Monday, November 25, 2013

HIDDEN GEMS - San Gabriel River Bike Trail and Natural Area

About 20 miles east of downtown Los Angeles is the San Gabriel River. From its headwaters, high in the San Gabriel Mountains above the city of Azusa, the river runs...if it was allowed to the Pacific Ocean where it marks not only the boundary between Long Beach and Seal Beach, but Los Angeles County and Orange County.

Watch the Video!

A couple of miles up San Gabriel Canyon (known to locals as Azusa Canyon), the San Gabriel River Bike Trail begins. This paved lane, also accessible to walkers and wheelchairs, runs around 40 miles along the banks of the river all the way to the ocean.

This northern section is the most natural and wild section and includes great scrub and desert scenery for the first 10 miles or so, through the section behind Santa Fe Dam in Irwindale. If you've ever been to the Renaissance Fair in L.A., it's held behind the dam every spring.

In the video above, I take you along on my New Year's Eve bike ride from the top of the trail, down 5 miles to the century old Pacific Electric bridge connecting Azusa and the nearby city of Duarte. This bridge carried the famed Red Car trolleys that used to run all across the region.

Near the beginning of the ride, notice the housing development. Perhaps the most poorly placed housing development in the area, it is located not only next to a river that can flood but in an area where a huge wildfire was started a few years ago. 

There was also a gun range next door that had been there for 60 years when the new neighbors found that gunshots could be heard and demanded that it be shut down. It was.

The area traversed today is a birdwatcher's paradise with over 50 species flying overhead. Also look down to see some local roadrunners, bobcats, and coyotes.

There are parking areas at the top of the trail in the canyon, another along Foothill Blvd. in Azusa where it meets the river, and at Santa Fe Dam.  Across the river at the other end of the Pacific Electric Bridge in Duarte, parking is also available at Encanto Park. From there, you can access the trail by crossing the bridge. There is also a short nature trail on the west side of the river here.

Not well known to those who don't live here, the area around here is truly a great, natural hidden gem that will reward those who seek it out.

Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved.


  1. great photos and video of nature at its best.

  2. Have you been further up onto the West Fork of the San Gabriel River there is a National Bikeway that also has platforms to get close to the water for accessible fishing?

  3. It's been awhile, but yes. We feature it prominently in our article Top Wheelchair Accessible Hiking Trails of Southern California:


  4. Parking at Encanto Park in Duarte is limited, especially if there is a soccer or softball game going on. I would suggest parking somewhere else on the weekends.

  5. On weekends only at Encanto Park, you can also park on Encanto Drive, which rarely gets full. You can also park around the corner on Royal Oaks Drive.