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Upper San Gabriel River Trails

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River Emerging from the Wilderness

Upper San Gabriel
Long and challenging, especially along with the rest of the San Gabriel Trail.

This is the upper third of the San Gabriel River, where it first emerges from the Angeles National Forest (which is where the West Fork of the San Gabriel is, but that’s way further north than this). The northernmost end of the trail  The northernmost portion of this bike path recently had a mile or so added, reaching to a new housing trace. South of that is the well-developed recreation area around the Santa Fe Dam. Here you’ll find picnic areas, sports fields, and all the facilities you’d expect. (Parking is $6.)

Thos. Guide pp 568, 597, 598, 637.

Current weather conditions (click for full weather report):
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This is the upper third of the San Gabriel River, where it first emerges from the Angeles National Forest (which is where the West Fork of the San Gabriel is, but that’s way further north than this). The northernmost end of the trail The northernmost portion of this bike path recently had a mile or so added, reaching to a new housing trace. South of that is the well-developed recreation area around the Santa Fe Dam. Here you’ll find picnic areas, sports fields, and all the facilities you’d expect. (Parking is $6.)

Duarte Historical Museum
Above: Sand, scrub, and desolate beauty. And watch out for flash floods.

Left: The charming little Historical Museum, just off the bike path, in Duarte. (See Duarte Bike Trail.)


Below the park area is the Santa Fe Dam itself; a high, wide, bike highway. Negotiate a few turns down the south face of the dam, and then follow the river (and the 605
Fwy) downstream about 6 miles to the even better developed Whittier Narrows Dam Recreation Area. (See Legg Lake.)
Above: top of the dam. Right: Looking down from the top of the Santa Fe Dam, southward toward Whittier. (See Mid San Gabriel Trail.)

There is a nice lake, with snow covered mountains in the distance.

The San Gabriel Recreation Area Park may not be lush and jungly enough for some tastes, but it does have quite a few serene and lovely spots to relax. The ducks seem to enjoy it.

A nature walk, and relics of bygone days add a bit of interest to what basically seems to be old abandoned property.

  • Be sure to check out Dan Slater’s stunning photos of the San Gabriel River Trail, Upper and Lower, on his Southern California Bicycle Paths web site.
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18 Comments

  1. Karon Reiter

    I bike the Duarte Bike Trail beginning at Buena Vista Rd. and Orange St. all the way to the end, at Vineyard approx 2.8 miles and then take Royal Oaks on the street until I hit Encanto Parkway. I see bikers coming off the San Gabriel Bike Trail but I don’t see where they get on, where the entrance is. I’ve tried to find a detailed map of the upper San Gabriel bike trail that would give me entry and exit points as I don’t want to ride the full 38 miles and I can’t seem to find anything like that. Are there any detailed maps out there for the San Gabriel River Bike Trail?

    Reply
    • jose

      entrances are on sante fe dam wall and at the top of azusa ave just befor the canyon mouth

      Reply
  2. CArlos

    does anyone know the length of these trails that go around the dam and up the river towards the canyons

    Reply
  3. Dan

    There is also a trailhead on Todd ave. & Sierra madre blvd. in Azusa.

    Reply
    • Jim

      There’s a new park and road improvements where the trailhead connects to the bike trail. Good place to meet up for a ride. Needs a bathroom and drinking fountain though.

      Reply
  4. Joe G.

    From the entrance To the trail at the bottom of Arrow Highway to the end at San Gabriel Canyon Rd. Is 8 miles long.

    Reply
  5. Zohrab Getikian

    Took the trail from the beginning from Azusa all the way down to the beach. The entire thing took us 5 hours but we were not totally in the proper gear. First, the entire path is paved so speed or road bikes are more appropriate. We had mountain bikes and that made the journey really hard. Second, although by laws of physics we should have been going downhill the entire time, (from the mountain down to the beach) but it felt that the entire time we were on the flat road and sometime even going uphill. This was really tiring. I think maybe the wind was against us and made it feel that way.

    Reply
    • Joe Matarazzo

      I’m confused! I just read a comment that said he took the trail all the way from Azusa to the beach, and it was all paved. I took the trail North. From Wilderness Park, in Downey, and after Beverly Blvd, I ran out of paved trail!! There was a dirt trail, but I didn’t have a bike that was right for the dirt. Did I miss a paved trail? I didn’t see anything but an exit onto the street.

      Reply
  6. Mark G.

