Mandeville Canyon is a north-south running trench in Brentwood area of the Santa Monica Mountains. Above Mandeville Canyon is San Vicente Mountain, a 1,960-foot summit that was used at the start of the cold war as a defense site to protect Los Angeles from Soviet attacks. Mandeville Canyon is enclosed by two long finger-like ridges, Westridge and Canyonback Ridge. There are trails running down each ridge that can be reached via fire road from Mandeville Canyon Road, which runs down the center of the residential canyon. These trails can be used to explore the upper stretches of Mandeville Canyon and San Vicente Mountain Park, creating a 5-mile loop with 770 feet of elevation gain.
Beginning from the bottom of the loop, in Mandeville Canyon, you might head east up Hollyhock Fire Road to Canyonback Ridge, but then you would end up looking over your shoulder the entire time to appreciate the scenery. It is preferable to complete the loop in a clockwise direction, ascending first to Westridge, then continuing up to San Vicente Mountain, across Mulholland Fire Road, and down Canyonback Ridge to Hollyhock Fire Road. At the end, there is a short distance to walk on Mandeville Canyon Road to return to the first trailhead.
The dirt hiking road up to Westridge starts from Garden Lane Road, a few hundred feet off Mandeville Canyon Road, 4.8 miles north of Sunset Boulevard. The service road is used by DWP to access an electric line running up the west side of the canyon. The road is closed to other vehicle traffic, but is a welcoming route for hikers and mountain bikers. Half a mile up, stay to the right through a junction with a dead-end road that heads south to more electric poles. Continue out of the canyon, enjoying views to the east toward Canyonback Ridge and the San Gabriel Mountains beyond.
After 1.45 miles and 500 feet of elevation gain, the road reaches the top of the ridge and joins Westridge Fire Road. Turn right and hike half a mile to the summit of San Vicente Mountain, gaining another 175 feet.
San Vicente Mountain was one of several summits around Los Angeles used as a Nike missile defense site in the 1950s to detect and intersect Russian missiles and aircraft directed at the city. After a decade, Nike missiles were made obsolete by long-range technology, but the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy has done an excellent job preserving this old site, adding informative panels to keep this history alive. There are several benches and tables spread out around the old buildings, along with restrooms and a water fountain, making San Vicente Mountain perfect for a picnic.
Climb the steps up to the old lookout tower and take in the panorama below. There is a great view to the south over the canyons and ridges covered by this hike. To the west are the higher peaks of the Santa Monica Mountains in Topanga State Park and beyond. Looking north is Encino Reservoir and the belly of the San Fernando Valley.
To continue the loop, head north down to dirt Mulholland Drive. Turn right taking this unpaved road for 0.8 miles down to the yellow gate that typically marks the end of the drivable portion of Mulholland Drive (the road is sometimes open all the way to San Vicente Mountain). Pass through one yellow gate and go straight through the next, picking up the trail to the right, heading south down Canyonback Ridge. Like Westridge and Sullivan Ridge, there is both a gradual fire road and a more adventurous single-track heading down Canyonback Ridge. Hike either track, but pay attention for the unmarked Hollyhock Trail junction, about a mile down the ridge.
From Mulholland Drive, Canyonback Trail heads uphill to a split. A single-track climbs straight ahead to the high point of the ridge, while the fire road curves around to the right, bypassing some of the elevation. The two tracks reunite on the other side of the rise, and cross each other periodically on their way down the ridge. At the third such crossing, at a point where the road comes in from the east to meet the ridge-top trail, there is another single-track heading west toward Mandeville Canyon. Hollyhock Trail looks overgrown at the top, and those not looking for it could easily walk right past. Upper Canyonback Trail continues for half a mile down to the Mountain Gate Country Club Estates, a housing development built into the ridge. Beyond the homes Lower Canyonback Trail continues down the ridge for 2.1 miles to the top of Kenter Avenue.
