Ever wished there was a trail that was paved, flat, easy, and fun to hike on… and was in the middle of nowhere, seemingly? Well, there is, and it’s called the West Fork.
Nestled in the San Gabriel Mountains, 20 minutes north of Azusa, the West Fork trail is a quite an anomaly of hiking trails. The trail is actually a relatively flat paved road, which runs directly west of route 39, along the West Fork of the San Gabriel River. There are multiple ways to recreate on the West Fork.
Interested in swimming? For the first half mile of the trail, you will most likely see herds of peoples swimming in the relatively clean waters of this precious watershed
Interested in solitude? Once past the one-mile marker, the crowds die down considerably and the recreational landscape changes significantly. The trail conspicuously splits into two separate trails at the first bridge crossing. The trail that swings north, crossing in and out of a tributary, Bear Creek, and extends many miles up through the desolate San Gabriel Wilderness.
Interested in fishing? The paved West Fork trail continues its westward trajectory past the Bear Canyon trail split and enters into an appointed catch-and-release section of the San Gabriel River. This is a popular place for fly fisherman to hook into rainbow trout and even features several handicapped-accessible fishing piers.
Interested in a day or overnight camping trip? The next four miles of the trail is laden with picnic table after picnic table, ripe and ready for an enjoyable picnic. At the 6-mile marker on the trail, Glen Campground appears. This well-maintained campground receives a surprisingly low amount of traffic and provides a convenient enough getaway from Los Angeles.
Finally, if you’re interested in a long hike or mountain bike ride, you can follow the paved trail up to Cogswell Reservoir (8 miles in) and past, up steeper terrain towards Rincon Road and Monrovia Peak. The West Fork trail is an enjoyable and varied path that truly offers something for everyone!
Hike At A Glance:
Difficulty (1-10): 1
Distance: This hike can be anywhere between 1 and 15 miles long, depending on your goal.
Scenery: This trail runs adjacent to the rushing water of the West Fork of the San Gabriel River. Crowds often gather during the first mile but after that, crowds are rare.
Best time to go: This area can be extremely crowded on weekends – so I’d recommend weekdays.
Trail condition: This trail is paved. It doesn’t get easier than that.
Other considerations: From time to time, I hear reports about car thefts around the West Fork area. Before you leave your car, make sure everything in your car is out of view so as to minimize your risk. Even though this is an easier hike, be prepared for any of the common risks of hiking in our local mountains, including bears, snakes, and poison oak. Also, display your Adventure Pass on the dashboard of your car. If you don’t have one, they cost $5 for a day or $30 for a year and can be purchased at REI or most other sporting stores in the area.
Getting there: Take the 210 east to Azusa Ave./Route 39. Take Route 39 north through Azusa and into Angeles National Forest. A few minutes after passing East Fork Rd., you will see the clearly marked West Fork parking lots.