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
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
Dog FriendlyLeashed
Park Website (?)Wildwood Canyon Park
Park Phone818-238-5300
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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
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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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La Sportiva Spire

I try a lot of hiking boots and shoes, and there are some great options out there, but the La Sportiva Spire is the best combination of comfort, protection, low-weight, and durability. They are waterproof, and the high cuff keeps debris out without the need for a gaiter. Time tested over thousands of miles. Use them with a two-layer sock system to end blisters for good.
Reviews & Lowest Prices: WomenMen

Osprey Talon

On a medium or longer hike I recommend a pack like the Osprey Talon 33 (men) or Osprey Sirrus 36 (women) which is a little bit larger. These packs are on the upper end of the (35L) daypack range, but they only weigh a small fraction more than a pack with less capacity. Having the extra space gives you more flexibility and means you don’t have to jam things in there. I use the space for things like extra layers in the winter, extra water on desert hikes, and even a tent & sleeping bag on overnights.

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

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 Mini fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing. Read my review and see the lowest prices and reviews at REI (or Amazon).

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated June 2020.See All of My Best Gear Picks Here

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 To View Map

Vital Link Trail to Verdugo Peak Hike Map Downloads

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Fenix 6 Pro

I’m a big fan of GPS watches to follow my GPX track (which I also use as a sleep, wellness, and fitness tracker) and my current watch is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar (full review here). I load my GPX tracks onto the watch to make sure I’m in the right place, and if not, the onboard topo maps allow me to navigate on the fly. It’s pricey but it has a great battery, accurate GPS, and tons of functionality. If you want something similar without the maps and big price tag, check out the Garmin Instinct which is a great buy (prices on REI and Amazon) and does a lot of the same things.

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

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Turn by Turn Directions

FYI “Verdugo” means executioner or hangman in Spanish.

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Start by hiking through the stone archway. Such a grand entrance!
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You immediately start hiking up some short, steep switchbacks.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.