Turn right down Hollyhock Trail, which swings northwest into the canyon. After a short distance, the trail passes through a metal gate, and widens to about five feet. There are nice views up and down the lush canyon as you descend 500 feet over 0.77 miles. A small sycamore grove at the bottom of this once-paved trail segues into the houses along Mandeville Canyon Road. Turn right and walk 0.3 miles up the road to return to the first trailhead, where you may drive home or hike the loop all over again.
Westridge-Canyonback Park and San Vicente Mountain Park are part of the Big Wild region of the Santa Monica Mountains, which houses a large network of trails. This 5-mile loop with 770 feet of elevation gain is an excellent way to view two ridges, one canyon, and a summit with a well-preserved piece of local history.
Dogs and mountain bikes are welcome. Hollyhock Road is about half as wide as DWP road, so it may be easier for bikers do the loop backwards, ascending the narrower trail, and descending the wider road coming down from Westridge. No fee or permit is required, so get out and enjoy!
To get to the trailhead: From Sunset Boulevard, 2.3 miles west of the 405 freeway, head north on Mandeville Canyon Road. Drive 4.8 miles, and turn left onto Garden Lane Road. Park on the right and begin hiking up the fire road to the left.
Trailhead address: 13137 Garden Land Road, Los Angeles, CA 90049
Trailhead coordinates: 34.121207, -118.50665 (34° 07′ 16.34″N 118° 30′ 23.93″W)
|Westridge Trail to San Vicente Mountain|
This 7.4-mile hike travels a scenic ridge between a Brentwood neighborhood and a summit that was once used as a Nike Missile site.
|Mulholland Drive to San Vicente Mountain|
This 2-mile hike approaches the peak from the east and offers views to the north and south en route to the old Nike Missile site.
|Upper Canyonback Trail|
This 3 mile hike descends Canyonback Ridge from Mulholland Drive to the Mountain Gate Country Club Estates.
|Lower Canyonback Trail|
This 4.2 mile hike ascends Canyonback Ridge from Kenter Ave. in Brentwood to the Mountain Gate Country Club Estates.
|Getty View Park|
This 3-mile out and back hike crosses East Sepulveda Fire Road (Casiano Fire Road) on a ridge east of the 405 Freeway that offers light traffic and plentiful views of the Getty Museum and Santa Monica Bay.
This 8.5-mile round trip hike follows a wide trail up the center of a sycamore-filled canyon.
A prominent lone-standing Live Oak along Sullivan Ridge makes a natural turnaround point and a 7.5 to 8.3 mile round trip hike.
This 3.85-mile loop descending from Sullivan Ridge Fire Road into Rustic Canyon, where hikers can visit abandoned buildings once occupied by Nazi sympathizers.
|Caballero Canyon Trail|
This 3.4-mile round trip hike ascends a canyon on the north side of the Santa Monica Mountains with views over the San Fernando Valley.
|More trails in the Santa Monica Mountains|
Explore other destinations in the range.
|Eagle Rock from Santa Ynez Canyon|
This 7.4-mile hike takes the long route from a canyon in the Pacific Palisades up to the panoramic sandstone summit.
This 2.1-mile (one way) trail crosses a lush secluded canyon connecting Temescal Gateway Park to Will Rogers State Park.
|Parker Mesa Overlook|
This steep out-and-back hike rewards the effort with excellent views of the Pacific Ocean.
|Saddle Peak from Stunt High Trail|
This 7.5-mile hike combines Stunt High Trail and a section of the Backbone Trail to visit the 6th tallest summit in the Santa Monica Mountains.
This 4.75-mile hike climbs 500 feet over a scenic mountain between Liberty Canyon and Las Virgenes Canyon in Malibu Creek State Park.
|Zuma Canyon Ocean View Trail – Canyon View Trail Loop|
This 3.1-mile loop demands more effort than Zuma Canyon Trail and provides great ocean and canyon views.