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Hiking to the Bridge to Nowhere

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.

Trail Details
Distance: 11 miles
Time: 4-5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation gain: 1,140 ft
Dogs: Yes
When to go: Year-round
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We hiked this trail in June on a warm but-not-too-hot day. Much of the trail is exposed and it gets too hot to be comfortable in the middle of summer. There was water running, but all of the crossing were easily managed by rock-hopping or log balancing. Only the soles of our shoes got wet — a relatively rare occurrence on this trek.

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

Download file: bridge-to-nowhere.gpx

Photo Gallery

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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

Originally hiked on June 21, 2014.

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