Cahuenga Peak OverviewCahuenga Peak is the 12th highest named peak in the Santa Monica Mountains and is located just west of the Hollywood Sign and Mt Lee. It provides a spectacular 360-degree panorama of the Los Angeles Basin and the San Fernando Valley for those hikers willing to climb the road-less peak.
Howard Hughes acquired the peak and surrounding acerage in the 1930s with plans to build a house for his love interest, actress Ginger Rogers. She refused the offer, so the area was left undeveloped. In 2002, a group of Chicago investors purchased 138 acres of ridge containing Cahuenga Peak from the Hughes estate for $1.675MM according to LA County property records. The investors are considering constructing five luxury estates on the property. Los Angeles city officials said City Hall has received hundreds of letters pleading for the peak's protection, which has prompted a campaign by city leaders and conservationists to raise $6.0MM they think they need to buy back Cahuenga Peak and incorporate it into nearby Griffith Park. On 02/13/08, Chicago investment firm Fox River Financial Resources released plans to sell the property for $22.0MM.
See "Save the Peak" campaign from February 2010 for more information. [Edit]: Apparently the Hollywood socialite, Hugh Hefner (of Playboy magazine fame) donated $900,000 in order to "save the peak" sometime in May of 2010. Good on him!
The LA Times article gives a little background and Wikipedia touches on it as well, but the story is much the same.
And here are some fun photos from the past.
Getting ThereThere are a few ways to access the peak.
1) Wonder View Trail - From Downtown Los Angeles, take the 101 freeway North. Exit Universal Center Drive. Turn left (over freeway) and make another quick left onto Cahuenga Blvd. Follow Cahuenga Blvd south for a half mile and turn left again onto Barham Drive. Take a quick right onto Lake Hollywood Dr and follow that up into the residential neighborhood. Look for Wonder View Dr and turn left. Follow Wonder View Dr up and park at end of street. Look for the trail leading up to Cahuenga Peak. The summit should take 30 to 60 minutes from here.
2) Brush Canyon Trail - From Downtown Los Angeles, take the 101 freeway North. Exit Hollywood Blvd. Make right onto Hollywood Blvd, and immediate left on Van Ness Blvd (this is more of a straight onto Van Ness if exiting freeway in right hand lane). About 100 yards after turning on Van Ness, turn left on Canyon Blvd and follow north until it deadends. Then park in parking lot (closed from sunset to sunrise).
The trail (fireroad) starts here and proceeds north for approximately one to two miles. It then dead ends into Mulholland Hwy (another fire road). Turn left (west) and proceed approximately 1 mile to another deadend and turn right (north) on Mt Lee Rd (yet, another fireroad). Portions of this are paved, but cars haven't been up here in a while, so don't worry. Walk along Mt Lee Rd and you should start to skirt around the back side (north) of the communications tower. After about a mile, you will round the corner to see a small steep uphill to the summit and the entrance to the communications complex. Below you will see the Hollywood sign blocked off by fencing (see photos).
To continue to Cahuenga Peak, you will need to skirt the fence just below the summit of Mt Lee (see photos). You will need to jump around the fence and continue on a ridge trail towards Cahuenga Peak (its the only trail that heads that way and you will be able to see it from your ascent of Mt Lee). You will gain an additional 400 feet elevation on this trail. I was there and back in 13 minutes, so it shouldn't take people too much time, just be careful with the helicopters (see below).
Red tape in Griffith Park is nausiating (sic). For being such a nice place it suffers from the classic overthinking that most of California suffers from.
Internet - The internet is full of stories that say you are not allowed to climb Mt Lee and or Cahuenga Peak. This is not true. They discourage mountain bikers, but both peaks are open. I saw horses, bikers, hikers, trail runners, dogs, and even some guy on a unicycle thing (only in LA!). The sensitive areas are the communications complex on the top of Mt Lee and the Hollywood sign. The authorities do not want people hopping the fence and climbing on the communication equipment or the sign itself. This is totally understandable, but most trip reports on the internet will tell you that you might be breaking the law and are subject to arrest. Utterly false (unless of course you hop the fence and start climbing the sign, then yes, subject to tresspassing/arrest and a $104 fine).
LA Dept of Parks & Recreation - I called 02/19/10 and asked how to climb to Mt Lee and Cahuenga Peak. The girl on the phone told me that both mountains are closed to the public and that I could not access them. Again, utterly false. She was rude too.
Helicopters - I took photos of two helicopters (both of which waved to me and sounded their alarm). Apparently the LAFD has a landing pad on the top of Mt Lee that they use for various uses. LAPD patrols the area frequently, but they are definitely not looking to bust hikers. Both helicopters got very close, but appeared to be on surveylance and not too worried about a couple of hikers.
Community Associations - The various community associations will post signs that say "No Access to Hollywood Sign" throughout their neighborhood. This is to discourage people from frequenting their neighborhood and creating traffic problems (I can't say I disagree with them). The main thing to remember is to be courteous. You are travelling through someone's neighborhood to get to the Park. The Park is for public use, but that still means you need to respect the locals. There is adequate parking at both trailheads. Don't block people in, etc. Use common sense!
CampingNo camping anywhere in Griffith Park. Most trail head parking lots are closed from sunset to sunrise. Great make-out spot if you're 16 though... actually, pretty good at any age!
Hollywood High Step
When attempting to hike Cahuenga Peak, you might as well spend the morning and bag the three main peaks of Griffith Park, Mt Lee, Mt Hollywood, and Cahuenga Peak. The trifecta I call the Hollywood High Step. Below are images and a topo that show the Brush Canyon route for climbing all three. Total time was 2.5 hours and total distance was ~5.2 miles.
Note that the topo will show the routes to each mountain in different colors. The route travelled by car will be in yellow. Mt Lee will be in green, Mt Hollywood in blue, and Cahuenga Peak in red.
Also, make sure to grab a Tommy's burger on your way out of town.
Photos of Mt Lee
Photos of Mt Hollywood