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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: sun hat; hiking poles
    • 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.

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