Climbing Los Angeles One Step at a Time

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Walk #34: Beachwood Canyon

Distance: 2.6 miles plus a hike down to Lake Hollywood
Steps: 861
Difficulty: 4

Hollywood Sign as seen from Lake Hollywood

"This is a vigorous hike through Hollywood history, utilizing some of the steepest and most charming staircases in the city, and affording breathtaking views from Downtown to the sea." Taken from Secret Stairs by Charles Fleming.

I had never been up Beachwood Canyon Drive in Hollywood despite living here for so long. It is a street that tourists know well as it seems to lead directly to the Hollywood sign. Despite not being able to access the sign they come in droves anyway! What I discovered was a beautiful neighborhood with amazing (and challenging) stairways, as well as views to die for.

I was wondering how long before I ran into a fellow Stair Walker and it happened today on our 6th walk. Jenny told me that she had done this one before and that it was one of her favorites. We would soon discover why.

Jenny and me with our Secret Stairs books.

Last week was the first week we had guests join us and we had two of them (my sister Sandra and Vlad). On today's walk we had FOUR and it took us an extra long time to complete the walk but we had some great laughs along the way. We had a special guest (Albeiro is visiting from Boston), along with Vlad, Jim, Willie, Charles and me. I told my doctor about this blog and I think he may join us soon. All guests are welcome!

From left to right: Vladimir, Willie, Charles, me, Jim, and Albeiro

The Hollywoodland development was built in the early 1920s as one of the area's first premier housing developments and counted Humphrey Bogart, Bela Lugosi, and Bugsy Siegel among its many famous residents. To advertise this neighborhood a giant sign was built on the mountainside which read 'Hollywoodland." After a landslide the 'land' fell off and the rest is history.

Stone arch entrance to 'Hollywoodland'

This walk contained several steep stairways. The first one was made with the same granite used in the stone arch pictured above. 143 shaded but tough steps.

I have always marveled at how they manage to hang houses on steep hillsides in this town. See a great example below.

The stair climbing gets rougher. This one contains 149 steps with the last 84 "in a single unbroken run."

Almost there...

The views from up here are amazing as are the houses. There are many castle-like homes with a large number of them built in the French Chateau style.

We could clearly see the sign from this walk but this is about as close as we got.

My favorite stairs are the ones that go down! This one consisted of 178 steps but had handrails which were very handy as they were steep.

Charles, Albeiro, and Willie on the way down.

A local tree swing.

This stairway was among the more spectacular that we have seen on our walks. As the author of Secret Stairs puts it, "This is the grandaddy of Beachwood stairs, a towering double set separated by a stone wall that used to contain a running stream." It was built in 1923 and is a cultural landmark.

Here is another example of LA hillside architecture. The infinity pool and sundeck seem to barely cling to the side of the mountain.

This one was not so bad - only 118 granite steps.

Downtown Los Angeles.

This next house, 'Wolf's Lair,' was first built for one of the original Hollywoodland investors and has been inhabited by Debbie Reynolds and Debbie Matenopolous.

The House of Debbies.

From this house we had a view of Lake Hollywood. When I was in high school we used to hangout here but I had never seen the lake from this side. We hiked down a dirt trail to reach the reservoir. Too bad you can't swim here!

That's me looking at the turtles below.

This final stairway was a great relief as we had to go down 125 steps to reach the end of our walk/hike/trek.

We try to end our walks with food and had a well-earned lunch at a local cafe - The Village Coffee Shop.

Feel free to join me as I discover hidden parts of Los Angeles and tackle the remaining 36 stair walks.

Steps walked to date: 3,015

Follow me on Twitter: @ClimbingLA


  1. This one was the most difficult to date but it was also really amazing. We saw so much. So much fun with all our guest walkers! Come one, come all!!

  2. Yes, it was so fun! Can't wait for the next one.

  3. Glad that I didn't go on this one as it looks extremely difficult and plus I have been working out and I am really sore this would have put me in a wheelchair!!!! But I will go again for sure!!!

    Love Sans

  4. just curious, this hike up and down stairs took you back to your original spot sort of, or did you come down a different area and have to walk back to your vehicles, and was it just following the book? I really want to explore more things like this...I love finding scenic areas...whether it's a cool looking stairwell or a nice city view...thanks for the idea...


  6. Fascinating! Don't you wish the little stream still flowed?
    I love the House of Debbies, too. I saw Debbie Reynolds perform at Disneyland when I was about 6 years old. She came down into the crowd and came over to talk to me, but I was so shy and tried to hide behind my mom!