Vital Link Trail
- Location: north of Burbank in the Verdugo Mountains. From I-5 in Burbank, take the Olive Avenue exit. Go northeast for 1.2 miles on Olive, take a left on Sunset Canyon Drive, go half a mile and take a right on Harvard Road. After 0.6 miles, go right on Wildwood Canyon Road, into the park, and go 0.3 miles to the second trailhead.
- Agency: Wildwood Canyon Park (phone: 818-238-5440)
- Distance: 3.6 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,600 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Steepness, elevation gain)
- Suggested time: 2.5 hours
- Best season: October – May
- Recommended gear: Hiking Poles
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
- USGS topo maps: “Burbank”
- More information: here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 7
The Vital Link trail of Burbank will have you burning more calories per mile than almost any other hike out there. This short but very steep climb up a narrow ridge is not for the timid. However, if you know what you’re getting yourself into, it’s a very enjoyable, easy to get to hike, especially for residents of downtown L.A. and the Valley.
The trail starts easily enough (from the second of the four trailheads in the park), wind your way up the canyon, beneath some oaks. Enjoy the shade, there’s none on the rest of the trail (bring more water than you usually would for such a short hike). Stay right at the next two junctions, as trails come in on the left from alternate starting points. A third trail comes in from below; stay left and continue heading uphill. At about 0.7 miles from the start, look for the Vital Link trail branching off to the left, just before a spur that leads to some picnic tables.
The Vital Link trail ascends the ridge, with great views on both sides. You can see your goal in front of you, the Verdugo Fire Road. There are points where the trail may seem a little obscure, but just continue heading up and you’ll reach your destination. There’s a split on the way up; head right (the left route, which eventually rejoins, tends to get washed out.)
At the top, enjoy some well-earned views of the San Gabriel Mountains to the north and Burbank to the south. If your thirst for hiking hasn’t been quenched, you can extend this trip by heading either way on the fire road, but most hikers will probably be happy to just head back down as they came.
On the descent, on which you will be glad if you brought hiking poles, enjoy great views of Burbank and the Hollywood Hills. If your experience was like mine, odds are you’ll be offering encouragement to tired hikers climbing the last stretch to the fire road.
Text and photography copyright 2012 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.