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Take a Hike: La Tuna Canyon

By Kathy Arellano
On November 27, 2003

Minutes away from the hustle and bustle of city life, when one is in La Tuna Canyon, the bird sounds and smell of trees and chaparral soothe the rattled senses. The environment is perfect for a hike.

Constructed in the spring of 1989 by the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, the La Tuna Foot Trail was the first built in modern times to explore the Verdugo Mountains, according to "Afoot and Afield in Los Angeles County" author Jerry Schad.

"La Tuna" is the Spanish word for the baseball-sized, reddish-peach colored fruit that decorates the prickly pear cactus - an inherent part of Southern California's landscape. This is particularly so in La Tuna Canyon, an area between Sun Valley and La Crescenta.

Most of the canyon's interior slopes have been razed, making way for homes and domestic flora, but there are still large patches of the wild cactus and the fruit is a favorite with the cardinals and blue jays.

The foot trail entrance is approximately one mile south of the Foothill (210) Freeway on La Tuna Canyon Road at a small turnout. The trail steps change to a single track trail (a narrow bike trail) farther up, creating a loop with the Hostetter fire road, then the La Tuna Canyon Mountainway.

Bicyclists and hikers can access the more visible Mountainway trailhead located immediately south of the freeway exit. There is adequate parking nearby and the fire roads are well maintained, but steep in areas.

This ride or hike is not for the faint of heart. There is a 1,417-foot elevation change and the trails are hot and dry with many switchbacks and hard terrain. But the panoramic view from the 3,300-foot peaks is extraordinary, offering views from San Pedro to Granada Hills, according to 16-year-old Eagle Scout Steven Kilbert.

"Most people ride or hike in the mornings or evenings and on weekends," Kilbert said. "It's cool to watch the city life in the morning and at night as well as airplanes at the Van Nuys and Burbank airports."  

This ride/hike requires a better-than-average level of stamina and experience. Layer clothing and wear sturdy footwear. Bring plenty of water and energy food, such as a nutrition bar or trail mix. Be careful - this is a popular area for rattlesnakes and poison oak.

"It is a good ride for an intermediate and challenged rider, but would also be a good day hike," Kilbert said. "I recommend a mountain bike with good shocks and brakes." 

From Valley College, take your favorite route to the Ventura (134) Freeway east heading toward Pasadena. Take the Glendale (2) Freeway north to the Foothill (210) Freeway west. Exit at La Tuna Canyon Road. Turn left at the bottom of the ramp and drive under the freeway. Just beyond the overpass and to the left is the Mountainway trailhead. If you travel another mile on La Tuna Canyon, the second turnout area on the left marks the foot trailhead.

For pictures visit www.socamtbr.com and click on the La Tuna link. Visit www.nwsla.noaa.gov/forecast.html and click on 'valleys' for local weather information.


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