    Found a nice parking lot near the top of the trailhead, where the housing tracts end near the mouth of the canyon. The parking lot was full of bicyclists. I had my two young sons with me. In the past few weeks we have hit just about every bike path path east of the Arroyo Seco path. I would not recommend this path for extremely young children. Unlike the Duarte trail and the Arroyo Seco (which are too short for serious bikers to get a good workout) this path had a lot of fast bikers coming south from the top. Could be dangerous for them and for any children or riders who are unstable or not paying attention. We only rode down to the 210 and back (about 5-6 miles total) but I plan to come back and ride faster/longer down this path. It’s really beautiful and well maintained.

    Reply
  7. Chris

    Okay so my wife and I have started up this trail a few times from the south end, we live in Long Beach. I have heard a fabled public transit route back if we were to start from Long Beach and end in Azusa, but all routes seem full of interconnects and stops… Google says the route on public transit takes 3 hours, and we could probably just bike back in that time. Any thoughts? How can we get from Azusa to LBC with public transit? I’d love to do this route completely but doing a biking round trip might be too intense… Thanks!

    Reply
  8. Chris

    I just completed this yesterday, Sunday. Very nice to ride from the mountains to the ocean! Plus most of the steps this way are downhill! Sure you must climb to the top of the Santa Fe Dam and another short one. But most other climbs are due to underpasses which you get a downhill boost head of the brief climb. I notice the middle section is being repaved and signs warn of a detour. There were parts in the last ten miles where they did not perform proper compaction before asphalt and the cracks and deformation make for a somewhat uncomfortable ride. This section will hopefully be replaced next. I really appreciated the distance markings on the upper and middle sections. The ones that do occasionally appear on the lower section are not accurate. The path is very clear except for two points: 1) just north of the Whittier Dam Narrows, The trail turns west and then you come to an unmarked cross road. To stay on the trail turn south. 2) San Gabriel River Pkwy you need to get from the west side of the river to the east side. I ended up following a group of cyclist that went the wrong way on the bike lane (i.e. against traffic) to simply cross the bridge, about 200 ft(?) to connect back with the trail. Overall it was my first mostly flat ride in SoCal. Very nice, lots of ducks, snow geese, a few prairie dogs, and finally the Ocean. Sweet! Mountains to Ocean! 38 miles not a bad way to spend the afternoon. I ran into a headwind for the last 10 miles and started to run out of energy (poor planning). I finished in just over 3 hours.

    Reply
  9. Guy Anthony Lyons

    My friend and I used to ride this trail as teenagers. We would take side streets from Monterey Park and enter the trail at Legg Lake, in Rosemead, then go to the beach and back. Now that I’m getting a little older (never too old to ride, however), I am getting together with friends and my son and doing the entire ride, from Azusa to the ocean and back. That is approximately 75ish miles. The entire trail is paved, so leave the mountain bikes at home. Bring a water bottle, a spare inner tube and a friend. This is road-bike territory. One-way is under two hours if you’re in good shape, or three hours if you take a more leisurely pace.

    Guy Anthony Lyons
    Live to Ride. Ride to Live.

    Reply
  10. JB

    I hop on Lario San Gabriel River Trail, this path will take you through the dam. Its where the 605 ends, make a right on Huntington Dr. Youll see the sing on your left, past the bridge/river.

    Reply
  11. Alek F

    So, today my buddy and I took a bike trip along the trail. It was awesome! Especially the upper San Gabriel river part, next to the Azusa mountains.
    One thing I would really, really wish for: that the bikeway should be extended further west, into the wilderness! 🙂

    Reply
  12. Alfredo Sanchez

    I usually ride this trail beginning from Arrow Hwy. and take it north until it ends on Hwy. 39. I sometimes keep going to the El Encanto Azusa River Wilderness Park and enjoy peace and quiet on the benches watching the San Gabriel River flow in its natural state. This section of the bike trail is very scenic, as you pass through arid flora. It is not uncommon to spot coyotes, mule deer, red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, rabbits, and the occasional rattlesnake.

    Reply
  13. Joe

    I always pass by the Pico Rivera Golf Club area next to the Whittier dam and there’s always a sign on the bike path that says “Free Water” but when I go in the golf place I don’t see a vendor or anything at all. Do you actually have to walk inside the resort all sweaty in your bike gear to ask for some water? Ugh, embarrassing.

    Reply
  14. luis

    Excellent trail for riding your road bike. Plenty of mileage and no worries with cars! Some sections are very nice. Bring plenty of water and energy and enjoy.

    Reply

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