Vital Link Trail


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Flowers on the Vital Link Trail, Burbank

Descending the Vital Link Trail

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.

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7 replies »

  1. Hi, David. I am going to try this one with the Canada/Crescenta YMCA -hiking group – GONE, this spring. I like the accessibility and shorter distance/time. Your blog is GREAT; always amazing photos. I like your other stuff too – books, t-shirts, etc. will make good gifts. Happy New Year – Hope to see you sometime, Anita

    • Thanks Anita! Yeah, it’s certainly a good workout in a short amount of time. Let me know, I’ll try to make it. Thanks for the kind words.

  2. Well explained. Just did the hike yesterday and it was Amazing! We got there at 5 pm and finished just after sunset around 7pm. By the time we got to the top we had the most amazing view of the city and pink sky. Ascending down was breathtaking as the city lights began to twinkle alive.

    Love this hike.
    Though this hike is a bit tough so I advise to bring lots of water as you will need it. 🙂

  3. Nice photos. Yes, it’s a great hike but be aware of snakes. We had heard that there were a lot of rattlesnakes on the trails in this particular area and in April, we encountered three snakes (a striped racer and 2 small rattlers). One of the rattlers was slow in moving off the thin trail near the top which prompted a couple of other hikers to retreat back down. We waited it out and then dashed by it. Just be careful where you step and always bring a hiking buddy.

  4. My husband and I hiked this the other day on a whim. Once you reach the sign that reads Vital Link, it really gets tough! The hike was amazing and the view was even more so. Thanks for the information! I was wondering how long/high the hike was.

    • Yeah – it’s a steep one! I did another one at Point Mugu that was even steeper that I’ll be writing about soon. Glad you enjoyed the hike, thanks for reading.

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