The famed Hollywood sign began life on the slopes of Mount Lee in 1923 as a billboard for the Hollywoodland real estate development and originally contained its full name; however, in 1949 when a storm knocked down the “H” and damaged the rest of the sign, the “land” part was removed and the rest became the familiar symbol of the area and of the entertainment industry. Unfortunately, the current incarnation has literally lost its radiance: it once featured 4000 light bulbs that beamed the district’s name as far away as LA Harbor, but a lack of maintenance and an abundance of thievery put an end to that practice.

The sign has also gained a reputation as a suicide spot, ever since would-be movie star Peg Entwistle terminated her career and life here in 1932, aged 24 – no mean feat, with the sign being as difficult to reach then as it is now. Less fatal mischief has been practised by students of nearby Caltech, who on one occasion renamed the sign for their school, while other defacers have included USC, UCLA, the US Navy and Fox Television. Because of this sullied history, there’s no public road to the sign (Beachwood Drive comes nearest, but ends at a closed gate) and you’ll incur minor cuts and bruises while scrambling to get anywhere near.

In any case, a razor wire fence, infrared cameras and radar-activated zoom lenses have been installed to catch graffiti writers, and innocent tourists who can’t resist a closer peek are also liable for a steep fine. The best views can be had from the Griffith Park Observatory, and, more distantly, from the junction of Hollywood Blvd and North Highland Ave.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

USA features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

7 places to get off the tourist trail in New York City

7 places to get off the tourist trail in New York City

Ticked off New York City’s big sights and wondering where to go next? From sinking a pint in Brooklyn's Red Hook to sampling Italian delicacies in The Bronx, …

11 Apr 2017 • Stephen Keeling insert_drive_file Article
In search of the real Wild West on America's Great Plains

In search of the real Wild West on America's Great Plains

Wild West – we all feel something when we see or hear those words. But why? How much is true and how much is fantasy? Our editor Neil McQuillian took to the (…

06 Apr 2017 • Neil McQuillian local_activity Special feature
15 of the most beautiful places in Alaska

15 of the most beautiful places in Alaska

With mountains to climb, rivers to raft, glaciers to coo over and a bevy of bears to photograph, Alaska is the ultimate wilderness – and this year is the per…

30 Mar 2017 • Sarah Reid camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month