Hiding right off the road in downtown Burbank, Wildwood Canyon Park and Trail is a beautiful destination for outdoor enthusiasts looking for exploration and maybe a little bit of challenge without driving too far out of the city.
A selection of trails with differing difficulty and nature to observe, Wildwood Canyon boasts everything from park and picnic to climbing and adventure that culminates in arguably the best views of the San Fernando Valley for those willing to push to the peak.
- Trail type: Out-and-back
- Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult
- Length: 5 miles (one-way)
- Elevation gain and loss: 950 feet, 950 feet
- Trailhead Coordinates: 34.202806, -118.297713
- Location: Wildwood Canyon Park, Burbank, California
- Season: Yaer-round
Getting to the Wildwood Canyon Trail
Wildwood Canyon Park might be one of the simplest trails to get to, especially for those already located in the San Fernando Valley.
Depending on where you’re coming from, you can take Magnolia Boulevard all the way through Burbank, then a quick left on Bel Aire Drive, right onto Harvard Road and you’ll arrive at the trailhead.
Alternatively, you can take I-5 or 134 into Burbank and follow the same route from there. A park will greet you immediately at the bottom near the golf course, and a road with plenty of free parking winds up the hill and ends at the trailhead itself.
Starting from the main trailhead, Wildwood Canyon Trail begins as a moderate climb through an assortment of beautiful plants, wildflowers, and other vegetation that is gorgeous to look at as you warm-up for the rest of the hike.
Walking through the canyon, there are trees overhanging the trail, unique rock and cliff faces built into the hills, and notable colorful flora different from the usual desert succulents that cover the California countryside.
The trail will become somewhat steep pretty quickly as you climb to the first viewpoint. After a short winding route, you will soon arrive at a lookout point with picnic tables and plenty of space to look out across both the Valley and looking south, the LA river leading into downtown’s skyscrapers.
If you’re not looking for a strenuous hike, your day could end right here; the view is already one of the best of the area with the hills and canyon stretch out both behind and in front of you.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for further challenge and a fulfilling reward, push onward because the view only gets more majestic the further you go.
At this point, the main trail branches off into a multitude of paths which is ideal for the adventure-seekers and explorers to blaze their own trail either across the lower hills, back down into the canyon, or up towards the peak.
The major (and most popular) trail is where Wildwood Canyon switches gears and is recommended for more experienced hikers. Immediately the path becomes difficult in terms of steepness and stability, with loose gravel and jutting rocks that require a careful climb.
If making your own way up a mountain sounds like your kind of adventure, it’s immensely fun to meticulously free-run up boulders and rocky roads just to emerge through the brush at yet another gorgeous lookout point.
While Wildwood Canyon Trail is unrelentingly steep the further you climb, every short push will end in a flat-ground break point that allows you to catch your breath and turn around to see the view of both canyon and valley.
It’s incredible to see the trail snake out below you every time you clear and checkpoint, and equally gorgeous (if daunting) to see the trail ahead of you like nature’s staircase. The pathway is almost literally carved into the mountains and gets narrower at certain points as you climb making it feel as if you’re on the edge of the world.
Eventually, you will see the final destination of your hike looming above you at the highest point, notably marked by a radio tower, letting you know your hard work is about to pay off. A final walk of winding footpath coupled with a last steep push of rocky terrain and you will emerge victorious on a breathtaking vista.
At the top, the view is unbeatable and you can literally see from one end of the San Fernando Valley to the other. Being at such a high elevation and on the east end of the Valley, you can see up across the hills past where Griffith Observatory lies, and even through the trees and cityscape to Echo Park, downtown Los Angeles, and then north towards Santa Clarita and beyond.
At the summit, a solitary memorial chair awaits, inviting the hiker to sit down and soak in the view, the air, and the accomplishment before they head back down. Or, if you feel like your adventurous spirit’s thirst hasn’t been quenched, you can keep heading down the Vital Link Trail to explore more of the available Verdugo Mountains.
Be cautious on the way down as well, because the trail is just as precarious in the opposite direction. The sightseeing, though, might be even better than on the way up as you have the whole perspective of the canyon change on your descent, becoming almost a brand-new hike.
Wildwood Canyon Trail is gorgeous and is a popular destination that sees a lot of foot traffic on the weekends, though never feeling crowded. Dogs are encouraged as long as they’re leashed and are used to hiking (mine didn’t even break a sweat and towed me up the hillside.)
Additionally, Wildwood Canyon Park itself has plenty to offer apart from hiking with areas to relax, lounge, eat, and play- including weekly yoga groups.
Overall, Wildwood Canyon Trail is a strenuous but beyond gratifying hike that will show you a side of San Fernando Valley’s sights and nature you’ve probably never seen, giving locals and tourists alike a nice change of pace hike only minutes from a bustling urban center.