Distance: 10 miles
Time: we took probably a bit more than 5 hours including picnic stop
Elevation gain: 800 feet
Difficulty: fitness-wise, easy; navigation-wise, easy-moderate; terrain-wise, moderate (lots of river-hopping!)
Drive: 50 minutes (33 miles) from old town Pasadena, via the 210, the 39 (aka San Gabriel Canyon Road, 10 miles), East Fork Road (8 miles), and Camp Bonita Road (1 mile)
Trails of the Angeles hike no. 84
Modern Hiker has a detailed account here
This bridge is part of the only proper gold rush town in the San Gabriels, which was fittingly named Eldoradoville, and was destroyed in the great flood of 1862. Now it’s owned by some company who’ve slightly spoiled it with ugly fencing and keep-out signs. But it’s still an appealingly weird destination.
Parking at the Bridge to Nowhere trailhead at Coyote Flat (with a free Sheep Mountain wilderness permit), you walk north, high above the east bank of the San Gabriel river for half a mile before dropping down to the canyon floor. From here the trail follows the river, crossing back and forth over the water 14 times. after 2 miles you pass Swan Rock, a high wall west of the river. Then the canyon widens out and heads northwest, and you climb up to the right and follow the elevated track again. After another half mile, you turn to the north again, and soon you’re descending towards the bridge. You can also (though we didn’t) cross the bridge and turn right, following the narrow path down the gorge and crossing the river to the Narrows Trail campground.
On the way back, just after leaving the bridge we took a steep right off the main track down through low trees towards the river, and found a pretty little picnic spot by the shallows to enjoy some barefoot paddling and bare-everything bathing after our food, and before retracing our way back to the track for the way home.
The route gets pretty busy (for a while we were placing bets on how many people we passed would a) make eye contact, b) say hello, or c) say thank you when we waited for them, but it got boring once I’d amply proved my point about impoliteness), which kind of spoils the adventurous feel, so do it on a weekday if you can.
A shady start
Meandering up and down a bit
One of the more exciting river crossings!
Keeping the Welshman happy
Leaving civilisation behind
Feeling a bit more deserty
Two approaches to hiking gear
Going convincingly to nowhere
And back the way we came
Our private picnic place
Messing around sans shoes (we’ll spare you the sans everything)
Secluded views as the sun starts to sink
And starting the way home