Lower Arroyo Seco Recreation Area
- Location: There are several possible access points. The hike described here begins at San Pascual Stables, 221 San Pascual Ave., South Pasadena. From Pasadena, take Orange Grove Blvd. south. At 1.3 miles south of Colorado Blvd., turn right onto Madeline Drive, which becomes Arroyo Blvd. Half a mile from Orange Grove, bear right onto San Pascual Avenue. The parking area and stables will be on the right. From Los Angeles, take the Arroyo Seco Parkway (110 Freeway) to Exit 30B for Bridewell St. Take the first right onto Hough, go 0.1 mile and turn right onto San Pascual. The parking lot and entrance to the stables will be on the left in half a mile.
- Agency: City of Pasadena
- Distance: 3.2 miles
- Elevation gain: 150 feet
- Suggested time: 1.5 hours
- Difficulty rating: G
- Best season: Year round
- USGS topo map: Pasadena
- More information: here; Trail map here; Yelp page here; Map My Hike report here
- Rating: 3
The Lower Arroyo Seco Recreation Area occupies a shoestring corridor between Highland Park and South Pasadena. It is part of a larger greenbelt, linking Ernest Debs Regional Park with the Angeles National Forest. This post describes an easy 3.2-mile round trip from the San Pascual Stables to the (in)famous Colorado St. Bridge, but hikers can easily extend the trip in either direction. As close as it is to civilization, the trail feels pleasantly wild and undeveloped; an up close view of the historic bridge is an added bonus. Though much of the route is exposed, this hike is easy enough to be done year-round; a good option to keep in mind during the summer, especially if you don’t want to drive up into the Angeles National Forest.
From the parking lot at the stables, follow the wide trail north as it parallels the concrete channel that carries the waters (such as they may be) of the Arroyo Seco. You soon reach a footbridge which spans the channel to reach a parallel trail on the opposite side; however as of this writing that trail is only partially open due to construction on the La Loma Road bridge. As of this writing, the trail on the east side of the channel is open, but subject to detours (see map link above for more information).
At 0.3 mile, bear right on a trail that leaves the channel. You soon come to another split; the “official” trail is the left fork but the right route eventually merges. Both lead through a pleasant meadow dotted with oaks and sycamores before rejoining the trail along the channel. At 3/4 of a mile, you reach the La Loma Bridge, where you may be routed on a detour. The main trail continues under the bridge and soon reaches another split. Bear right and follow the trail through attractive Memorial Grove and past the Pasadena Casting Pond (1.2 miles), where you can take a break on one of several benches. In the spring, California golden poppies bloom by the clubhouse.
The trail continues through the riparian habitat, passing several spur trails that lead up to Arroyo Blvd., before rejoining the channel. By this point, you will see the Colorado St. Bridge, towering 150 feet above the arroyo. You reach the bridge itself at 1.6 miles; the trail then continues north into the Central Arroyo Seco Park and the Rose Bowl for those who want to extend the hike. Despite traffic noise from the bridge above and the nearby bridge that carries the 134 Freeway, this is an oddly peaceful spot.
Completed in 1913, the Colorado St. Bridge is architecturally and historically notable; it was part of Route 66 until 1940 and named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. It is also known locally as the Suicide Bridge and is said by some to be haunted by the ghosts of those who have jumped.
Text and photography copyright 2016 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.