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La Tuna Canyon fire road leads to views of city, peaks, even the ocean

This popular route north of Burbank, more of a hike than a walk, is a steady climb into the Verdugo Mountains, punctuated by shortcuts up steep inclines. There's very little shade here, so climb early in the day or on a cool day, and take plenty of water. Also, bring sturdy shoes with good soles — and strong legs.

Begin your hike on South La Tuna Canyon Road, a paved road just south of the 210 Freeway off La Tuna Canyon Road in Sunland.
Begin your hike on South La Tuna Canyon Road, a paved road just south of the 210 Freeway off La Tuna Canyon Road in Sunland. (Cheryl A. Guerrero/ Los Angeles Times)

1. Begin from a parking lot on La Tuna Canyon Road, just south of its exit off the 210 Freeway. Walk up a slight incline on an old paved road, South La Tuna Canyon Road.

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After about a third of a mile on South La Tuna Canyon Road, turn right and walk up a pathway toward the sign for Hofstetter Fire Road.
After about a third of a mile on South La Tuna Canyon Road, turn right and walk up a pathway toward the sign for Hofstetter Fire Road. (Cheryl A. Guerrero/ Los Angeles Times)

2. After about a third of a mile, turn right and walk toward a sign reading "Hostetter." This is officially Hostetter Fire Road.

After about a half mile, if you want a steadier incline, keep on the fire road to the right. If you want something shorter and more challenging, take the dirt path to your left and climb up a 0.6-mile hike up a slippery and rocky slope.
After about a half mile, if you want a steadier incline, keep on the fire road to the right. If you want something shorter and more challenging, take the dirt path to your left and climb up a 0.6-mile hike up a slippery and rocky slope. (Cheryl A. Guerrero/ Los Angeles Times)

3. In less than half a mile on the fire road, there's a shortcut: a trail to the left that's a very difficult 0.6 mile climb up a slippery, rocky slope. If you decide to take it, take it slow. Otherwise, bear right and stay on the main dirt road.

A hiker takes the steeper route up La Tuna Canyon.
A hiker takes the steeper route up La Tuna Canyon. (Cheryl A. Guerrero/ Los Angeles Times)

4. The climb is gentler this way, as the fire road hugs the hillside and does switchbacks along ravines filled with sycamore and oak. ("Tuna" means prickly pear cactus fruit in Spanish, but there is not actually a lot of cactus here.)

After about a 2-mile hike on the gentler path, you will see a water tank at a T-section. Turn left, where you will see the San Gabriel Mountains with Mt. Lukens and Mt. Wilson to the right. In the foreground, you will see Tujunga, La Crescenta, Montrose, Glendale and La Canada.
After about a 2-mile hike on the gentler path, you will see a water tank at a T-section. Turn left, where you will see the San Gabriel Mountains with Mt. Lukens and Mt. Wilson to the right. In the foreground, you will see Tujunga, La Crescenta, Montrose, Glendale and La Canada. (Cheryl A. Guerrero/ Los Angeles Times)

5. After about 2½ miles, by a metal water tank, you'll find the top of the shortcut trail. There are people who take the steep way down. This is not recommended. Instead, take in some scenery. The great San Gabriel Mountains rise before you, with Mt. Lukens straight ahead and Mt. Wilson over to the right. In the foreground are the communities of Tujunga, La Crescenta and Montrose, with Glendale and La Cañada over to the right.

6. The Hostetter Fire Road continues for some distance. If you walk about 20 minutes farther, to a T-intersection under a tall radio tower, you can see Glendale, downtown L.A. and, on a clear day, the ocean. Explore in that direction, or return to the parking area the way you came.

Fleming is the author of "Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles" and the upcoming "Secret Stairs East Bay: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Berkeley and Oakland."

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