San Vicente Mountain Park is a small, 10-acre park set in the Santa Monica Mountains above Los Angeles that is noteworthy for 3 main features: it is the site of an abandoned Nike Missile Site at the mountain's summit; the views from the top are some of the most spectacular in the region; and it is a gateway to other, larger and arguably more interesting parks and trail systems, like Topanga Canyon and Canyonback Wilderness Parks.
Its trail, the Old Nike Missile Site Trail, begins at the entrance off the dirt part of Mulholland Drive at the base of the mountain on the West Mandeville Fire Road (also called the Water and Power Pole Rd). There is parking along the road, or you can drive up the pocked and rutted entrance road and park in a small lot near the old military base's gate. At the area behind the gate are restrooms, water fountains and doggy water bowls, and a picnic shelter with some tables. There are also some benches where you and Fido can take a rest before heading up the trail to the summit.
The trail begins with a steep climb to above the tree line, where any thoughts of shade need to be discarded. Once above the tree line, you'll be able to glimpse the remnants of the Cold War installation, like an old rusted water tower and an observation tower that's climbable for those wanting an even greater challenge. Cantilevered into the hillside is a metal platform that has been converted to a lookout point for visitors, who are treated to 360-degree views of the entire San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles Basin, the Encino Reservoir, the Pacific and on really clear days, Catalina Island.
In spite of the fact this mountain lies within the hustle and bustle of Encino and the Valley, there's a sense of isolation that is almost eerie in its silence. Informational signs tell the story of the Cold War and it's possible to imagine a city and a nation holding its breath, waiting for the nuclear missiles that Kruschev promised but never fired.
The Old Nike Missile Site Trail is short, but well worth the effort for its unmatchable views and short history lesson. Woofderful!
Bring sunscreen and a hat, and plenty of water for both you and the pooch!