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Vital Link Trail To Verdugo Peak Hike

Vital Link Trail to Verdugo Peak Hike

In This Guide
  • Video & Turn by Turn Vital Link Trail Directions
  • How to Get to the Vital Link Trail
  • Everything You Need to Know To Prepare for the Hike
Total Distance6 miles (9.7 km)
Hike Time3-4 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Hard
Total Ascent (?)1,920 feet (585m)
Highest Elevation3,126 feet (953m)
Fees & PermitsFree
Dogs AllowedLeashed
Alerts & Closures (?)Wildwood Canyon Park
Park Phone818-238-5300

The Verdugo Mountains, often overshadowed by their bigger neighbors, offer great hiking and trails right in the middle of LA. This hike on the popular Vital Link Trail takes you to the highest point in the range, Verdugo Peak. The Vital Link Trail is a tough one, but you’re rewarded along the way with panoramic views from the ocean to the San Gabriels. And the Burbank trailhead makes it convenient to most of LA.

Where is the Vital Link Trail?

The hike starts at Burbank’s Wildwood Canyon Park. There are several trails in the park, which can get confusing, so make sure you pay attention to the starting directions below. There is plenty of free parking at the hike.

Use this trailhead address to get to the park:
Wildwood Canyon Park, 1701 Wildwood Canyon, Burbank CA 91501

Vital Link Parking
When you pull into the park, drive up the paved road until you get to the trailhead. If there are no parking spots, you can park further down and walk up the park road
Vital Link Trail To Verdugo Peak Directions 3
Enter the park at the gate.
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There is some street parking when you first go through the gate. Otherwise keep going up the road.
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When you get to the 2nd big stone arch (on the left), park. If you can’t park here, just park further down the road.

There are a few use-trails in the park that all lead to the Vital Link Trail. These hike directions use the trailhead described here.

The park has port-a-potties and water fountains (that don’t always work). I’d take care of your business and fill up with water before you get here.

Gear for the Hike

The main thing to be aware of is the lack of shade and the heat. If you are doing this hike when it’s hot out, use sun protection and bring plenty of water. I usually bring 2L. The trail is steep and sandy, so good hiking footwear and trekking poles will help on the steeper slope.

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Wildcat Small

My Goto Hiking Footwear: La Sportiva Wildcat
If you hike a lot or just want the best (but not the most durable) hiking footwear, the Wildcat trail runner is your best move.  It’s fast and light on trails, the sole gives me good grip off-trail or scrambling, and they dry quickly.
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Osprey=talon

Best All-Around Day Pack: Osprey Talon
I try so many backpacks and I can usually find something I love about all of them. But no matter how many I try, I always find that I come back to the Osprey Talon 33  (or for women, the Osprey Sirrus 36). It’s just the right balance between everything. You save weight because there is no frame, but the vented and padded back holds its shape, giving it a pseudo-frame. It’s big enough for long day hikes or overnighters, but when I don’t fill it on a shorter hike, it’s still nice and light. It’s got a sleeve for a hydration bladder and side pockets for Smartwater bottles.  I’ve been using (and beating) the same one since 2017 and it’s still going strong.
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Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

Stay Safe Out of Cell Phone Range
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Garmin InReach Mini (REI | Amazon | My Review) fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing.

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated December 2020.

My December 2020 Top Gear Picks

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.

Vital Link Trail Maps

The trails to Verdugo Peak are not well marked, but are relatively easy to follow. The Vital Link Trail has lots of cut-offs, and it can be hard to know what is a trail cut-off and which is a trail junction. If you have a GPS, loading the GPX file helps.

If you look at the OSM map, you’ll see lots of trails that (as of me writing this) are not there. They might have been at one point, or are small use trails, but in general there is a lot in the OSM map that’s not hike-able.

Click Here To View Map

Download the Hike GPX FileView a Printable PDF Hike Map

Fenix 6 Pro

How are you going to navigate this hike?
To start, you should always have a paper map and compass. And it helps to print this guide out or save it on your phone. I highly recommend a GPS as well. I use the Garmin Fenix 6 smart GPS watch ( REI | Amazon | My Review) with maps (or the more affordable  Garmin Instinct). You can also use most smartphones. Check out my navigation recommendations and resources on my top gear picks page for options at all budget levels.

