The Verdugo Mountains sit between the San Gabriel Mountains and the Santa Monica Mountains, towering like an island above Glendale and Burbank. Our first foray into these mountains was on the nearby Beaudry Motorway Loop which begins in Glendale. This time, we took in a different side of the mountain, starting in Burbank, and bagged the tallest peak in the range — Verdugo Peak.
Getting to the Trailhead
We began in Wildwood Canyon Park (get directions via Google Maps). Maintained by the City of Burbank, Wildwood Canyon has free entrance and free parking, and is open from sunrise to sundown. We were pleasantly surprised to see deer as we drove into the park.
Inside the park, there are three main trailheads. We chose the second one. We had no trouble finding parking on a Saturday morning, and there is a restroom at the trailhead.
The trailhead is easy to spot — just look for this stone arbor with the steps leading uphill. The trail twists and climbs rapidly, and there are a number of connecting trails. When in doubt, head uphill. But watch your head!
The weather began fairly cool in the shady, tree-lined canyon, but soon we were above the trees, climbing rapidly and shedding layers as we warmed up. Very quickly you are rewarded with views of Burbank below.
At 0.3 miles, we had a short breather as the trail mostly leveled out for a bit. At 0.5 miles, we reached the sign for the Vital Link Trail, and begain climbing nearly straight up the ridgeline.
The Vital Link Trail traces the ridgeline all the way to the Verdugo Motorway trail — which in turn traverses the backbone of the Verdugo Mountains. Vital Link is built with a series of short-but-steep switchbacks, shored to prevent erosion with barriers to discourage short-cutting the trail.
As we climbed, we stopped to catch our breath and enjoy the views, which soon grew to include Downtown Los Angeles, Palos Verdes and in the distance, Catalina Island.
At 1.5 miles, we reached the top of the Vital Link Trail. This is a good place to regroup before continuing. There is even a chair where you can rest.
There are plenty of hikers and trail runners who use the Vital Link Trail as their own outdoor workout. But we wanted to bag the tallest summit in the Verdugos — Verdugo Peak.
From the Vital Link Trail, you can choose to turn left or right on the fire road. We started out to the right, but this leads to a dead end with a cluster of communication equipment. We retraced our steps and continued for a short downhill stretch to connect with the Verdugo Motorway, then turned right, heading east toward the summit.
You will notice a number of pine trees and a mix of fairly new growth trees. This is the Warden’s Garden — part of an experimental forest planted decades ago. Most of it burned in a wildfire, but some new growth has sprung back in it’s place.
The. Best. Trail. Sign. Ever.
At 2.18 miles, we ran across proof that rangers have a wicked sense of humor.
We continued east on the Verdugo Motorway. At 2.77 miles, a spur road heads to the right up to a small communications building surrounded by five tall wood poles. This, sadly, is the summit of Verdugo Peak. We didn’t find a benchmark but it’s documented as 3,126 feet above sea level. And while the building on the summit takes away from the summit experience, it doesn’t take away from the views.
And looking towards the San Gabriel Mountains…
This is your turnaround point on the trail. We headed back along the Verdugo Motorway for about 1.25 miles, then back down the Vital Link Trail to our car.
This trail provided a great workout, and excellent views of LA and the San Gabriel Mountains. I look forward to hiking this again when the local mountains are blanketed in snow. It’s a great vantage point for taking photos of the San Gabriels.
Overview Video of the Vital Link Trail and Verdugo Peak
Vital Link to Verdugo Peak Trail Map
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Vital Link Trail Tips
- Bring sun protection, plenty of water (I recommend 2 liters) and the 10 essentials
- Avoid hiking this trail in extreme heat
- We used trekking poles, and were glad to have them along
More Vital Link Trail Resources
- The address for Wildwood Canyon Park is 1701 Wildwood Canyon Rd, Burbank, CA 91501
- Verdugo Peak Hike – Dan’s Hiking Blog
Be careful of the new swing on the summit near Verdugo Peak. It’s easy to hit your head on the tree branch on the backswing. I nearly knocked myself out.