The Bridge to Nowhere hike is a quintessential SoCal trail. The trail criss-crosses the East Fork of the San Gabriel River many times. In the spring, the water can run fast and deep. Sometimes it’s waist high in places, making crossing a wet proposition. The river crossing make this trek more fun, and on a hot summer day, cooling off in one of the pools at the turnaround point is a perfect respite. But this hike has a bonus history lesson. It roughly follows the route of a road that attempted to provide a shortcut to Wrightwood. A flood in 1938 wiped out all but a few remnants of the road, but the “Bridge to Nowhere” remains.
Getting to the Trailhead
To get to the trailhead from Azusa, head north on San Gabriel Canyon Road for about 11 miles, then turn right at East Fork Road. Take this about 6 miles to the end and the parking lot. Note that the lot gets crowded, but you can park along the sides of the road. Pay attention to the signs. There are a few sections where parking is not allowed. Get detailed driving directions.
Hiking the Bridge to Nowhere Trail
The trail is clearly marked. You start out heading north up the canyon on a gravel road that hugs the east side of the canyon, parallel to the river. In the early morning, the mountains provide shade from the sun — a welcome relief on hot days, as most of this trail has full exposure.
At 0.5 miles you’ll reach the Heaton Flat Campground. I would probably never camp here personally — too much of a zoo.
The trail crosses the river several times along the route, and each time you’ll be shaded by alder trees. It’s quite beautiful.
As you continue along the river trail, notice that at times there are traces of the road that once wound through the canyon. This is the very road that once cross the bridge. Mother Nature has done her darnedest to erase all evidence of the road, but look closely and you’ll see a patch of asphalt here and there.
At about 3.5 miles, you scramble up the side of the canyon to a ledge with remnants of the old road. Watch closely to your right and you might see little spur creek feeding the river. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can scramble up this creek to a hidden waterfall that few ever see.
Soon you come to a sign with a long list of rules and a stern warning that you entering private property. Yes, the Bridge to Nowhere is on land leased to a company that runs bungee jumps off the bridge. For a fee, you too can wait in line and jump off a bridge.
As we approached the bridge, we spied several big horn sheep making their way down the canyon wall on the opposite side of the river — quite appropriate sense we were in the Sheep Mountain Wilderness.
The Bridge to Nowhere is a beautiful structure oddly out-of-place. As it’s name suggests, it really is a bridge without a road, in the middle of nowhere. The bungee jumping crowds can be big on the weekends in warm weather. We threaded our way through the crowd to the opposite side of the bridge, then picked a route down to the river.
The area just beyond and below the ridge is the beginning of The Narrows. There are lots of pools, waterfalls, shady Alder trees and boulders to hop across or stretch out on. This is the perfect spot to kick off your boots, eat your lunch and take a refreshing dip in the surprisingly cool water.
Bridge to Nowhere Trail Map
Click on any photo to view a larger version. You can also leave comments on any photo.
Bridge To Nowhere Tips
- An Adventure Pass used to be required here, but that has since been change. If in doubt, check with the Ranger Station.
- Bring plenty of water, or a means of purifying or filtering water from the river.
- When water is high, wear hiking shoes that are not waterproof, and just wear them through the water. The stones in the river are slippery. Going barefoot or even in sandals is not advised.
- Trekking poles are very useful, particularly for the water crossings.
More Bridge to Nowhere Resources
- Huell Howser’s video history on The Bridge to Nowhere
- Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County – Wilderness Press
Originally hiked on June 21, 2014.
Nick Baranov says
excited to see this trail this weekend!
I really want to hike again I cannot alone this is a first for me looking on the internet
Is it runable?
I’s be curious to know this too.
Jeff Hester says
Yes, most of it though there are rocky sections where you’ll need to tread carefully.
We love the hike to the Bridge to Nowhere, when the weather is nice of course 🙂 And we love this website for all the amazing info! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zA1Bykadfug&t=1s
I went on the bridge to nowhere hike today but don’t know what you mean about the waterfall at 3.5 miles. I never saw a creek feeding the river from the left. I only saw creek from the right. How big is this waterfall your talking about?
Jeff Hester says
Depends on which direction you’re facing, Derek. 🙂
Seriously though, you ARE correct… assuming you’re still headed toward the bridge, the creek is on your right. I’ve updated the post accordingly. I have purposely left details on finding the waterfall out of this guide because some places should remain hidden.
