If someone told you they were hiking to the Bridge To Nowhere, what kind of image does that conjure up?
For me, I picture it as something Frodo would stand at the threshold of, on a noble quest to save Middle Earth.
But, as far as I can tell, LA is not Middle Earth.
We do however, have a really cool old bridge in the San Gabriel mountains that (seemingly) leads to nowhere, and you have to hike 5 miles along a riverbed to get to it. Not nearly as cool as Middle Earth, and I wouldn’t exactly call the hike a noble quest either, but it’s pretty cool, nonetheless.
And if you randomly decide to break out into Gollum’s voice to annoy your hiking partner to add to the noble quest-y vibe, no one will fault you. (Except your hiking partner. Sorry Chris.)
The hike itself is not a very challenging one, apart from the 10 mile roundtrip distance. There isn’t much elevation gain because you follow the San Gabriel river for most of the way, winding through some lovely scenery and heavy patches of spiky (and enormous) desert spoons.
There wasn’t really a clear hiking path for much of it and it was up to us which parts of the river we wanted to criss-cross. The water wasn’t deep but it was cold, which led to some tricksy balancing on rocks during the handful of crossing we did.
We passed several different sets of people with gold panning camps and equipment, and wondered how much gold they could possibly expect to find with so many people looking in the same spot!
About half a mile from the bridge, we climbed up one of the steep paths on the right to the entrance to the private land that surrounds the bridge itself.
It is pretty random that someone once thought to build such a nice arch bridge in this remote spot in the middle of the San Gabriel’s, but there was actually a reason. It was built in 1936 and was meant to connect a road from Wrightwood to the San Gabriel Valley. The great flood of 1938 wiped out that road project, and now the bridge lives in isolation in the Sheep Mountain Wilderness.
Yeah, apparently it rained enough at one point in California to actually flood something. Hard to imagine now!
The bridge and all the land in a half mile radius of it is now owned by Bungee America, which runs tours to the bridge on the weekends for those brave souls eager to bungee off the side of it.
I would have been up for it, but my hiking buddy is afraid of heights, and I preferred to do the long hike with him and not with an annoying big group anyway. Next time, maybe!
Once we reached the bridge, we crossed it, waving hello to the jumpers (some of whom looked absolutely terrified!) and climbed down to the river on the other side. We settled ourselves on a rock to eat our snacks and watched the bungee jumpers for a bit before turning back. I definitely want to come back for a go – it looked like a blast!
Our walk back to the car was casual and relaxed, and at one point we took off our boots and dipped our aching feet in the chilly river.
Though it was a very physically demanding hike, I definitely would rank this one in the top 5 I’ve done here in SoCal. But next week, we resolved to tackle something a bit more challenging!
Adventure: Hiking to the Bridge to Nowhere along the East Fork Trail
Where: Near Azusa, California in the Sheep Mountain Wilderness, San Gabriel Mountains, about an hour and a half from Los Angeles. Information on how to reach the trailhead can be found on the always-trusty Modern Hiker blog.
Cost: Free! But if you want to bungee jump, you’ll have to fork out $99 for the first jump and $50 for additional jumps. Check out the Bungee America website for details.
When To Go: Because it’s Southern California, the weather is always fantastic for a hike! But this hike would be a bit harder after a rainfall because the river crossings were tricky at times.
- Goes without saying, but bring lots of water with you. Though it’s not much elevation gain, but the trail is hot and exposed for most of it. Stay hydrated.
- Beware of the desert spoons! They are prickly and will scratch up your legs if you aren’t careful. Wear proper hiking boots and socks, and consider wearing pants instead of shorts.
- Be prepared to get your boots wet! The river crossings are fun but occasionally challenging. Practice balancing on logs, Dirty Dancing style.
- GO EARLY. This is always my biggest tip for long hikes in LA county. We always aim to get to the trailhead by 7am to start the hike because most trails get crowded later in the day. Best to get there early, get good parking, and enjoy the hike without too many other people around. Trust me, it’s so worth it!