Climbing Stough Canyon & the Verdugo Mountains

The Verdugo Mountains make its presence known as one of the defining features of the SFV.

Yet for CiclaValley, I’ve pretty much stayed away from this imposing outcrop along the northeast valley.

From afar, you get the sense this is mountain bike territory, as the vertical visually overpowers the horizontal, so I’ve stayed away.

The counterbalance has been my quest for more places to ride, so one day I decided to take my cyclocross geared, slick tired bike up for a spin.

There are a number of options to reach the peak, so after doing my research at the National Archive of Strava Library, Stough Canyon seemed like the proper balance of doable steepness vs convenience to my home.



Getting there is a bit of a grind, as climbing by De Bell Golf Course is a sweat inducer even before you reach dirt.

The trail is formally gated and there’s a nearby fountain and bathrooms at the Nature Center if you need to freshen up.

If you choose to ride all the way up to Verdugo Peak, get ready for 4.0 miles of climbing gaining 1,577 feet(tack on another mile and 500+ ft if you include the climb along De Bell).

The start can be a bit disparaging, as I found myself already struggling in my lowest gear.


The first stretch of hurt

You’ll be huffing and puffing hard just to get through this first half mile section, but if you survive this portion then congratulations. It’s also the toughest.

Your temporary reward will being able to downshift and some easy spinning before you hit the junction at the Verdugo Motorway, where you’ll make a right to continue your way up.

Odds are you’ll be passing a number of hikers as you complete this first mile as this trail is popular with the locals. You’ll also see a number of other mountain bikers who may grunt at you if you pass them on a cyclocross bike.


You get a unique view of the 210 Freeway

One thing to keep a lookout for are bears in the area, as one was spotted last week.

As you transition to the backside of the mountain, you not only get some great views of the San Gabriels, but a vantage point of the 210 Freeway that makes it look like an urban anachronism in this setting.

Besides the trail being in great condition, you’ll also find a number helpful and easy to see mile markers to help guide your way up.


Handy mile markers even with elevation info.

The second mile will put a steady hurt of you. It’s not as bad as the start, but at the end of this section you’ll get a nice flat spot that’ll let you recover at the proper time.

Around this spot, you’ll also notice some single track paralleling that looks really precarious to handle. I had seen a video of my friend Austen descending it with relative easy, but seeing it in person really confuses me how he was able to defy physics and stay upright.

After peaking into the valley, you pull back around to the Tujunga side where you’ll continue the grind and feel like you’ve cycled far further than the actual milage.

As you come up to mile three, you’ll see the first tower up on your right. I made the mistake not just the first time, but the second as well taking the fork in the road towards that direction, but the trail dead ends at that peak. I’m not too smart.

If you’re brainer than me, the final mile to Verdugo Peak is rolly and a fun stretch to ride.


You do get a reprieve here and there.

The ending pitch is 14%, but considering it’s paved, that feels equivalent to the 9% dirt you’ve been climbing.

At the top, you get a pretty good view on the valley and beyond, although it always appears smoggy when you get up there.

This is a great trail to ride that you could probably getaway with on your road bike if you were so cavalier. There are also a number of other trails making their way to the peak from Sun Valley, Tujunga and Glendale.

Maybe I’m late to the party, but the Verdugo Mountains shouldn’t be a secret as a great place to ride. How can you miss it?