Fire break on Mt. Thom, Glendale, CA

Mt. Thom from Brand Park via firebreak


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  • Location: Brand Library, Glendale. From I-5, take the Western Avenue exit. Head northeast on Western Avenue for 1.4 miles to its ending at Mountain Street. Turn right and make an immediate left into the park. The trail begins by the green cross near the library. Park where available near the cross.
  • Agency: City of Glendale/Verdugo Mountains Open Space
  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,600 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Steepness, elevation gain, terrain)
  • Suggested time: 2.5 hours
  • Best season: November – April
  • Dogs: Allowed on leash (exercise caution on warm days)
  • Cell phone reception: Good for most of the route; weak to fair in some spots
  • Water: Available in fountains and restrooms at Brand Park
  • Restrooms: Available at Brand Park
  • Camping/backpacking: None
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sunblock; sun hat
  • More information: Trip descriptions (both with different routes for the lower portion of the hike) here and here; Area trail map here; Yelp page here
  • Rating: 6

Updated October 2018

The steep firebreak heading up the southeast face of the Verdugo Mountains can be seen from much of the eastern San Fernando Valley and downtown L.A. Its severe grade (and on clear days, excellent views) make it a popular hike for those looking for an intense workout. Its convenient location is another selling point.

A series of trails, fire roads and service roads depart from Brand Park, allowing for several options to start the hike. This route starts with the Green Cross Trail, named for the green stone cross at its beginning. It switchbacks quickly up the hill, picking up over 100 feet in about 0.1 mile. You reach a junction by a water tank. Here, two service roads come in from the left; the upper of the two is your return route. The trail continues uphill, skirting the edge of the canyon. At about 0.3 mile from the start, the trail makes a left turn (brave souls can continue along a use trail that continues straight and climbs sharply to rejoin the main route, but given the amount of steep climbing that still awaits you, you may welcome this relatively level stretch). The trail briefly heads northwest before making a hairpin turn. Far below is the Brand Lateral, your return route. The Brand Park Motorway, part of the Skyline Loop and also a popular alternate return for this trip, is also visible.

The trail climbs the ridge and reaches a T-junction (0.7 mile and almost 700 feet above the starting point.) Turn left and almost immediately make a hard right at the next intersection where the Brand Lateral, your return route, heads straight and descends. You reach another intersection at a vista point with some picnic tables and benches. This is a good spot to rest and enjoy some views before starting the next leg, which will ascend over 700 feet in just 0.6 mile. The good news is that as you climb, you will get some impressive views of downtown and the Hollywood Hills each time you have to stop and catch your breath. The last stretch gains about 150 feet in less than 0.1 mile for a slope of 25 degrees.

The fire break ends just below Mt. Thom, where it joins the Las Flores Motorway. A use trail brings you to the summit of Mt. Thom, but for those who have had enough steep scrambling, it’s only 0.3 mile to the top via the service roads. The summit of Mt. Thom is occupied by a radio facility, but it is still possible to enjoy a 360-degree panorama, including the San Gabriel Mountains, San Rafael Hills and much of the San Fernando Valley by walking around it on a use trail.

After resting for the descent, retrace your steps back to the fire break. It is easiest to descend on either side of the break, where the tread of many hikers over the years has effectively made a use trail. For variety, at the junction with the Brand Lateral, turn right and follow it into the upper reaches of Pomeroy Canyon. This section of the trail feels pleasantly remote compared to the fire break; there’s even some shade from oaks and sycamores. In 0.4 mile you reach the Brand Park Motorway. Turn left and descend for 0.6 mile to a junction. The Brand Park Motorway continues to the parking lot but it’s quicker to head left on the unsigned service road. You pass by a fenced-in reservoir before rejoining the Green Cross trail at the water tank. Descend back to the parking lot via the Green Cross Trail.

Green Cross Trail, Glendale, CA
Start of the hike at the green cross
Green Cross trail, Glendale, CA
Junction with the service road (return route)
Green cross trail, Glendale, CA
Following the ridge before the hairpin turn
Fire break, Verdugo Mountains, Glendale, CA
View of the upper half of the fire break
Fire break, Verdugo Mountains, Glendale, CA
Climbing the fire break
Mt. Thom, Glendale, CA
Northeast view from Mt. Thom
Mt. Thom, Glendale, CA
Southwest view from Mt. Thom
Brand Lateral, Glendale, CA
Descending the Brand Lateral

Text and photography copyright 2018 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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4 thoughts on “Mt. Thom from Brand Park via firebreak

  1. I just hiked it in July. Hot as hell, but not one person on the trail. Great sedimentary rock with alcoves from weathering. Would be a perfect hike to take Grade 4 students on if the school districts weren’t a bunch of pussies worrying about liabilities. So, I guess we can just show them photos and let them sit in their plastic chairs in a stinky rectangular box of a holding cell. Take your kids on this hike! Excellent native plants used by native americans and very cool rock formations. Best yet, a great workout with a view you must EARN. Nice oak trees to climb too!

    1. Good points – you’re right about the school districts and their liability worries, but unfortunately I guess that’s the climate of our times. Thanks for reading the blog!

  2. There was a hill with a bunch of broken glass, my mother & family who grew up there called it “glass hill”, is it still there or did you guys clean it up? My great grandfather was Luis Camillo who canyon was named after & my great uncle Reyes Serrano who the ridge was named after. They both worked for Mr. James Irvine.

    1. Sarah,
      My mom is also a descendant of Luis Camarillo. She took me to “glass hill”. It is still there (even after the 133 realignment. Please contact me when you get a chance. I’ll keep an on on this website as well. Thanks.

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