Fryman Canyon Loop
- Location: Foothills south of Studio City, on the corner of Dona Maria Drive and Fryman Road. From the south, take Highway 101 to the Ventura Blvd. exit. Turn left on Campo de Cahuenga, cross over the freeway and turn right on Ventura. Go 1.7 miles and turn left onto Laurel Canyon. Go 0.7 miles and bear right onto Fryman Road. Go a 0.7 miles and park on the corner of Fryman and Dona Maria. From the north or west, take Highway 101 to Laurel Canyon. Turn right (south) on Laurel Canyon and go 1.5 miles to Fryman. Turn right and go 0.7 miles to the intersection of Fryman and Dona Maria Drive.
- Agency: Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (Fryman Canyon Park)
- Distance: 3.8 miles
- Elevation gain: 650 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 2.5 hours
- Best season: October – June
- USGS topo maps: Van Nuys; Beverly Hills
- Recommended gear: hiking poles
- More information: Fryman Canyon homepage here; description of Fryman Canyon here; description of slightly different route here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 7
This hike, basically a more challenging version of the nearby Wilacre Park Loop (with which it shares about half a mile), is perhaps the most varied hike in the Hollywood Hills. About a mile is on paved roads, and several stretches of the route skirt the edges of some residential neighborhoods, but there are also spots on the trip with virtually no sights or sounds of civilization. The scenic highlights include great views of the Valley and the San Gabriels, and a nice variety of trees. In addition to the oaks and chaparral common to the area, you can also expect to see willows, eucalyptuses and sycamores.
There are several possible routes to explore here. You can do shorter versions of the trip described, or you can combine it with Wilacre Park for a longer, challenging hike. If you are planning on doing the nearly 4-mile route through Fryman Canyon via the Dearing Mountain Trail and the Nancy Pohl Overlook, as described here, I recommended doing it counter-clockwise, starting from the corner of Fryman Road and Dona Maria Drive. That way, you can warm up with some downhill first; you also get the mile on pavement out of the way, and save the scenic overlook for near the end of the hike. Note that while the views are great when rains clear the air, some of the terrain – especially a stretch near the end – can be a little bit treacherous when muddy, so be careful, especially if you are with kids. The Dearing Mountain Trail, which comprises the majority of this loop, has a reputation for being overgrown and hard to follow, although I didn’t find this to be the case. Most of the time, the correct route is the clearest one; there are a few side trails, usually the result of people cutting switchbacks, but navigation isn’t likely to be a problem, especially with experienced hikers.
From your car, head downhill on Fryman Road. After half a mile, turn left on Iredell St. (this is the section that’s shared with the Wilacre Loop) and walk up this residential road to Iredell Lane (0.8 miles from the start.) Turn left and begin a steep ascent. In 0.2 miles, look for the Dearing Mountain Trail heading off sharply to the left. (If you reach the end of Iredell Lane, you’ve come too far; that’s the route to Wilacre Park.)
On the Dearing Mountain Trail, you ascend quickly, taking in the first of many great views of the Valley. Soon you come to a junction. You can go either way, but heading left (staying on the Dearing Mountain Trail) is quicker. You begin a steep ascent up a “staircase” of wooden footsteps set into the dirt. After gaining about 200 feet in only 0.2 miles, the trail levels out, hugging the side of a ridge, not leaving much room to walk.
The trail continues its winding course along the edge of the canyon. At about 1.7 miles, you arrive at an area known as the Rainforest, where big willows and oaks provide a thick canopy of greenery. At a bend in the trail, a makeshift teepee has been built out of eucalyptus logs. You cross the creek on a footbridge and continue, soon leaving the wooded area.
At 2.1 miles from the start, you reach a junction. The Dearing trail makes a sharp right turn and begins climbing. You can, however, cut your trip shorter by going straight, following the trail to the end of Valleycrest Drive. At 2.3 miles, you reach another intersection, where again you can shorten your trip by heading left.
To reach the Pohl Overlook, however, you’ll head right. You make a few switchbacks down into a canyon where you’ll pass by the remains of what appeared to once be an army vehicle. At 2.7 miles, the trail makes some switchbacks as it climbs up the side of the hill. At the junction, turn right and walk a short distance to the Nancy Pohl Overlook. Here, you get a great view of the Valley and the Verdugo and San Gabriel Mountains. There are a few interpretive plaques and some benches where you can enjoy the panorama.
After enjoying the scenery, head back toward the Dearing Mountain Trail. You continue northeast for about 0.4 miles before reaching a split. Head left and downhill. Soon, the Briarcrest Fire Road becomes visible. Just before you get to it, the trail makes a short but very sharp drop. Proceed with caution, especially if the trail is muddy from rain. A few rocks provide good handholds.
At the bottom of the descent, turn left on the Briarcrest Fire Road, which heads downhill on a slight grade. In 0.4 miles, you’ll reach the end of the fire road, returning to your starting point.
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
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