Skyline Mountain Way/Brand Motorway Loop (Verdugo Mountains)

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San Gabriels from the Verdugo Fire Road

San Gabriels from the Verdugo Fire Road

Los Angeles skyline from the Brand Motorway

Los Angeles skyline from the Brand Motorway

Skyline Mountain Way/Brand Motorway Loop (Verdugo Mountains)

    • Location: Intersectionof Via Montana and Camino de Villas, Burbank.  From L.A. take I-5 to the Olive Avenue exit.  Turn left on First St. and then right on Olive, and drive a total of 1.5 miles.  (Olive becomes Country Club Drive).  Turn right on Via Montana, go 0.2 miles and park where available on the street.  (Check the signs for parking restrictions).  From the north, take I-5 to Verdugo Avenue.  Turn left on Front St., cross under the freeway and merge onto Verdugo Avenue.  Go 0.4 miles to Glenoaks, turn left and go 0.2 miles to Olive.  Turn right and drive 1.1 miles to the intersection with Via Montana, turn right and go 0.2 miles to the intersection with Camino De Villas.
    • Agency:  City of Glendale Parks & Recreation
    • Distance: 8.4 miles
    • Elevation gain: 2,000 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain,  distance, trail condition)
    • Suggested time: 4 hours
    • Best season:  November – April
    • USGS topo maps: “Burbank”
    • Recommended gear: sun block; sun hat; hiking poles; long sleeved shirts and pants
    • More information: Verdugo Mountains Yelp page here; description of the Skyline Mountain Way portion of the hike here; Verdugo Mountains Summit Post page here; Everytrail report here
    • Rating: 7
0:00 - Start of the hike; cross over to the Skyline Mountain Way (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Start of the hike; cross over to Skyline Mountain Way (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This is one of the more challenging of the many possible hiking routes in the Verdugo Mountains.  It features an interesting mix of abandoned and modern fire roads, fire breaks and city streets.  Like the other hikes in the Verdugo Mountains, if the air is clear, the views are extensive, including downtown L.A., Catalina Island, the San Gabriels and much more. The loop can be hiked in either direction but when done clockwise, as described below, the ridge shields you from the morning sun on the western-facing ascent.

0:40 - Lone oak on the Skyline Mountain Way (times are approximate)

0:40 – Lone oak on  Skyline Mountain Way (times are approximate)

From the corner of Via Montana and Camino de Villas, head across a dirt lot and climb a steep embankment to the Skyline Mountain Way, an abandoned fire road. The hike starts of gradually but soon begins a steady ascent; you’ll climb about 1,600 feet in less than three miles. As you get higher the views open up. The trail becomes more overgrown although the going shouldn’t be too difficult.

0:45 - Difficult terrain on Skyline Mountain Way

0:45 – Difficult terrain on Skyline Mountain Way

At about 1.6 miles you pass a solitary oak; this is a nice spot to take a breather. Soon afterward you encounter a tricky stretch where the trail is washed out. Expect to use your hands and feet as you make your way across this short but potentially treacherous section, climbing up a particularly steep and loose embankment before making a hairpin right turn and continuing the climb.

1:15 - Enjoying the view of the San Gabriels from the top of the loop

1:15 – Enjoying the view of the San Gabriels from the top of the loop

The ascent becomes more moderate and at 2.5 miles, you meet up with the Verdugo Fire Road, the main route across the top of the range, at a saddle with some great views of the San Gabriel Mountains. You can bear left on the fire road or head uphill on a steeper fire break. The two routes soon meet at a junction where a bench allows you to enjoy views both to the north and the south.

2:30 - Sycamores near the bottom of the Brand Motorway

2:30 – Sycamores near the bottom of the Brand Motorway

The rest of the hike is rather tame by comparison; some hikers might want to turn around at this point and return via the same route. However, for those who want to continue and make the hike a loop, start your descent on the Brand Motorway. It drops steadily for the next 3.3 miles, winding around the ridges. At 6 miles from the start, the road becomes paved; stay right at a junction and continue your descent, arriving at Brand Park, where you can take a look at the former estate of the Brand family and the public library dating back to the early 1900s.

2:50 - The road becomes paved above Brand Park

2:50 – The road becomes paved above Brand Park

At 6.8 miles, you pass through a gate and end up on Mountain Street. Turn right and follow it for 1.2 miles, during which it becomes Sunset Canyon. Several blocks do not have sidewalks, so exercise appropriate caution. When you reach Tujunga Avenue turn right and begin a steep climb uphill (again, no sidewalks so watch out for cars, especially since this section of the road has several blind curves.) Tujunga becomes Camino de Villas, which you will follow back to your starting point.

