Viewing the sunset from Mulholland Drive
is an experience no one should miss
ONE OF the top Los Angeles area tourist attractions – well, for those in the know, anyway – is the breathtaking panoramic views from Mulholland Drive, which winds along the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains from Hollywood to Malibu.
Angelenos mostly take it for granted. It’ll always be there, so why go today?
It is certainly one of my first stops when orienting newly arrived out-of-town visitors to the geography of Southern California.
On a smog-free day such as yesterday – we have many more now than in the 1970s and 80s – one can see as far as Catalina Island, perhaps 50 miles to the south across 15 miles of Pacific Ocean. To the east Mt. Baldy, still snowcapped, rises from the San Gabriel Mountains; Mt. Wilson, with its renowned observatory and forest of broadcast antennas is a little closer.
Turning around, to the north is the Los Angeles basin’s second – and virtually unknown – vast megalopolis: the San Fernando Valley, aka the “northern suburbs.”
Home to more than two million, anywhere else it would be a medium sized city in its own right. It has, for many years, unsuccessfully sought a “divorce” from the rest of the City of Angels, but with only a small vocal minority leading the charge for local control, this is never happened.
Instead, it’s resident must drive through mind-boggling traffic to reach the Hall of Administration in downtown whenever they need to do business with City Hall.
But, arguably, the best view is to the west.
The rolling hills of the land preserved forever by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy stretch into the distance, but the furthest west hills block any view of the Pacific Ocean.
As I was riding my motorcycle into Hollywood for my birthday party last night, the sun was slowly sinking over the far west end of the San Fernando Valley as I rode west on the 134 freeway coming down the hill from Pasadena into Glendale.
It was a magnificent sight.
INSPIRED by the vista – the mild northeast Santa ana winds had blown most of the smog out to sea – on impulse I took a detour to my birthday party.
I swung off Cahuenga Boulevard and ono the easternmost entrance to Mulholland Drive. It was about 7:15 p.m.
I knew I was in a race with Mother Nature. I also knew it was still about 10 to 15 minutes of slow, twisty-turny riding, no more than 25 mph in many parts to reach the best sunset viewing platform just beyond the Vryman Canyon overlook.
But it was too beautiful of an evening to rush.
Looking southeast from the scenic overlook above the Hollywood Bowl, one can clearly see the skyline of downtown Los Angeles in the distance.
First, I stopped at the world-famous scenic overlook just a hundred feet or so above the Hollywood Bowl.
Many music lovers choose this spot during the summer to listen to the performances below – although the show can’t be seen because one is behind the band shell.
It is also an absolutely must-stop spot for hundreds of tour busses every day.
The view westwards, south and southeast is unrivaled
. The downtown skyline – much more impressive since the arrival of the twin towers of the Ritz-Carlton and Marriott hotels – is the first thing one notices.
Then, south and west, the dense corridor of highrises stretches along Wilshire Boulevard to Century City, home of the “white shoe” crowd – lawyers, stockbrokers and others who could almost