Is the water still abundant? Thinking if doing this hike next week.
Jason Robins says
Warning!! This Trail needs help! I have been hiking this trail for years but in several places it has become Dangerous. On Friday July 21st 2018, I was hit by rock fall out of nowhere at about 2 or 2,5 miles in. I was backpacking the main trail. My goal was a two night trip. One of the rocks hit me in the ankle, there was blood everywhere. The rock also broke my Tibia in my left leg. Thanks to the kindness of strangers and a really well stocked medical kit I did not bleed to death and was able to make it out. Maybe there is nothing that can be done and this was just a freak accident. But I believe it could happen again with no warning. I believe the trail needs some help in several places to make it safer.
Jeff Hester says
Jason, so sorry to hear about your accident!
All trails carry with them risks; some more than others. Hiking in the wilderness there are many dangers, and rockfall is just one of many. It’s not possible to remove all risks. That said, it sounds like you were well prepared with first aid — one of the 10 essentials that everyone should carry!
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Elevation gain on this trail is under 800 feet, not over 2100 feet noted above…
Yo Romo says
Is this hike 11 miles round trip?
How much hiking is actually happening here? I grew up in the Canadian wilderness and I’m dying for a dog-friendly difficult trail not crowded with tons of people. I keep finding cute little paved trails with tons of LA-ites in $100 yoga pants. I need a recommendation that’ll involve some rockclimbing, bouldering, and possibly use of tennis shoes for once!
Jesse St Louis says
Did you know about the hidden waterfalls near The Bridge to Nowhere? Allison Gulch Falls and Devil Gulch Falls. I recently hiked out there to check them out.
Craig Streiff says
Anyone Hiked this recently, Just wondering what the water flow level is currently?
Anthony S. says
We hiked to the bridge yesterday. In my experience, the hike can range from 11 to 12.5 miles (5.5 in, 5.5 out) depending upon your exploration. The trail is busy, in a sense, but not as overwhelming as Echo Mountain or your favorite mall. The water levels were deep enough to jump into multiple pools from the surrounding boulders. We did not bungee like many other people did.
It’s my opinion, the Bridge to Nowhere trail should be trekked with caution as the trail does not seem to be maintained with runners in mind.
Water note: Take between 2-3 liters of water per person. The air to become very dry on the way out.
Did this trail over the weekend and the water is 30″ at several crossing points. There are sometimes ropes strung across to help, but because the trail isn’t well defined at times, it’s easy to miss the ropes because you can make it without crossing the river as many times. We ending up taking a different way back and missed some of crossings we did on our way to the bridge.
We also ending up rock climbing at one point up (“oh there’s a rope, guess we should follow it up”) and then went higher up to an old utility pole, before scrambling down a bit and across a precarious ledge to another rope (2 ropes tied together, so maybe 25ft? 30ft?) to take us down into the basin. If you don’t want to do that, I suggest crossing the river twice (there is a rope for the 2nd crossing).
Lots of people. People were piggybacking their kids and carrying their dogs across the river. Last mile or so is in full sun so make sure you have water for that!
We are going this Saturday to do this hike…can I do it in a pair of Asics and waterproof socks? how high do you think the water is since its been dry for a really long time…And there must be a box to pay for parking…I didn’t see any info on where to buy a day pass 🙁 Appreciate your website!!
Jeffrey Hester says
Valerie, I would totally do this in a pair of breathable trail runners. You can power right through the water if you need to, and they’ll dry pretty quickly.
Tessa Bollmann says
I heard you need a permit to hike this. Is this true and if so, does everyone in your party need one and do you know where I can obtain one? I am not looking for a year pass. Just a day pass.
Chip Terracina says
You’ll want to buy a 1-day Adventure Pass. It’s essentially a parking pass that you display in your car and not a hiking permit, so it’s good for whoever rides with you. The cost is $5 and you can buy them at Big 5. All the Big 5 stores near me were out of stock, so I went to REI to get mine. REI also sells them online for $5 plus shipping, which is a great option if you have the luxury of time to wait.
You can also get the pass at some 7-11s. You can check the fs.usda.gov site for store locations. REI Arcadia has been out for a while.
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