The Hollywood Sign is the flashy celebrity ingenue of the local landmarks. Fans travel from around the world for a glimpse and will often risk life and limb just to snag a selfie. An entire industry has sprouted up dedicated solely to shuttling sightseers to and from vantage points. And, its popularity has stirred resentment and heated political battles.
Just a bit to the west of the sign is another landmark, virtually unknown in comparison, yet for many, a much more compelling destination.
Scan the ridges above Griffith Park and at the very western edge, you can make out the silhouette of a tree.
This is the Wisdom Tree. And yes, you can walk there.
Modern Hiker cites the Wisdom Tree origin story from the Wisdom Tree Instagram account owner. A man planted several trees on the peak as a memorial for his deceased mother. At the base of the trees, he left an ammo box with a notebook inside filled with the wisdom she taught him about life.
Since then, these hillsides have survived an attempted development and the wildfire of 2007, started by teenagers setting off fireworks. Surprisingly, the hike does take on a vaguely spiritual vibe. I’ve noticed a little more camaraderie among fellow hikers as we pass each other traversing up and down the trail.
It’s rugged path to be sure, so there is a shared sense of accomplishment. But could there be something more? I like to think so.
On the hike, I’ve met a young woman visiting the tree the day before she embarks on a a journey around the world. I’ve seen a man carry his elderly chihuahua mix up the trail. I’ve watched teenage boys sit at the bench in front of the tree and carefully leaf through the stacks of tattered notebooks left behind.
In a way, the Wisdom Tree is reminiscent of the magical and short-lived Griffith Park Tea House that appeared over night a couple of years ago.
The Wisdom Tree represents some of the best the Hollywood Hills has to offer. A chance to be in nature, commune with others, and contemplate something larger than ourselves.
Ready to take the hike yourself?
Wisdom Tree Hike Directions
The hike is best experienced in the cooler times of the day to avoid the heat and to catch magnificent sunrises and sunsets. Bring water regardless.
Be prepared for a rugged walk. The trail is very steep and slippery. For most people, round trip from the trail head is anywhere from an hour to an hour and half.
Entrance to the trail is at the upper end of Wonder View Drive. Park at Lake Hollywood and Wonder View, walk past the yellow gate. As you pass the water tank on your right, the trail head is straight in front. From the base of the peak, you can see the flag near the tree.
Follow the trail to the right.
At the top, the Wisdom Tree will be on your left. There is a trail marker for another loop which brings you around the back of the Hollywood Sign.
All photos by the author.