La Tuna Traverse in the Verdugo Mountains

The 1100-acre La Tuna Canyon Park, basically an open-space area with minimal picnic facilities, drapes over the north-facing slopes of the Verdugo Mountains near Glendale. On this trek, which is perfect for a cool late autumn or winter day, you’ll pass through luxuriant growths of aromatic chaparral and visit a couple of surprisingly attractive oak- and sycamore-shaded mini-canyons. On crystal-clear days, the best part is the walk along the Verdugo ridgecrest, with panoramic views at nearly every point.

To get there, first drive to the main La Tuna Canyon Park entrance on the south side of La Tuna Canyon Road. This is 1.4 miles west of the La Tuna Canyon Road exit from Foothill Freeway (I-210), and 3.3 miles east of Sunland Boulevard in Sun Valley. Don’t confuse this trailhead with a similar one, “The Grotto,” which is 0.4 mile east.

From the trailhead, follow the La Tuna Canyon Trail up along a small canyon about 100 yards to a fenced viewpoint overlooking a natural declivity, where water cascades after a good rain. From there you double back and undertake an easy switchback ascent of the canyon’s east wall. Rooted to the steep slopes are a tangled assortment of mature chaparral shrubs — scrub oak, hollyleaf cherry, ceanothus, and toyon.

After about 0.6 mile, the trail starts to contour across a slope immediately above La Tuna Canyon Road and afterward drops quickly to the bottom of another small canyon, parallel to the first. For a while you’re engulfed in a cool tunnel of overarching live oak and bay laurel limbs. Wild blackberry vines and poison oak thrive in this intimate little glen.

At 1.3 miles, the narrow trail-tread joins traces of an old road that quickly gains the ridge between the two canyons and then connects with Verdugo Fire Road. A heart-pounding climb (600 vertical feet in 0.6 mile) puts you on the wide fire road. Turn left and head east. Much of the area ahead was scorched during a 2006 wildfire, so there’s little vegetation to block views.

Next stop (worth the short side trip if the air is clear) is a 2646-foot knoll on the right, 0.6 mile from the top of the La Tuna Canyon Trail. Scramble up the fire break on the knoll’s east side and enjoy what is likely the most complete view of the San Fernando Valley available from any land-based vantage point. The pseudo-aerial perspective reveals flat grids of linear streets slashed by curving freeways, huge complexes of industrial buildings that look like giant computer circuit boards, endless rows of stuccoed single-family homes half-hidden in a green haze of street trees, and spiky clusters of high rises.

A right turn at the next fire-road junction (4.3 miles from the start) and a short climb south take you toward the high point of the range: Verdugo Peak. The antenna facility at the top blocks a complete 360-degree view, but you can walk around the top for a complete panorama.

After visiting the peak, backtrack to last junction, but bear right (north) on Hostetter Fire Road. Three miles of easy descent take you down to a large parking area alongside La Tuna Canyon Road. Follow the wide left (south-side) shoulder of that road to return to your car — an easy half-hour walk or a 15-minute jog.

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.

La Tuna Traverse
Scope out the San Fernando Valley and much more from the crest of the Verdugo Mountains.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 135 miles
Hiking length: 9.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous

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