Bonelli Regional Park


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Puddingstone Reservoir, Bonelli Regional Park
Puddingstone Reservoir, Bonelli Regional Park
Avian resident of Bonelli Regional Park
Avian resident of Bonelli Regional Park

Bonelli Regional Park

  • Location: San Dimas.  From the 57 Freeway, take the Via Verde exit and turn left (regardless if if you are coming from the north or south).  Follow Via Verde into the park.  Parking is $10 per vehicle (free on non-holiday weekdays from November to February).  Bear right past the entry booth and park in the first available area, on the left.
  • Agency: L.A. County Parks & Recreation
  • Distance: 3.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 500 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Best season:  October – May
  • USGS topo map: “San Dimas”
  • Recommended gear: sun hat
  • More information: Bonelli park homepage here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 6
0:00 - Beginning of the loop, head left (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)
0:00 – Beginning of the loop, head left (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

Large (1,975-acre) Frank Bonelli Regional Park, on the eastern edge of L.A. County, is like a Griffith Park for the San Gabriel Valley.  While it doesn’t quite have the variety that Griffith does, on clear days, the views can be great.   The centerpiece of the park, Puddingstone Reservoir, may be man-made, but the views of it from above and up close are impressive, especially with Baldy and its neighbors so close by.

0:13 - Turn right (times are approximate)
0:13 – Turn right (times are approximate)

There are many trails in the park, so it’s possible to do hikes of all distances and difficulty levels. Given time and energy, one can circumnavigate the entire reservoir (about 6 miles), but route-finding can be a little tricky, especially near the Raging Waters park on the lake’s north side. The route described here, a moderate 3.5 mile loop, stays on the south side of the reservoir, sampling some of the area’s scenery.

0:22 - Bear left on to the Reservoir Trail
0:22 – Bear left on to the Reservoir Trail

From the parking lot, cross Via Verde and turn left at an intersection of two fire roads. You’ll head uphill, reaching a junction at 0.5 miles. The left fork continues straight ahead, but for this route, try turning right, heading along a hill side with nice views to the south, including the Puente Hills and Santa Anas.

0:41 - View of the reservoir from the south ridge
0:41 – View of the reservoir from the south ridge

At 0.8 miles, bear left and head uphill on a trail signed in the park as the Reservoir Trail but on the park map as the Middlecrest Trail. You can take an optional spur to a helicopter landing site at the top of a hill, with good views of Baldy.

Continuing northeast on the main trail, you soon arrive at a junction with the trail from earlier. Soon afterward, you reach a T-intersection where you’ll head right. You get your first view of the reservoir, off to the left. At two miles, look for a fallen yellow sign leading to the Park View trail, a single-track. Take a hard left and head down toward Via Verde.

0:56 - Hard left at the fallen sign
0:56 – Hard left at the fallen sign

At an equipment maintenance area, turn right and cross Via Verde. Head right on a paved road and almost immediately, look for a bridle path heading left. Follow it to another T-junction at a knoll with a nice view of the lake. Turn right and head uphill briefly, then down, arriving at a parking area (2.8 miles). There are several picnic tables where you can sit by the reservoir and take a breather.

1:06 - Passing the maintenance yard on the way to Via Verde
1:06 – Passing the maintenance yard on the way to Via Verde

From here, head left through the parking area and follow the paved road around the south side of the lake. The views of the mountains here are particularly good; you can walk farther out onto one of the docks if you like.

1:15 - Back on dirt, north side of Via Verde (head left)
1:15 – Back on dirt, north side of Via Verde (head left)

At 3.3 miles, you reach a small inlet on the southwest corner of the reservoir. You cross over the wetlands on a bridge and reach an intersection. Turn left and follow the paved road back to the parking area.

1:28 - the picnic area
1:28 – the picnic area

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other

1:50 - Wetlands in the southwestern end of the reservoir
1:50 – Wetlands in the southwestern end of the reservoir

outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Difficulty PG Distance 2.1 to 5 miles Dogs allowed Rating: 4-6 San Gabriel Valley & Foothills (East) Season: Fall/Early Winter Season: Late Winter/Spring

4 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Yeah, if you’re in the area it’s worth checking out, especially this time of year on clear days. It’s also more of a suburban park than a wilderness park so it’ s easy to have a nice walk there without working up too much of a sweat, and you won’t have to worry about getting lost.

  2. I’m surprised you haven’t posted the Fountain of Youth Trail in Bonelli Park, but that’s probably because most people don’t even know about it. I’ve taken groups of friends to it and it is very exciting. In my best opinion it would have a Difficult Rating of PG 13. The amount of time it takes to complete it would be 1 hour. It’s about 3.5 miles but the tunnel includes an extra 2 miles. I’d recommend using bug spray, wearing shoes with good grip, and possibly pants. The Elevation is 500 feet. My rating would be 7 as the trail has a waterfall near the entrance and requires you to use a rope to climb down into the canyon trail. While its part of the park the simplest way to enter it would be from outside the park. Its best if you park a car in the outside parking lot as its free and closest to the entrance.

    Location: San Dimas. From the 57 Freeway, take the Via Verde exit and turn right (regardless if if you are coming from the north or south). Use parking lot outside park as it is free and allows easy access into trail. Leave parking lot opposite of Bonelli Park, walking to your right into San Dimas Avenue. Continue until you reach the overpass freeway bridge, walk across road with extreme caution, and continue walking on side of road until you spot an opening on the side of road into the canyon trail. The entrance is equipped with safety rope due to the extreme elevation of the entrance. As you reach to bottom you will see a waterfall. Continue exploring trail to the left. Watch out for slippery rocks and poison ive. At the end of trail will be a tunnel that continues for 2 miles. Must use a flashlight as it is pitch dark. Beware of entrance into tunnel: it is slippery.

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