by Nancy Bestor
On a recent trip to Los Angeles, Sarah and I had a few hours on our hands and decided that a hike in the Hollywood Hills would be just the ticket. Sarah originally wanted to climb to the world-famous Hollywood sign, but we learned that nowadays the iconic sign is fenced off and monitored with security cameras. So instead we enjoyed a great ramble up and down the “Secret Staircases of Beechwood Canyon” which offers great views of the Hollywood sign, downtown Los Angeles, and all the way out to the Pacific Ocean. The 2 ½ mile walk includes six sets of stairways that range from 125 to 180 steps each. While the stairs and streets are steep at times, the route affords views of a myriad of homes, from kooky and run down 1950’s era “modern” homes, to equally kooky faux castles. This being the Hollywood Hills, many of these properties are owned, or were once owned, by both the famous and the infamous. I learned an important lesson that day—just because someone has lots of money, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have good taste.
This neighborhood was one of Hollywood’s first housing developments and was originally called Hollywoodland. The original sign went up in 1923 and was lit by four thousand 20-watt light bulbs, at a cost of $21,000. The thirteen 50-foot high letters lasted until the mid 1940’s when the acreage around the sign and the sign itself were sold to the city of Los Angeles, who now maintains it.
Although we saw only a few people on the staircases walk, there were many, many more hiking up to view the Hollywood Sign via the Hollyridge Trail. We saw runners, walkers, stroller pushers and more, all on their way up for the chance to peer through a chain link fence at the back side of the Hollywood sign below.
With gawkers often standing in the middle of the street and blocking traffic to take pictures, the neighborhood just below the hike isn’t too pleased to be both a tourist thoroughfare and parking lot. As such, much of the area is strictly regulated as a no parking zone unless you have a neighborhood parking permit. We saw several enforcement officers cruising the hood and ticketing those cars without a permit on the sunny Sunday morning we visited. I am always surprised when people park in areas they’re not supposed to, especially when signs are everywhere warning that parking regulations are strictly enforced. But maybe I’m scarred from getting my own car towed at 2am in San Francisco many moons ago, after illegally parking in a McDonald’s lot (but that’s a story best left for another time).
Hiking the neighborhoods of the rich and famous made us hungry, so we finished our day in Hollywood with lunch at Zankou Chicken, a small, family-owned chain restaurant with cheap and delicious Middle Eastern food. The first Zankou Chicken was opened in Beirut in the 1960’s, and I’m glad Yelp and all the Yelpers out there turned us on to this great spot.
I was pretty sure Hollywood had more to offer than wacky Hollywood Boulevard and our hike (and our lunch!) proved it.