3:00 - Back to civilization: Brand Park

3:00 – Back to civilization: Brand Park

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

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La Tuna Canyon Loop (Verdugo Mountains)

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Bench on the Verudgo Motorway

Downtown L.A. from the Verdugo Motorway

La Tuna Canyon Loop (Verdugo Mountains)

    • Location: Sun Valley.  From I-210, take the La Tuna Canyon exit and and head west for 1.4 miles.  Look for the third dirt turnout on the left side of the road (there is one almost immediately, one in about a mile and then the third one, which is the La Tuna Trailhead.
    • Agency:  Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
    • Distance: 6.7 miles
    • Elevation gain: 2,000 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, steepness, trail condition, distance)
    • Suggested time: 3.5 hours
    • Best season:  October – May
    • USGS topo maps: “Burbank”
    • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
    • More information: here; Everytrail report here
    • Rating: 7

This is one of the more challenging routes in the Verdugo Mountains, with steep climbs, sharp drop-offs and loose stretches. The rewards, however, are great views that, on clear days, include the L.A. skyline, the San Gabriel Mountains, the Santa Anas and more. The hike can also be enjoyable when fog hangs over the trails, creating a sense of isolation hard to find in the San Fernando Valley.

From the parking area, the trail wastes no time ascending, climbing the wall of the canyon on a series of long switchbacks. A flat area and a slight descent, during which you can see the return route across the way, bring you to a wooded area. You may notice the ruins of an old truck lying among the oaks. After this stretch, you begin one of the steepest parts of the climb, which brings you to a fire road where you can take a well-deserved break on a wooden bench, facing toward the western end of the Verdugos.

On the Verdugo Fire Road, the main drag through the range, head left and continue climbing, at a more moderate grade. You follow the course of the fire road for two miles, with nice views of the Los Angeles basin on your right. Head left on the signed Plantation Lateral fire road, and in 0.3 miles, look for the La Tuna Foot Trail heading off to the left. The next two miles take you down (with a few short climbs) along a backbone ridge, with dramatic aerial views of I-210. For the most part, the trail is easy to follow, although there are some places where it is quite loose.

After switchbacking your way down the ridge, the other parking area comes into view. Near the bottom, the trail becomes very faint; just stick close to the side of the canyon wall. At the very bottom, you’ll pass by a seasonal waterfall set a little ways back from the trail. When you reach the dirt lot, turn left onto La Tuna Canyon Road. Although there is no sidewalk, the shoulder is fairly wide, so if you’re careful, you shouldn’t have any problems on the 0.4 mile walk back to the trail head. After the rough descent, even hikers who hate pavement will probably be glad to see it here.

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Beaudry Loop (Verdugo Peak)

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View of the San Gabriel Mountains from the top of the Beaudry Loop

Lower end of the Beaudry Fire Road

Text and photography copyright 2010 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Beaudry Loop (Verudgo Peak)

  • Location: Glendale.  From the north or west, take the 210 freeway to Pennsylvania Ave, go right, and go for a mile (the street becomes Honolulu Ave on the way) to La Crescenta.   Go right on La Crescenta and 0.4 miles later, take a right onto Oakmont View.  Take a left on to Barnes Circle and a right onto Beaudry Terrace.  The trailhead is on the right, just before where the road starts to curve.  Alternately, from the 2 freeway, take the Mountain St exit.  Go left on Mountain for 0.5 miles, right on Verdugo for 0.2 miles and bare left on  Canada Blvd.  Follow Canada for 1.6 miles and turn left on Country Club Drive.  Go half a mile and turn left on to Beaudry Blvd and park where the road curves uphill.
  • Agency:  Glendale Parks & Recreation
  • Distance: 5.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,500 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Steepness, elevation gain)
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Best season:  November – May
  • USGS topo maps: “Burbank”; “Pasadena”
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
  • More information: here
  • Rating: 7

Known also as the South End Loop, this is a challenging and enjoyable hike, very conveniently located to Pasadena, Glendale and the Valley.  On a clear day, expect views of the San Gabriel Mountains, L.A. basin, the ocean, Catalina, San Jacinto, San Gorgonio and Old Saddleback, plus more.  The route is entirely on fire roads, making navigation easy, even if the elevation gain is considerable.

From Beaudry Blvd, head past the gate and the dam and into the canyon.  The beginning of the hike might not seem promising, but as you climb, the scenery gets better.  At 0.3 miles, the road splits.  Head right up the North Beaudry Fire Road, where the ridge should provide a lot of shade and you get close-up views of the San Gabriel Mountains.  The climb is steady, although never too steep.

At 2.3 miles and 1,200 feet of elevation gain, you arrive at the Verdugo Motorway.  Take a hard left and continue your climb, past some radio towers.  Here, you get views of the L.A. skyline and the ocean to the right and the San Gabriels to the left.  Stay left at the one major junction you come to, make one last short climb, and then begin your descent.  You get an interesting aerial perspective on the network of fire roads below you.  Soon, you arrive back at the junction, where you retrace your steps to Beaudry Blvd.

While the Verdugo Mountains might not be as well known as the San Gabriels, Santa Monicas or other ranges in the L.A. area, they do offer quite a lot of hiking trails.  Their central location provides hikers with views that are hard to find elsewhere.