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Like a ship caught fast on a sandbar, the Verdugo Mountains protrude above what would otherwise be an unbroken sheet of alluvial deposits slanting down from the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains toward the San Fernando Valley. The narrow, sloping La Crescenta Valley divides the Verdugos from the San Gabriels to the east, while the pancake-flat San Fernando Valley stretches nearly 20 miles to the west.

Naturally, the summit ridge of the Verdugo Mountains serves as an excellent platform from which to view the vast L.A. megalopolis, and in winter, often the ocean, too. Try the following 5.5-mile, looping hike or mountain-bike ride up to the south end of the ridge late in the day, and you may enjoy both a spectacular sunset and a blaze of lights after twilight fades. From now through late January, at the vantage of the ridgetop, the sun sets over the ocean beyond Santa Monica. At other times of the year, the sun's sinking path intersects the coastal mountains. The seemingly strange fact of the sun setting over land most of the year is a consequence of the east-west orientation of California's coastline for a considerable distance "up" the coast from Los Angeles.

You'll find the trailhead on Beaudry Boulevard, 0.4 mile west of Country Club Drive in the city of Glendale (not to be confused with Country Club Drive in Burbank). Park on the street, walk up a paved segment of fire road, bypass a vehicle gate, and continue on dirt past a debris basin to where the fire road splits (0.3 mile). Choose for your way the shadier but less viewful right branch, Beaudry North Fire Road. You'll return to this junction by way of the left branch, the Beaudry South Fire Road. About halfway up the north road you'll come to a trickling spring and a water tank nestled in a shady ravine, a good place for a breather.

When you reach the summit ridge (2.3 miles), turn sharply left on Verdugo Fire Road and continue climbing another 0.4 mile toward a cluster of brightly painted radio towers atop a 2656-foot bump -- the highest point along this route. From the towers, continue south along the ridge 0.6 mile to a road junction. The right branch descends to Sunshine Drive in Glendale; you take the left branch and return along an east ridge to the road fork just above the debris basin.

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