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TAKE ME

No gridlock on this Valley road

Mike Diamond, 45, who has led 20 people at once up Fryman Canyon, this time brings a following of one: Times photographer Robert Gauthier.

January 20, 2004|Mike Diamond; Robert Gauthier

Pretty much everyone I have ever taken up the Rainforest Trail in Fryman Canyon is blown away. It's this hidden thing, right in Studio City, yet it feels like you are kind of in the jungle. It's 10 times more beautiful than the basic loop in Fryman Canyon. Although there might be 100 people hiking Fryman, there won't be anyone on this trail.

I've been doing this hike for 10 years. Someone who had grown up in the area told me about this fire road that they hung out on when they were young. It's not just a fire road, though. You almost forget you are in the Valley. You don't hear any car horns, and even when it's hot, there are plenty of pockets of shade from walnut and oak trees.

Even though the hike starts in Fryman, you have to go into a residential area and walk up a cul-de-sac to reach it. It looks like you are heading toward the driveway of a very nice house.

About 20 feet in, a sign declares it the Rainforest Trail, and within half a mile, it starts getting secluded and very private.

The trail has a lot of switchbacks that kind of loop around. Deep into it, there's an abandoned car, and you can't help but wonder, "How did that car get there?" It's a woody trip, and I'd definitely recommend wearing long pants because there are areas with poison oak and brush.

I'm a personal trainer, so I like getting out of the gym and taking clients there. We can walk and talk for an hour and a half. There's no way they'd walk that long on a treadmill, and it's easy enough that they can go back on their own.

At the top, there's a scenic overlook with a little workout station, just wood and bars where you can do sit-ups and dips, and benches where you can sit and read or appreciate the panoramic view of the San Fernando Valley.

The particulars

Where: The Betty B. Dearing Trail rises out of the 128-acre Wilacre Park on the north face of Fryman Canyon in the eastern Santa Monica Mountains.

What: A 4 1/2-mile round-trip hike that crests at a scenic overlook on Mulholland Drive between Laurel Canyon and Coldwater Canyon boulevards.

How: From the San Fernando Valley, take Laurel Canyon Boulevard less than a mile south of Ventura Boulevard to Fryman Road. Wilacre Park is at 3431 Fryman Road, Studio City.

There is a parking lot.

Back story: Maxwell Fire Road was rechristened the Betty B. Dearing Trail in 1992 to honor the conservationist dedicated to seeing the Backbone Trail completed, even though the trail that bears her name is nowhere near the Backbone Trail.

Another activist also is honored here: After Nancy Hoover Pohl spent 62 years trying to save natural lands in the Santa Monicas, the overlook at Fryman Canyon was named for her in 1999.

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