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Vital Link Trail

The practically straight-up Vital Link Trail connects popular Wildwood Canyon Park in the Verdugo foothills with the Verdugo Mountains crestline. Almost every step on the trail yields a higher vantage for the panoramic view of the plate-like San Fernando Valley floor and the pillowy Santa Monica Mountains beyond. The reverse, downhill leg of the trek is a possibly knee-banging exercise, but the view then lies directly in front of you. The entirely south-facing, sun-struck aspect of this hike mandates that you hike only during the coolest time of year. That means January or February, two months that also yield frequent crystalline-air conditions that will likely enhance the spectacular view.

To get to the foot of the trail, exit Interstate 5 at Olive Avenue in Burbank. Follow Olive northeast 1.2 miles to Sunset Canyon Drive. Turn left, go six blocks northwest, then turn right on Harvard Road. Go 0.6 mile and turn right into Wildwood Canyon Park. Drive 0.3 mile to the trailhead on the left (this is actually the second of a total of four gateways to the park’s trail system).

Starting off from the trailhead, head sharply up the canyon wall to the north. After 1/4 mile, make a right and settle into a moderate grade that will take you up along the narrow crest of the canyon wall. Go 0.3 mile and stay left at the next trail junction. Go another 0.3 mile (not quite as far as a picnic table perched on a nearby knoll), and look for the narrow Vital Link Trail slanting left.

The real climb begins now as you doggedly cling to a narrow ridge trending north and acutely uphill. Continue all the way to the Verdugo Fire Road, high atop the Verdugo crest. You’ve gone 1.8 miles and gained 1600 feet of elevation so far — so if you’re happy enough with the view at this point, you can retrace your steps for a round-trip distance of 3.6 miles.

Possible extensions include a visit to the nearby Fire Warden’s Grove (an experimental forest of planted trees), a traverse west and then south into Stough Canyon, or a traverse east, ending at any of several trailheads on the north or west sides of the Verdugo Mountains. The Vital Link trail truly provides a vital link for all kinds of travel possibilities.

This article contains information about a publicly owned recreation or wilderness area. Trails and pathways are not necessarily marked. Conditions can change rapidly. Hikers should be properly equipped and have safety and navigational skills. The Reader and Jerry Schad assume no responsibility for any adverse experience.

Vital Link Trail
Climb the steep trail linking the foot and the crest of the Verdugo Mountains outside Burbank.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 130 miles
Biking length: 3.6 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous

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The practically straight-up Vital Link Trail connects popular Wildwood Canyon Park in the Verdugo foothills with the Verdugo Mountains crestline. Almost every step on the trail yields a higher vantage for the panoramic view of the plate-like San Fernando Valley floor and the pillowy Santa Monica Mountains beyond. The reverse, downhill leg of the trek is a possibly knee-banging exercise, but the view then lies directly in front of you. The entirely south-facing, sun-struck aspect of this hike mandates that you hike only during the coolest time of year. That means January or February, two months that also yield frequent crystalline-air conditions that will likely enhance the spectacular view.

To get to the foot of the trail, exit Interstate 5 at Olive Avenue in Burbank. Follow Olive northeast 1.2 miles to Sunset Canyon Drive. Turn left, go six blocks northwest, then turn right on Harvard Road. Go 0.6 mile and turn right into Wildwood Canyon Park. Drive 0.3 mile to the trailhead on the left (this is actually the second of a total of four gateways to the park’s trail system).

Starting off from the trailhead, head sharply up the canyon wall to the north. After 1/4 mile, make a right and settle into a moderate grade that will take you up along the narrow crest of the canyon wall. Go 0.3 mile and stay left at the next trail junction. Go another 0.3 mile (not quite as far as a picnic table perched on a nearby knoll), and look for the narrow Vital Link Trail slanting left.

The real climb begins now as you doggedly cling to a narrow ridge trending north and acutely uphill. Continue all the way to the Verdugo Fire Road, high atop the Verdugo crest. You’ve gone 1.8 miles and gained 1600 feet of elevation so far — so if you’re happy enough with the view at this point, you can retrace your steps for a round-trip distance of 3.6 miles.

Possible extensions include a visit to the nearby Fire Warden’s Grove (an experimental forest of planted trees), a traverse west and then south into Stough Canyon, or a traverse east, ending at any of several trailheads on the north or west sides of the Verdugo Mountains. The Vital Link trail truly provides a vital link for all kinds of travel possibilities.

This article contains information about a publicly owned recreation or wilderness area. Trails and pathways are not necessarily marked. Conditions can change rapidly. Hikers should be properly equipped and have safety and navigational skills. The Reader and Jerry Schad assume no responsibility for any adverse experience.

Vital Link Trail
Climb the steep trail linking the foot and the crest of the Verdugo Mountains outside Burbank.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 130 miles
Biking length: 3.6 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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