When the Valley heats up there are only a few options: crank up the air, jump in the pool, or get out of town. Let’s be honest- closing up the house and turning up the air is too confining. Sure, it will cool you off, but then what? You’ll just sit around the house. A jump in the pool is okay, if you have one. The kids splash around awhile, but then what? Been there, done that, right? Now, let’s consider something more interesting, option three, get out of town.
No, no. You don’t have to go far. Just off the (101) Hollywood Freeway in the Cahuenga Pass. I know a place where there’s a path that is cool, serene, and easy. It’s in an upscale neighborhood that tends to be a bit quiet. While, this public path is not well known it is still right in our midst. This one also invokes a powerful and important time in the history of Los Angeles and how it came to survive as a city in a desert.
The walkway we’re talking about is around the Hollywood Reservoir . The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has an access road around the perimeter of the water that is open to the public. It’s an easy walk in one of the most iconic of Hollywood settings: under the Hollywood sign, a deep blue sky above, Hollywood and Los Angeles City spread out below into the distance, shady pine trees shedding cones and needles, slow moving ducks on glassy water, palm fronds and pampas grass hiding wild life on the shore, plush homes cantilevered over the steep slopes, and gentle cool coastal breezes even on hottest valley days. The winds, pulled on-shore by the valley thermals, sweep up the Hollywood hills and cools off the neighborhoods like paradise trade winds.
Lake Hollywood is part of the water supply held in place by the Mulholland Dam. The water looks pristine and a chain-link fence keeps the public at a distance. The deer on the inside of the fence boldly stare out at you with big curious eyes. There is a brass plaque citing Mr. William Mulholland as the designer and builder who completed the project in 1924.
Some people can dream big and Mr. William Mulholland was certainly one of those people. In 1898, the newly elected Los Angeles Mayor Frederick Eaton appointed William Mulholland superintendent of the LADWP. They both knew that if Los Angeles were ever to grow and flourish far into the future it would need water, lots of it. Unfortunately, Southern California is mostly chaparral. Local water is scarce. So they cast their eyes on far off Owens Valley where huge amounts of water flowed from the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Naturally they envisioned an aqueduct that could bring that water right up to Los Angeles. It would be a huge undertaking.
Mulholland built the aqueduct and the dams. The water from the Sierra Nevada still flows across the state all the way here to Los Angeles. Today we reap and enjoy the benefits of that huge engineering effort. Water gleams in arid Southern California sunshine. The lush greenery around the reservoir and glimmering water doesn’t seem so out of place to us. The Midwest has their rivers and lakes and we here in Southern California have aqueducts and dams.
And let’s be grateful for Mr. William Mulholland’s vision of the future. As a result of his efforts that same dusty 1924 community is the hyper-kinetic Los Angeles we enjoy today. And millions of thirsty people in a desert have water.
So come on and enjoy the beauty of Lake Hollywood. It’s lovely and it’s free. But go slow; make it an easy and serene walk. Let the beautiful surroundings, the cool breezes, and scent of pine soothe you.
The perimeter road on the western side of the lake as well as a northern portion of the reservoir has been closed to the public for quite few years and probably will be for some time to come. But the rest of the perimeter road (slightly more than a mile-and-half in length) is very baby stroller, hiker, and jogger friendly. Port-a-potties are available on the Southeast corner by the southern most entrance. But, remember-no dogs allowed. Check on access hours since they vary with the seasons.
There are several ways to get to the lake. The easiest way is to exit the (101) Hollywood Freeway on Barham Boulecard and go left to Lake Hollywood Drive. Follow the drive as it winds through the residential neighborhood. Eventually you will pass the north entrance (closed) and come to Tahoe Drive as well as a sign with a chain link barrier. This is the East Entrance to the walk. There is a south entrance (aka Weidlake Gate). However, it would be best to Google and download a map, as the way is complicated.
By the way, don’t wait for the summer heat waves. Go on and explore this beautiful place and enjoy yourself. When you get home be sure to post your thoughts and comments for future hikers at my favorite hiking site: www.thishikingtrail.com.