Distance (round-trip)

4.5 mi

Time

2.5 hrs

Elevation Gain

925 ft

Season

Spring
Summer
Fall
Winter

Weather

If you’re looking for a trail with a bit of that “off the beaten path” feel but still wouldn’t mind keeping an eye on civilization from its vista points, the La Tuna Canyon Trail is a good bet. This meandering 4.3 mile trail provides some decent elevation gain in sections and a surprising variety of scenery — from deep, shaded riparian canyons to thick sage scrub and exposed ridgelines. You’ll have great views of the nearby cities and mountains on clear days, lots of fragrant sages to keep you company along the way, and you’ll also pass the remnants of a few rusted out old cars deep in the canyons!

Begin your hike at an odd-looking turn off on the south side of La Tuna Canyon Road. It’s easy to miss the green sign marking the trailhead and its rules from the road, but once you’re out on foot it should be pretty clearly in sight.

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The La Tuna Canyon Trail doesn’t actually go into La Tuna Canyon itself – that’s been occupied by La Tuna Canyon Road. Instead, it heads south into two different north-south side canyons and will eventually put you out on the broad trail network that (mostly) runs along the ridge lines of the Verdugo Mountains. Right away, the trail drops down from the road and heads into a surprisingly dense canyon lined with large, gnarled oaks and impressive sage scrub. Keep your eye out for large California sagebrush and black sages along the side of the trail (and feel free to lean in for a sniff or two).

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The trail starts some sharp and moderately steep switchbacks almost immediately. Be on the look out for some trail erosion caused by cutting switchbacks (and possibly exacerbated by winter rainfall) on your way up. You’ll be seeing a lot of the same scenery for the first mile as the route doubles back on itself numerous times.

Remember: Don’t cut the switchbacks.

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I heard you like switchbacks so we put some switchbacks on your switchbacks.

By 0.8 miles the trail makes a sharp turn to the east, traversing a narrow (but safe) stretch of trail paralleling La Tuna Canyon Road. The 210 and (cloud cover willing) the San Gabriels are in sight from here as well, giving you the chance to get some odd photos of lines of cars waiting to make their way through what otherwise looks like a rugged wilderness area.

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At 0.9 miles, the trail turns south into a different canyon and makes a slight descent back down to this canyon’s floor. Be on the lookout for white sage on these sunnier slopes as you make your way down to an even more densely forested canyon.

At about 1.2 miles, ignore the use trail to the left, which will head back to La Tuna Canyon Road. The trail crosses the canyon’s arroyo bed and hugs its eastern bank, taking you through a small but beautiful grove of oak and sycamore trees (put this on your foliage list when the temperatures drop!).

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Keen eyes will be able to spot what appear to be the remnants of a small vehicle’s chassis near mile 1.5 just before a the steep incline kicks into gear again. Just around the corner, though, is an even better photo op:

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I wasn’t able to dig up any information on how this truck ended up here – but an educated guess would be that it fell off the wider fire roads on the Verdugos and was brought to its current location by erosion and some good winter rains. Maybe in a few more years, it’ll make it down to the canyon floor completely.

From here, the trail picks up some noticeable incline. The steepest section is just before 1.8 miles, where the trail ends at a ridgeline firebreak. To the north, adventurous types could bushwhack through a rough use trail and descend a very steep and slippery firebreak on the return trip. To complete this route, head south along the ridge, enjoying the unfolding views of the mountains and San Fernando Valley around you on the way up.

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At the 2.1 mile mark, a well-positioned lounge chair looks out over the distant sprawl – a fantastic place to enjoy some peace and quiet (and maybe a lunch) before heading back the way you came in.

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Modern Hiker, Author of "Day Hiking Los Angeles," Walking Meditator, Native Plant Enthusiast.





Dog-Friendly

Multi-Use Trail

Shade

Trail Map

6 Comments

psyrob May 26, 2019 14:05

Went there yesterday, May 25, 2019. The good news: this is a beautiful trail, really overgrown with pretty wildflowers, we were covered in butterflies at several points. Really the most beautiful trail on the Verdugo Mountains, many other trails are bleak and sun baked. The bad: the trail is really obscure once you drop into the river bed: super overgrown, really difficult to find the path. We wasted about a half hour trying to bush wack and find our way up out of the riverbed and almost gave up. But of course, this ultimately added to the adventure. We took the shortcut straight down to the trail head rather than doing an out and back and I highly recommend that.

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Teresa Jan 2, 2019 15:01

We came in January 2019 and the trail was open but once we reached the canyon floor the trail seemed to have been partially washed away by some of our late-2018 rains. We ended up just following some other hiker’s boot prints and blindly walked through the wide stream bed (which seemed questionable) and then climbed around guessing as to where a trail might be — at some point (maybe after the fires in 2017?) the trail overgrew on the east side. Once we finally saw a switchback above us, we went straight up, and still couldn’t tell if we were making it up until we saw the burned out trucks. It was fun but we would have given up early if those footprints weren’t there.

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Melissa Kyle Aug 15, 2018 11:08

Still closed as of August 2018 :/

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DJL Oct 15, 2017 09:10

We found this area and the trails closed (15 Oct 2017) because of the fire.

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Casey Schreiner Sep 4, 2017 13:09In reply to: Jodie

well played :)

Here's hoping the landscape wasn't TOO badly damaged. La Tuna Canyon was a really beautiful place!

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Jodie Sep 3, 2017 22:09

Well I'm hiking through here but it's awfully hot. Seems the place is ablaze with scenery..um I mean the scenery is ablaze. Nothing like an epic wildfire to liven things up. Not to be deterred from my hike by some measly raging inferno, I made the best of it. Being the resourceful gal I am, I broke out the marshmallows and had a bunch of s'mores and fed some to the fleeing wildlife. Well, once my keen senses detected that the pesky blaze would likely cook me alive I decided to get outta dodge. Speaking of which..no chance of that truck making it to the canyon floor, it's a pile of dust. Last seen being engulfed by above mentioned inferno.
So all in all, a fun trip and I look forward to returning soon to survey the blackened landscape and maybe cook some more s'mores.

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