Vital Link Trail - Wildwood Canyon
The Verdugo Mountains are a mini range situated between the San Gabriel Mountains and the Santa Monica Mountains. The peaks along this small (but tall) range offer some spectacular views all the way from downtown Los Angeles to downtown Burbank and out over La Crescenta-Montrose.
The trail head for Vital Link Trail begins in Wildwood Canyon just north-east of Burbank. I will admit, I must not have read-up properly on this trail before heading out, because I was completely surprised (but not disappointed) by how strenuous this uphill climb turned out to be. You end up climbing about 1500 feet in just 1.5 miles, and the majority of this trail is exposed to sunlight, so you'll definitely want to head out in the early morning or closer to sunset.
There are several different trails you can use to get to the Vital Link trail, but the most direct trailhead is located at the turnaround at the top of Wildwood Canyon Road. You can't miss the wide dirt fire road just past the gate. In just about 1/4 mile you will make a sharp turn to the left where the trail leaves the canyon bottom and begins to ascend up the ridge to the west. As you climb, there will be the views down Wildwood Canyon and over Burbank will begin to open up.
Eventually you will find your way to a dirt pullout on the left that has a few pic-nic benches. The views from this point are lovely, so take a moment to soak it all in!
When you're done, the trail will briefly descend and meet a junction on the right with large, quite obvious, sign for Vital Link Trail. This is your cue to head right and start your ascent to the top!
This is where the trail gets pretty serious. Over the next mile, you’ll gain over 1,000 feet. The trail pretty much runs directly up the end of the ridge. I like to call it "Runyon on 'Roids". There are a couple quick switchbacks to help you overcome some of the steepest sections of terrain - but it's mostly an uphill battle. The good news is, when you need to catch your breath (and trust me, you will), your views are truly spectacular!
In about 1/4 mile you will come to another junction. A more direct (vertical) path continues up the ridge to the left, while the "main" trail takes a switchback to the right. It doesn't take long for these two trails to meet back up again, so take either route and continue up the ridge line. The more gradual and (typically) shaded route is to the right - it also temporarily winds back inside Wildwood Canyon.
Your targets are the cell towers directly ahead - and although you keep moving forward, I swear, it feels like they just keep getting further and further away! But don't be discouraged - I promise, the views do not disappoint once you reach the peak! When you DO finally reach the top you'll be greeted by a memorial, recliner bench - take a load off here and enjoy the views! From up here you will be able to look down on your trail, and also look north-east over the San Gabriel mountains. It's really beautiful - especially during the evening magic hour.
Do a little exploring up here, soak in the views and then when you're done simply go back the way you came. It's much quicker to descend this trail, but make sure you have shoes with good traction because it can be a slippery climb down!
How to get there: Take the 5 Freeway to Burbank Boulevard (Exit 146B). Head two blocks north on Burbank Boulevard and turn right on Third Street. Take the next left onto Howard Road. Go 1.5 miles and when you see the Park Entrance turn right onto Wildwood Canyon Road. Take this road up through the park - you will pass some picnic areas and a few other trailheads. Eventually you will find yourself at the turnaround at the top of the road and where the trailhead begins. There should be parking just below this area.
Address: 1701 Wildwood Canyon Road, Burbank, CA 91501