Los Angeles’s scenic and storied Mulholland Drive/Highway skims across the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains from the Hollywood Hills all the way to Ventura County. If Mulholland were ever extended farther eastward from its eastern end, it would probably snake along the sharply defined ridge between Mount Lee and Mount Chapel in Griffith Park. But for now, and probably forever, the phenomenal views both north and south from this ridge remain the privilege of self-propelled travelers only. For the purpose of this hike description, these self-propelled travelers include only those on foot (or paw, in the case of dogs). Mountain biking is not allowed on the dirt roads and trails of Griffith Park.
To get to the starting point, drive into Hollywood using the Hollywood Freeway (U.S. 101). From Franklin Avenue, a half mile east of the Hollywood Freeway, turn north on Canyon Drive. Follow Canyon Drive all the way to its far end. There’s room for parking in a small lot here or back a little way alongside Canyon Drive itself.
Nearby — just east and possibly worth a side trip at some point — lie Bronson Caves, which are the remnants of quarrying operations during the early 20th Century. The excavations were later used as an outdoor set for plenty of Hollywood film and television productions, including the 1960s television series Batman.
Our hike, however, starts at the end of Canyon Drive and proceeds past a gate onto the dirt-road extension of Canyon Drive, which climbs steadily up the east slope of a ravine known as Brush Canyon (or, alternately, Bronson Canyon). After 1.1 miles (and 600 feet of elevation gain) you come to an intersection of a fire road known as the Mulholland Trail (Mulholland Highway on some older maps). Turn right and continue climbing a little until you reach the paved-but-closed-to-auto-traffic Mount Hollywood Drive. Make a sharp left there, walk on pavement for another 0.2 mile, and then cut left on the wide path going up along the southeast slope of Mount Chapel. The path leads to a water tank just north of the peak itself, and you can improvise a route to the 1614-foot summit. You’ve gained about 1000 feet of elevation to get here, and a great view is one reward for that effort.
On Mount Chapel you almost feel like you’re flying as you gaze a thousand feet down on the Hollywood foothills to the south and the tidy green spaces of Forest Lawn Memorial Park to the north. When you’re satisfied with the complete view, return to Mount Hollywood Drive and head back the same way you came.
This article contains information about a publicly owned recreation or wilderness area. Trails and pathways are not necessarily marked. Conditions can change rapidly. Hikers should be properly equipped and have safety and navigational skills. The Reader and Jerry Schad assume no responsibility for any adverse experience.
Get a comprehensive view of the L.A. metropolis from Griffith Park’s highest ridge.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 125 miles
Hiking length: 3.6 miles round-trip