Skyline Mountain Way/Brand Motorway Loop (Verdugo Mountains)
- Location: Intersectionof Via Montana and Camino de Villas, Burbank. From L.A. take I-5 to the Olive Avenue exit. Turn left on First St. and then right on Olive, and drive a total of 1.5 miles. (Olive becomes Country Club Drive). Turn right on Via Montana, go 0.2 miles and park where available on the street. (Check the signs for parking restrictions). From the north, take I-5 to Verdugo Avenue. Turn left on Front St., cross under the freeway and merge onto Verdugo Avenue. Go 0.4 miles to Glenoaks, turn left and go 0.2 miles to Olive. Turn right and drive 1.1 miles to the intersection with Via Montana, turn right and go 0.2 miles to the intersection with Camino De Villas.
- Agency: City of Glendale Parks & Recreation
- Distance: 8.4 miles
- Elevation gain: 2,000 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, distance, trail condition)
- Suggested time: 4 hours
- Best season: November – April
- USGS topo maps: “Burbank”
- Recommended gear: sun block; sun hat; hiking poles; long sleeved shirts and pants
- More information: Verdugo Mountains Yelp page here; description of the Skyline Mountain Way portion of the hike here; Verdugo Mountains Summit Post page here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 7
This is one of the more challenging of the many possible hiking routes in the Verdugo Mountains. It features an interesting mix of abandoned and modern fire roads, fire breaks and city streets. Like the other hikes in the Verdugo Mountains, if the air is clear, the views are extensive, including downtown L.A., Catalina Island, the San Gabriels and much more. The loop can be hiked in either direction but when done clockwise, as described below, the ridge shields you from the morning sun on the western-facing ascent.
From the corner of Via Montana and Camino de Villas, head across a dirt lot and climb a steep embankment to the Skyline Mountain Way, an abandoned fire road. The hike starts of gradually but soon begins a steady ascent; you’ll climb about 1,600 feet in less than three miles. As you get higher the views open up. The trail becomes more overgrown although the going shouldn’t be too difficult.
At about 1.6 miles you pass a solitary oak; this is a nice spot to take a breather. Soon afterward you encounter a tricky stretch where the trail is washed out. Expect to use your hands and feet as you make your way across this short but potentially treacherous section, climbing up a particularly steep and loose embankment before making a hairpin right turn and continuing the climb.
The ascent becomes more moderate and at 2.5 miles, you meet up with the Verdugo Fire Road, the main route across the top of the range, at a saddle with some great views of the San Gabriel Mountains. You can bear left on the fire road or head uphill on a steeper fire break. The two routes soon meet at a junction where a bench allows you to enjoy views both to the north and the south.
The rest of the hike is rather tame by comparison; some hikers might want to turn around at this point and return via the same route. However, for those who want to continue and make the hike a loop, start your descent on the Brand Motorway. It drops steadily for the next 3.3 miles, winding around the ridges. At 6 miles from the start, the road becomes paved; stay right at a junction and continue your descent, arriving at Brand Park, where you can take a look at the former estate of the Brand family and the public library dating back to the early 1900s.
At 6.8 miles, you pass through a gate and end up on Mountain Street. Turn right and follow it for 1.2 miles, during which it becomes Sunset Canyon. Several blocks do not have sidewalks, so exercise appropriate caution. When you reach Tujunga Avenue turn right and begin a steep climb uphill (again, no sidewalks so watch out for cars, especially since this section of the road has several blind curves.) Tujunga becomes Camino de Villas, which you will follow back to your starting point.
Text and photography copyright 2013 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.