cahuenga Peak, highest point in the Hollywood Hills.  There is a new trail to the peak, just a few years old I believe, that is rough and steep.

49     50   There are little offshoots on the trail that lead up to overlooks and plaques mounted in honor of those who contributed money so this land would not be developed.  Thank you.

51   View from the Hugh Hefner Overlook

52     53     54   As I said, the trail is rocky and rough.  You have to scramble up a four to five foot section of rock.  Photo 3 – The marker on Cahuenga Peak

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Photo 1 – Slightly different angle of the reservoir.  Photo 2 – A ways up the trail is Burbank Peak, marked by that lone tree.  There is a hairy looking trail running from Wonder View Drive to this peak, as can be seen here.

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Something amazing happened next as a hawk hovered right above my head.  He could not have been more than 20 feet above me, and he just hovered there for what seemed like a minute or so.  There didn’t seem to be any wind and he wasn’t flapping his wings, he just floated there somehow defying gravity.

59     60     62   I made it over to Burbank Peak.  There is a register to sign, and people have left assorted stuff behind.

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Photo 1 – The tree on Burbank Peak.  I read that people call this the “Tree of Wisdom”.  Photo 2 – The landmark Capital Records building on zoom

64     65     66   Fast forward a few miles, back at the parking area.  I have one more thing to see, the Bronson Caves, better known as the Bat Cave from the 1960’s television show Batman.  I took the unmarked trail running away from Brush Canyon Trail.  The caves are about a quarter of a mile away.

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Heading inside.

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On the backside there are three openings.  I went to the left and had to crouch down to get out.

70     71  The other side of the caves.  Great day!

2 comments

  • Jennie Chamberlain

    Great blog!

    I’m sad and disappointed that the city is closing access to Griffith Park on Tuesday via Beachwood Canyon – this sentiment that the park is for people, and not to serve a private business (The Saddle Ranch Stables) is echoed by the plaques you photograph that say “conserving land for the people.”

    I was putting together a website to raise awareness of this access issue and was wondering if I could use some of your photography. I am planning to have some photos of the park, some photos of some folks and dogs who live in Beachwood who will no longer have access to their local trails, as well as a link to a petition so that people can express to Councilmember Ryu that they would like the park to remain accessible to the public via Beachwood and the Holly Vista trail.

    Best,
    Jennie

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