It’s no surprise that of the mountain ranges easily accessible to Angelinos, the San Gabriels and Santa Monicas receive most of the spotlight. They are rugged and expansive and offer jaw-dropping scenery. As a result, the Verdugo Mountains aren’t on the radars of many hikers, despite its proximity to the city and its equally impressive views. While it may not have the same majestic qualities as its neighbors, it still has plenty to offer, including this 6.8-mile loop to the highest point in the range. And with a steep initial ascent that covers 1,200 feet of elevation in just under a mile and a half, this challenging loop is also great for those looking for a solid leg workout.
This hike starts in a quiet residential community with ample street parking – we arrived Saturday morning and there were plenty of spots. Be aware that there is no parking from 10 PM to 5 AM and no amenities are present, so make sure to pack everything you need beforehand. Walk past an iron gate to begin your hike.
We decided to tackle this loop clockwise and headed left onto a single-track trail. Almost immediately, the trail will take you uphill. Fortunately, the beginning of this trek is lush and shaded, which will help ease you into the leg workout you are about to endure. While there were a myriad of plants, I was able to identify the invasive Stinkwort, Wild Cucumber with its distinctive spikey fruit (which are toxic), and Poison Oak. There were also several oak trees on either side of the trail providing relief from the sun. When we hiked it in November, several leaves were turning yellow and orange, which made for an enjoyable fall moment. However, our attention soon was diverted from the vegetation and back onto the somewhat confusing trail.
The first 0.4 miles consist of many different spur trails and span off in several directions, so be sure to have the GPX track saved beforehand. We would have gotten lost several times if not for our downloaded maps. The path is also steep and loose at times, with several wooden platforms designed for mountain bikers spread sporadically throughout. While we didn’t run into any on this section, we still took extra care to avoid a potential biker barreling down the hill.
Now on a more exposed section of trail, we headed left for a 0.1-mile detour to a high point – here we would see the many businesses and homes of the suburbs below, as well as the San Gabriel Mountains towering above us. We took in the sights for a few moments before turning around and heading back on the main trail.
With no more shade, the steep climb starts to feel much more strenuous after this. This section is a real leg buster, and proper shoes and sunscreen are a must. We took our time, stopping every so often to rest and take in the increasingly impressive views. Finally, after a mile you’ll connect with the Verdugo Motorway, marking the end of your uphill slog.
From this point on, hiking will be a lot less taxing and you’ll likely run into many more mountain bikers. It was easy to share the trail though as you’re now on a fire road.
At mile 1.5 you’ll reach some benches and your first views of Los Angeles, including Downtown, Griffith Park, Century City, and the Pacific Ocean. After your long ascent, this is a great spot to rest, eat a snack, and admire the vistas around you. Once ready, stick to the right to stay on the correct path.
Then, at mile 1.8, you’ll run into another viewpoint. Again, veer right to continue the loop.
After about 1.1 miles on the fire road, you’ll reach another trail junction. Head north for about 0.5 miles to reach the top of Verdugo Peak. At 3,126 feet above sea level, it’s the highest in the Verdugo Mountains. Walk around the fenced-off building and telecommunication equipment to find some small benches. Here, you can rest and take in the expansiveness of LA below you. From the Valley to Catalina Island, we spent a good half an hour soaking in the panoramic views.
At about mile 4.1 and back at the trail junction, head east onto the Whiting Woods Motorway to return to the trailhead and complete the loop. This fire road, albeit a little slippery at parts, was well maintained and made for a cruisy descent. As we wound our way down the mountain, we continued to admire the stunning vistas around us before finally reaching our cars 2.7 miles later. After an arduous start to our trek, it was the perfect way to cap off our time outside.