The Verdugo Mountains rise sharply and form a striking backdrop to Glendale and Burbank. Here is a short, steep hike that gets a good feel for them, and for the broad views they offer on the way up. Wear good shoes and be prepared for a good holiday season workout.
1. Begin this walk high above Burbank, where Harvard Road meets the entrance to Wildwood Canyon Park, near the famed Castaway restaurant. Leave your car in the lot on Harvard, then enter the park and take the first trail to your left, about 50 feet from the entrance, just past a public restroom and drinking fountain.
2. The trail rises steeply from the canyon, over a series of switchbacks and sections lined with railroad ties. Bear right at the first V-intersection, and again at the next sharp hairpin, staying always on the main, wide trail.
3. At the next V-intersection, stay left — skipping a trail that drops back down in the canyon to the right — and keep climbing. Behind you are great views of Burbank, with Forest Lawn Memorial Park a green swatch to the left and Hollywood Burbank Airport a wide open space to the right. And then.... It gets steeper!
4. As the trail flattens and drops into a saddle, keep left and stay on the main trail, skipping again a side trail that drops down into the canyon.
5. As the trail rises for one final climb, pass the "Vital Link Trail" to your left — unless you want a really huge hike, as this trail climbs all the way to the peak — and stay right until you come to a broad flat space with picnic tables and massive views from downtown Los Angeles to far west of Burbank.
6. Leave the picnic area as the trail descends gradually into a canyon lined with sycamore, oak, pine and willow trees. After a few switchbacks, leave the trail for paved Wildwood Canyon Road. Follow this down, past several more picnic areas, public restrooms and drinking fountains, to return to the parking lot.
Distance: 2 miles
Difficulty: 4.5 on a scale of 1 to 5
Duration: 1 hour
Details: Ample free parking. Dogs on a leash are OK. No bicycles allowed on trail.
Fleming is the author of "Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles" and "Secret Walks: A Walking Guide to the Hidden Trails of Los Angeles." Each month, he leads a free walk at one of his favorite spots in Southern California. Find out more at his Facebook page, Secret Stairs. He can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org