San Gabriel River trail

The San Gabriel River trail extends 38 miles starting at a Ranger Station at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains and ending at the Pacific Ocean (Seal Beach). There are two very scenic secondary trails that branch off near the river trail midpoint (Whittier Narrows area); one that visits Legg Lake and a second (Rio Hondo) ending up at a reservoir north of El Monte. The photos here are organized from north to south, ending up at the Pacific Ocean.

The trail starts here at the base of the San Gabriel mountains. Eight miles north of here is another trail, the West Fork of the San Gabriel river but the connection is not easy by bicycle.

A nice rest stop is at the uncrowded Nature Interpretation Center north of the Santa Fe Dam. 

This trail through the Nature Interpretation area shows what the California desert looked like prior to the introduction of irrigation into the Los Angeles area. The San Gabriel mountains are in the background.  

A colorful water play area just for kids at the Santa Fe Dam recreational area. Click to find out what the kids think about this.  

A small Robinson R22 helicopter is practicing takeoffs and landings in the woods near the dam.  

Bicyclists riding on top of the Santa Fe dam.  

A view from the top of the Santa Fe dam looking South. The bike trail follows the right side of the San Gabriel river passing through an industrial area and then under the 605 freeway. In the distance on the right is the Monterey Park Hills reservoir area with the Whittier Narrows area below.

A kaleidoscopic electrical transmission tower. 

Horse back riders are often seen traveling along the river.  

The four corners junction in the Whittier Narrows region. The area near this junction is scenic and varied. If you go north (straight) you end up at Legg Lake in about a mile after passing through a wildlife preserve. If you go west (left) you will join up with the  Rio Hondo (LA River) trail . If you go east (right) you continue to follow the San Gabriel river for another 17 miles, finally ending up at a ranger station at the base of the San Gabriel mountains. If you go south (behind) along the San Gabriel River trail, you will end up at the Pacific Ocean 21 miles away.

The bike trail becomes a narrow sliver sandwiched between a golf course on the left and the Whittier Narrows Dam on the right.  

A wall of well compacted trash near Downey takes on the appearance of modern art.  

Bike riders in a sea of grafitti near Downey.  

The bike trail turns into leaves at El Dorado Park.  

This bridge crosses the San Gabriel River, just south of El Dorado Park. This point is also a fork that marks the south end of the Coyote Creek trail.

Unfortunately, the river trail also attracts the misfits of human society, the gangs with their grafitti and violence, the drunks that drop their broken wine bottles onto the bike path and the homeless transients who discard their stolen shopping carts into the river.

Large, steam driven electrical generators use the river water for cooling.  

South of the power station  

The San Gabriel River trail turns into beach sand as it ends up at the Pacific Ocean. The River Hut eatery to the left, the beach in the center and the San Gabriel River on the right. On the far side of the San Gabriel River is the Alamitos Bay Marina. Further north is Naples and  the start of the Long Beach / Belmont Shore bike trails. Several miles to the south via surface streets is the scenic Huntington Beach bike trail.

Rating: * * * *
Season: Anytime
Difficulty: Moderate (due to distance).
Hazards: Gang activity, particularily in the middle trail segment. Broken glass from the drunks.

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Copyright 2000 by Dan Slater, All rights reserved.