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.
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.
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.
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!).
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:
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.
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.
Good. The trail is moderately eroded in a few places and some use trails make the route potentially confusing, but for the most part this is easy to follow.
The nondescript trailhead is on the southern side of La Tuna Canyon Road in Sun Valley, just east of the 210 freeway. From the 210, take exit 14 (La Tuna Canyon Road) and travel west for 1.4 miles. From the 5, take exit 150B (Sunland Blvd) and head north. In 0.8 miles, turn right onto La Tuna Canyon Road and continue for 3.3 miles. There is a small pull-out on the south side of the road for parking and a green sign marking the trailhead.
With recent wildfire damage and ongoing waves of COVID-19 infections and restrictions, National Forest, National Park, and other public land closures, restrictions, or social distancing guidelines may be in-effect.
If infection rates are on the rise, please do your best to remain local for your hikes. If you do travel, please be mindful of small gateway communities and avoid as much interaction as you can. Also remember to be extra prepared with supplies so you don't have to stop somewhere outside your local community for gas, food, or anything else.
Please be sure to contact the local land management agency BEFORE you head out, as these conditions are likely to change without enough notice for us to fully stay on top of them. Thanks, and stay safe!
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