With a drop-off-and-pick-up transportation arrangement, you can enjoy a challenging hiking traverse across the north end of the Verdugo Mountains, ascending through La Tuna Canyon Park on a rough foot trail and descending toward the finish at Henderson Canyon on a wide, graded fire road. Assuming the skies are crystal clear when you go, you’ll have varied and consistently spectacular views the entire way.
To get to the staring point (the west end of the traverse), drive to the trailhead at “The Grotto” on the south side of La Tuna Canyon Road. This is one mile west of the La Tuna Canyon Road exit from the Foothill Freeway. Don’t confuse this trailhead with a similar one 0.4 mile west, which is the main La Tuna Canyon Park entrance. The finish point (east end of the traverse) is the dead end of Whiting Woods Road, a residential street that intersects the south end of Pennsylvania Avenue at Honolulu Avenue in Glendale.
From the Grotto trailhead on La Tuna Canyon Road, walk 50 yards up the deeply shaded ravine to the base of the small cliff (a waterfall in the wet season) called the Grotto. From there, find and follow the faint trail going sharply up the canyon wall to the left. This is the La Tuna Foot Trail, which quickly becomes more distinct once you get past the initial very steep stretch. The trail quickly settles into a steady and almost uninterrupted uphill grade, zigzagging when necessary to keep on or near the top of a well-defined ridge trending southeast. This hand-tooled route takes you right through mature chaparral, including manzanitas up to 15-feet tall.
After 2.0 miles and nearly 1200 feet of elevation gain, the trail arrives at a wide, graded fire road. To the left and below lies the main part of Fire Warden’s Grove, an experimental forest full of evergreen trees dating from the 1920s. You turn right, however, and climb 0.3 mile farther to the Verdugo Fire Road, where you get your first wide vistas of the vast San Fernando Valley to the west and south.
Turn left on the Verdugo Fire Road and follow it east for 1.1 mile, passing various antenna installations on the crest of the ridge, including the one on Verdugo Peak, the high point of the range. The bulldozer-scraped ridgeline, burned in 2006, doesn’t look like much, but the view’s the thing here — it’s panoramic and stunningly spacious when seen through clear air.
Look for the Whiting Woods Fire Road intersecting at 3.4 miles into the hike. Turn left and follow its twisting course down an east-plunging ridgeline all the way into the shady depths of Henderson Canyon. The traverse ends where the fire road ends, at the western end of the paved Whiting Woods Road.
This article contains information about a publicly owned recreation or wilderness area. Trails and pathways are not necessarily marked. Conditions can change rapidly. Hikers should be properly equipped and have safety and navigational skills. The Reader and Jerry Schad assume no responsibility for any adverse experience.
Verdugo Peak Traverse
Enjoy wide panoramas of L.A.’s soaring mountain ranges and spacious valleys from Glendale’s Verdugo Mountains.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 138 miles
Length: 5.8 miles
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous