Azusa River Wilderness Park
There aren’t many ways to legally and safely get a close-up look at the San Gabriel River, but thanks to the Watershed Conservation Authority, at the Azusa River Wilderness Park, hikers can do just that. (The park is officially just the River Wilderness Park, but it has come to be popularly known as the Azusa River Wilderness Park; it’s also sometimes referred to as the El Encanto Trail).
Los Angeles isn’t known for its rivers and those familiar with the San Gabriel River likely think of it as nothing more than a concrete trench, to which the 605 Freeway runs parallel. However, the San Gabriel headwaters in the Angeles National Forest are responsible for some of the most dramatic natural scenery in the L.A. area. This hike–really more of a nature walk–explores the mouth of San Gabriel Canyon, where wilderness meets suburbia. Its diminutive distance and minimal elevation gain make it dog and kid friendly; it’s a good year round choice too, although appropriate cautions should still be taken on hot days.
The hike follows the abandoned Old San Gabriel Canyon Road one mile to a gauging station on the river. Begin at the gate and walk along the road bed, passing by a seasonal waterfall at 0.3 miles (likely to be just a trickle, but perhaps more immediately following rain.) At 0.5 miles, stay right at a fork (the left route leads to private property) and pass by another gate. The trail now takes on a more rural feel, although you still may hear some traffic noise.
At about 2/3 of a mile from the start, the trail bends to the north and takes in a dramatic view of the canyon. On the opposite side of the river, cars and trucks travel along Highway 39, at one point crossing over a high bridge. The trail descends to level of the river, passing by a pair of oaks and finally reaching the old gauging station. Here, hikers can wander out onto a concrete lip and enjoy a moment by the water’s edge before heading back to civilization. As of this writing, the water level is low and the lip is easily accessible, but during wet seasons, the water level may vary dramatically so appropriate cautions should be taken.
Text and photography copyright 2015 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 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.