Hikes: Hogback Ridge

This is a hike I've been wanting to complete for some time. I'd actually attempted this hike twice before, but inclement weather and inappropriate footwear on the steep, slippery slopes thwarted me.

View from 1st Overlook

This hike begins at the Commonwealth Dr. entrance to Griffith Park. From the trailhead at the gate, head up the paved road for .25 mi and turn right on Vista Del Valle Dr., a paved fire road heading east. Views to the south of the L.A. Basin open up almost immediately. At the .7 mile mark, you'll find a trail leading down into Cedar Grove, a small shaded forest with a few picnic tables and a couple of rest benches with views over Los Feliz. It's a worthwhile stop on a warm day.

View from SweatPea's

Continuing up Vista Del Valle Dr., you'll find Sweetpea's Retreat just behind the water tower on the left. Sweetpea's offers stellar views of Griffith Observatory perched on the adjacent ridge to the west; Los Feliz and Hollywood to the southwest and the so-called Miracle Mile beyond. There's also a water fountain and a drinking dish available for humans and their canine friends.

Griffith Helipad

Continuing up the road, you'll find yet another drinking fountain with troughs available for horses and dogs at the 1.4 mile mark. At this point the road hairpins and heads west towards Griffith Helipad. At the 1.7 mile mark you'll arrive at the helipad which provides one of the best views of Downtown L.A., Hollywood, and Griffith Observatory in all of the park. It is also well-known as a filming location for car commercials, like the latest one (as of 2015) featuring Matthew McConaughey driving a Lincoln.

The Bridge of Despair

From the helipad, take the trail heading northwest (there's a tool shed at the trailhead) - this is the Hogback Trail. At the 2 mile mark, you'll reach a small bridge traversing a steep chasm. Just before the bridge there is a single-track trail on the right which leads up to Glendale Peak, another worthwhile climb. From here, the trail narrows and begins a steep ascent up to Hogback Peak. From Hogback Peak (elev. 1,480 ft), at the 2.7 mile mark, you're provided with a 360-degree view of Burbank and the Verdugo mountains to the north; Glendale and the San Gabriel mountains to the east; Downtown L.A. and Hollywood to the south; and Mt. Hollywood to the west.

View over Glendale from Hogback Ridge

From here, the trail forms a knife-edge, dropping off sharply on either side of the trail. This section is truly spectacular. Continuing along the knife-edge, you'll descend along a little saddle, before ascending up to Dante's View. Just shy of Dante's View, at the 3 mile mark, the Sang Suk bench provides excellent views over Burbank to the north. Just a few yards beyond is another water fountain with dishes for dogs and troughs for dogs.

Sunset from Mt. Hollywood

At this point, you could stay left and continue down the Charlie Turner trail towards Dante's View, or, stay right and head up to Mt. Hollywood, only .25 mi away. If you choose this route and hit the summit near sunset, consider heading down the western flank of the mountain, past the Captain's Roost - the sunsets can be spectacular.

Whichever route you take, you'll wind up at the 6-points about 200 ft below the summit of Mt. Hollywood. From here, take the single-track trail heading southwest (if you're facing south, it's the trail at 2 o'clock). When you arrive at the next trail junction, continue heading east (roughly straight ahead) down Vermont Canyon trail. This is another single-track trail that affords lovely views over Vermont Canyon and the Greek Theatre below. In the summer months, during the evening, you'll often be serenaded during your descent into the canyon.

As you approach the bottom of the canyon, you'll travel alongside of the Bird Sanctuary before reaching Vermont Canyon Rd. At this point, you have two options: take Riverside Trail back to Commonwealth Canyon Dr. (1 mi back to the trailhead entrance), or, simply head down past the Greek Theatre, and turn left onto Commonwealth Canyon Dr. (only .5 mi back to the trail entrance).

Distance: 6.0 mi
Duration: 3.5 hrs
Elevation Range: 720 ft - 1,625 ft
Net Elevation Gain: 905 ft
Total Elevation Gain: 955 ft
Trailhead Coordinates: 34.120955, -118.300380
Description: A spectacular hike, on a knife-edge trail.