Elevation Profile

Vital Link Trail To Verdugo Peak Poster Elevation
The brunt of the climbing is in the first half of the hike. There’s no warmup. It’s pretty much straight up. At the end of the Vital Link Trail you reach the Verdugo Motorway (dirt) and then it’s just a cruise to Verdugo Peak.

3D Map

Vital Link Trail To Verdugo Peak Poster 3d Map
From this view you can see how the Vital Link Trail heads straight up the ridge. Once at the top, you follow the spine to Verdugo Peak.

Vital Link Trail to Verdugo Peak Hike Directions

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Video Directions

Watch This Video In 360/VR Why 360/VR Is Great

Turn by Turn Directions

FYI “Verdugo” means executioner or hangman in Spanish.

Vital Link Trail To Verdugo Peak Directions 6
Start by hiking through the stone archway. Such a grand entrance!
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You immediately start hiking up some short, steep switchbacks.
Vital Link Trail To Verdugo Peak Directions 1
And soon you’ll start getting great views as the switchbacks leave the tree cover. That’s it for the shade.
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When you come around a bend you’ll be able to see Verdugo Peak in the distance. It’s the peak with one big tower to the right.
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When you get to this junction, make the hard right. The trail to the left is the connector trail that came in from the lower part of Wildwood Canyon Park.
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After that you really start going up. This photo gives you an idea of how steep it is. Also notice the cutoffs. There are so many cutoffs that it’s hard to know which is the official trail. A good rule of thumb here is that you’ll never being going downhill. If you are, you’re probably on the wrong trail.
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When you need to catch your breath, turn around to enjoy some sweet views of downtown LA.
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There are a small handful of trail sections that are level, but they’re few and far between.
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After that last flat section, you’ll be able to see the Vital Link Trail snake up the ridge to the radio towers.
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Keep climbing….
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And when you see this stone column, make the left onto the Vital Link Trail. This stone column marks the official start of the Vital Link Trail.
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And you guessed it, more climbing!
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Make the left at the next junction.
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And stay left at the following junction.
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The last stretch might be the toughest. You’ll see the trail climbing above you.
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Soon you’ll approach the communications towers, which is where Vital Link Trail ends.
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The big climb is over! When you get out to the fire road, go STRAIGHT, away from Verdugo Peak, not right, which is what your intuition will tell you to do.
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There’s a very cool chair at this junction.

If you go right, there is a dead end at some communications equipment, but there’s also a hidden, shady bench. I marked the waypoint in the GPX file. It’s a nice place to catch your breath before continuing.

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Here’s what that bench looks like to the right.

Okay, back to the directions to Verdugo Peak.

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Once coming out on the fire road, head straight, away from Verdugo Peak. The road will twist back to the right.
Vital Link Trail To Verdugo Peak Directions 25
When you get to the intersection, make the right. From here on out you’ll be heading in the direction Verdugo Peak on the Verdugo Motorway.
Vital Link Trail To Verdugo Peak Directions 36
You’ll get some incredible views of Angeles National Forest as you hike along the Vedugo Motorway. The big mountain with the antennas on it is Mt Lukens and the pointy one on the right is Strawberry Peak.
Vital Link Trail To Verdugo Peak Directions 26
Keep heading straight on the fire road.
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You can still see evidence of the 2017 La Tuna fire.
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At the intersection with Plantation Lateral, make the right.
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There’s a nice bench if you want to make a 2 minute detour at the Plantation Lateral junction.
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Keep hiking and make the right at the next junction for the Hostetter Fire Road.
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Soon after that you’ll see the Verdugo Motorway sign that lots of people pose with on their social media posts.
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Follow the paved path up to Verdugo Peak.
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The top is fenced in, but you can walk around the fence for the views.
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If you keep walking around the fence you’ll find some benches.
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Verdugo Peak has great prominence and on a clear day, you can see the Santa Monica Mountains, Catalina, Long Beach and the San Gabriels.

From here you just turn around and go back the way you came!

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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