Old Youth Camp Loop presents a short hike and a decent workout to the cool ruins of an abandoned and burned down camp in the Verdugo Mountains. In addition to the old camp, the 2.6-mile loop with 700 feet of elevation gain passes an overlook with broad views over the San Fernando Valley and several other scenic spots. The hike begins from the Stough Canyon Trailhead, where there is a nature center for another environmental experience. Stough Canyon is easy to reach from Burbank, and while the hike offers urban views, you will also feel that you are trekking deeper in the mountains.
Old Youth Camp Loop explores a scenic area in the Verdugo Mountains, a small mountain range separated from the San Gabriel Mountains by Tujunga Valley. Start hiking up Stough Canyon Trail (also know as Stough Canyon Motorway and Stough Canyon Mountain Way), a dirt fire road departing from the end of Walnut Avenue (Stough Canyon Nature Center will be to the right). Venturing up the back of the canyon, the trail takes one switchback to the left leading up to a junction at a second switchback. The road to the left dead-ends at a holding tank, so turn right to continue up the main trail. There is a bench at the junction for those who already need a break, or just want to pause and enjoy views across Stough Canyon toward an unnamed 2,646-foot peak to the north along the main ridgeline of the Verdugo Mountains.
Proceed northwest up the trail, climbing higher up the back of the canyon. The loop begins at the next junction, half a mile from the start, where Old Youth Camp Loop Trail breaks off to the left. You can hike the loop in either direction, but it probably makes the most sense to hike clockwise, starting with the View Point off Old Youth Camp Loop Trail, followed by the pleasant track up to the old camp, leading to the return route down Stough Canyon Trail with views across the San Fernando Valley toward downtown Los Angeles.
Turn left at the junction, following signs for the View Point and Old Youth Camp Loop Trail. You will ascend a tenth of a mile to a junction in a saddle on the ridge framing the west side of Stough Canyon. Turn left again to reach the Vista Point and hike up a short rise to a clearing on the ridge where you will find a bench and broad views over the San Fernando Valley. Downtown Burbank and the Bob Hope Airport sit below the lower slopes of the Verdugo Mountains to the southwest. Across the San Fernando Valley to the south, you’ll see the east end of the Santa Monica Mountains, terminating with Griffith Park. The radio towered-summit of Mount Lee, which hosts the Hollywood Sign on the opposing face, is visible just to the south, and the radiant skyscrapers of downtown LA complete the view to the southeast.
The View Point is 2/3 of a mile and 400 vertical feet from the trailhead. A footpath continues southeast down the ridge, but you should turn around to continue the Old Youth Camp Loop. Backtrack down to the junction in the little saddle and continue north up the ridge on Old Youth Camp Loop Trail. The trail narrows to a single track as you ascend the ridge. With each step, you will get broader over-the-shoulder views of the San Fernando Valley.
A mile from the start, you will reach the ruins of an abandoned camp. A tall brick chimney is the first thing you will notice, rising from the concrete footprint of an old building that must have been a lovely lodge at one time.
The old camp is located in a plateaued saddle in the mountains covered in buckwheat and other low brush and grasses. Standing at the camp, the cityscape disappears behind you and you will get a lovely view north through a gap in the mountains toward Peak 2,646, followed by the San Gabriel Mountains farther to the north. In the back of your mind, you will know that you are still in Burbank, but this view can nearly convince you that you are deep within a mountain wilderness. It is a scenic spot!
The path climbs north above the old camp. Follow it for a tenth of a mile up to a junction and stay to the right, following a marker for Verdugo Fire Road. Next, Old Youth Camp Loop Trail crosses a firebreak, 0.2 miles above the old camp, and continues toward Verdugo Fire Road. To the left, the firebreak ascends to a higher point above the youth camp before dropping to Verdugo Fire Road at the end of Old Youth Camp Loop Trail. To the right, the firebreak descends toward Verdugo Fire Road at the junction with Stough Canyon Trail. Therefore, you could use the steep firebreak to reach a higher point above the trail, or as an abrupt shortcut that skips the top part of the loop.
Proceed along Old Youth Camp Loop Trail across the firebreak. The track turns to the left and exposes you to greater views north across Tujunga Valley toward the San Gabriel Mountains. A fleeting glimpse of the 210 Freeway is visible in the valley below as you come to the end of Old Youth Camp Loop Trail at a T-junction with Verdugo Fire Road (also know as Verdugo Motorway), 1.3 miles from the trailhead.
You could extend this hike a great deal by hiking farther along the Verdugo Fire Road, which is a big dirt road across the main ridgeline of the Verdugo Mountains. For the basic loop, turn right, descending northeast back toward Stough Canyon. After just a quarter mile, you will reach a pronounced junction in the saddle below Peak 2,646 (where there is a path ascending the ridge to the summit). Leave Verdugo Fire Road and turn right down Stough Canyon Trail, following a marker for the nature center. Descend this wide dirt road for 1.05 miles back down to the Stough Canyon Trailhead. You will pass Old Youth Camp Loop Trail after 0.55 miles, closing the loop, before repeating the final half mile on Stough Canyon Trail. When the hike is finished, considering strolling over to the Stough Canyon Nature Center to check out exhibits on the area’s native plants and animals.
No permit is required to hike Old Youth Camp Loop Trail in Stough Canyon and parking at the trailhead is free. Dogs (on leashes) and mountain bikes are also welcome on these trails in the Verdugo Mountains, so get out and enjoy!
To get to the trailhead: Take the 5 Freeway to Exit 146B for Burbank Boulevard. At the end of the offramp, turn north on Burbank Blvd. and make the first left on San Fernando Boulevard. Make the next right on Delaware Road. Go north for two blocks, turn right on Glenoaks Boulevard, and make the next left onto Walnut Avenue Proceed two miles up Walnut Ave. and park near the cul-de-sac at the top of the road near the Stough Canyon Nature Center. The trail starts from the end of Walnut Avenue.
Trailhead address: 2300 Walnut Avenue (Stough Canyon Avenue), Burbank, CA 91504
Trailhead coordinates: 34.213328, -118.30705 (34° 12′ 47.98″N 118° 18′ 25.37″W)
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