Catalina Verdugo Trail

Distance 2.7 mi
Time 1.5 hrs
Elevation Gain 434 ft
Season Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Hike Info Hiker Info

While I often crave long, all-day affairs in the backcountry, the reality is that these types of trips sometimes feel like a luxury. Extensive pre-hike preparation, a long drive to the trailhead, and a large block of time without cell service can feel like a big ask, especially when I have several other competing obligations. So, I hold a special appreciation for shorter trails close to home that are both more accessible and less time-consuming. Case and point: the Catalina Verdugo Trail. While it’s not a pure nature experience – you’ll likely hear the constant drone of cars and people playing on the fields below you – it’s a lovely little weekday hike to get you outdoors with little effort or preplanning. 

You’ll park at the Glendale Sports Complex (open from 7 AM to 10 PM). There is a vast amount of parking spaces and amenities, including trash cans and picnic tables scattered throughout the park, as well as flush toilets and sinks, water fountains, a doggie bag dispenser, and if you’re lucky, an open concession stand. Head to the north end of the parking lot and to the left of the maintenance building to find the trailhead.

The Catalina Verdugo Trail Trailhead.

Your hike begins with a gradual climb on a mostly well-manicured single-track trail. While there was some slight plant overgrowth, it was minimal and didn’t bother me. As I hiked, I recognized several plant species, including California Sagebrush, Black Mustard, and the occasional Laurel Sumac Tree. There were also several blooming flowers, such as Black Sage, Brittlebush, Chia, and Pride of Madeira. Overall, the trail was very fragrant which I enjoyed.

Blooming Pride of Madeira.

As you continue trekking, you’ll weave in and out of several canyons, slowly climbing at a gentle pace through several shaded and sunny sections. Personally, I found the rhythmic nature of the trail very relaxing. However, you’ll want to be cognizant of where you’re walking, as there are a few steep drop-offs just to the right of the trail. Also, since It’s also a multi-use trail, keep your eyes peeled for mountain bikers and dogs. 

The trail circumnavigates the Glendale Sports Complex.

The longer you hike, the more impressive the views become.

At mile 0.4, you’ll come across an information placard about the area’s ecosystem and plant life. Then, three-quarters of a mile in there is a bench with expansive views out to the Verdugo and San Gabriel Mountains, as well as Griffith Park. Below you, the athletes using the sports fields look like tiny ants, giving you a sense of how high up you are.

Information on how the plants have adapted to their environment.

A beautiful resting spot.

You’ll soon enter a fairly shaded section of trail, and then at mile 1.2 reach a trail junction. If you want to continue the loop, stay right. Otherwise, head left along the Ridge Motorway, a short spur trail with impressive vistas of the area. I had some time to spare and decided to go left.

Head right to stay on the Catalina Verdugo Trail or veer left to start on the Ridge Motorway.

Almost immediately, the trail significantly widens and becomes somewhat steep. There also is another trail junction at mile 1.4 – continue straight to stay on the correct path.

Views of Griffith Park and Los Angeles.

Now at a higher vantage point, you’ll have the best views of the day. I hiked this trail in the late afternoon and was captivated by the sunlight painting everything in a warm hue. Finally, at mile 1.6 you’ll reach a road, Camino San Rafael. You can continue hiking the Ridge Motorway to reach the Cerro Negro Lookout, but sunset was soon approaching so I decided to head back.

The Cerro Negro Lookout from a distance.

The late afternoon sun painting the landscape in an orange glow.

At mile two, you’ll return to the main trail and begin your slow, switchback-heavy descent back to the parking lot. Along the way, there is another bench and information panel briefly explaining the history of Glendale. Finally, at mile 2.6 the trail drops you off on the south side of the park. Head left and around the soccer fields to return to the lot and complete your hike.

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Accommodations near Catalina Verdugo Trail

Trail Conditions

The main trail is a well-graded and mostly clear single-track path. The side trail is a wide dirt road that is also easily navigable. Additionally, the entire hike is very well marked with signage throughout.

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How to Get There

From downtown LA, take CA-110 N and to merge onto I-5 N. Continue for 1.2 miles and then merge onto CA-2 N. After 4.8 miles, take exit 10 for Mountain St and turn left. Then 0.2 miles further turn right onto N Verdugo Rd and continue for 0.2 miles. Use the right two lanes to stay on stay on N Verdugo Rd for another 1.1 miles. Finally, turn right onto Fern Ln and continue for 0.8 miles to reach the trail.

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