Trailblazers Challenge La Tuna Canyon

Rising above the southeast end of the San Fernando Valley, the Verdugo Mountains are a surprisingly rugged, usually overlooked place to hike. One reason the mountains are an overlooked destination is the scarcity of hiking trails.

Just-completed La Tuna Canyon Trail is the first foot trail built in modern times to explore these mountains. The trail was built by Los Angeles Conservation Corps under the leadership of Ron Webster. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, a state conservation agency, provided funds for the project. A ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially dedicate the new trail as well as the 1,015-acre La Tuna Canyon Park is scheduled for May 21 at 1 p.m.

“The mountains are really steep and presented quite a challenge to trail builders,” said Webster, who, with his band of young workers, recently put the finishing touches on La Tuna Canyon Trail. Steep slopes, sizzling-hot days, poison oak and heavy brush were some of the obstacles the corps had to overcome to build the trail.

Los Angeles Conservation Corps is a private, nonprofit organization that specializes in giving young people, ages 18-23, work experience in the great outdoors. The corps is funded by grants from the City of Los Angeles, state agencies such as the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and private corporations.


Members begin each work day with half an hour of calisthenics at corps headquarters, a former fire station at the corner of 29th and Main streets in Los Angeles. The 70 full-time employees then are divided into crews and dispatched to work sites around the county. Brush clearance, tree planting, landscaping and recycling are among the physically demanding tasks the groups undertake.

A corps specialty is trail building. A crew of half a dozen young workers labored five months to construct La Tuna Canyon Trail.

“We moved a lot of dirt and dug up a lot of brush,” Trina Bird, trail foreman, said. “Now that I see the trail finished, I feel it was worth all the work.”

Hikers who have hiked a lot of trails will be delighted with the look and feel of La Tuna Canyon Trail. The hand-built trail follows the lay of the land and is not at all obtrusive.

“It’s going to blow hikers’ minds when they get out here and see the waterfall, the oaks and sycamores and the great views from Horny Toad Ridge,” Webster said. “Plus, aesthetically, this trail’s really beautiful.”