West Fork National Bikeway – A Fabulous Easy LA Mountain Escape

The 6-mile paved path along the West Fork of the San Gabriel River is a fabulous easy scenic bike ride, giving a great taste of the beautiful mountains without having to drive too far for the privilege.  We recently rode a good portion of the trail on a warm June day, enjoying the sounds of the gurgling stream and the smell of the pines in the air, quite a delightful and easy escape from the LA megalopolis.

The San Gabriel Mountains tower over the heavily populated San Gabriel Valley just east of Los Angeles. Mountain streams from winter snow and rain drain into the San Gabriel River, that empties into the Pacific at the Seal Beach/Long Beach border. The urban San Gabriel River Bike Trail extends from the ocean all the way up to the foothills at Azusa.  From there, the drive into the mountains on Hwy 39 is spectacular, passing San Gabriel and Morris Reservoirs, backed by mountain peaks.

Morris Reservoir backed by the peaks of the San Gabriels, along Hwy 39.

After passing the junction with East Fork Road (about 7 miles from I-210), continue another 1.5 miles. Pass some parking areas on the right, drive over a bridge, and park in the lot on the left.  A $5 National Forest Adventure Pass (or a National Park/Forest annual pass) is required.  They are sold at liquor or convenience stores in Azusa.  To get to the trail you can either use the footbridge over the river, which has stairs, or ride across the bridge to the trailhead, a locked gate labeled “Cogswell Dam.”  Although the road is closed to the public, some do obtain permits to drive on it, as well as park and utilities employees.  Still, vehicle traffic is very sporadic.

The route is beautiful throughout, but on warm days the first part will be full of folks up from the city splashing around in the pools created by the stream.  Unfortunately some leave graffiti, and trash in this area.  As you continue, however, your solitude continues to increase as you enjoy the sights, sounds, and scents of the mountain forest, next to a lush riparian ecosystem along the stream.

Blooming yucca and colorful flora along the trail.
Blissfully riding up the gradual incline through the lush forest.
Monkey flower and Sugar pine along the trail.
The trail above the refreshing stream.
Returning down the trail, with mountain peaks in the background.
At times like here around Mile 3, the trail is between the stream and very steep canyon walls. Signs warn of falling rocks.

For further information about this gem of a trail, see the website  https://sangabrielmountains.org/the-place/west-fork-national-bikeway/

And help them to preserve the San Gabriel Mountains!

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