About Bridge To Nowhere Waterfalls
The Bridge To Nowhere Waterfalls pertain to a series of cascades (each roughly 15ft and under) and swimming holes in the San Gabriel River just upstream from the famous Bridge to Nowhere itself.
I had largely avoided doing this hike because I wasn’t all that excited about visiting a manmade bridge that was the result of an ill-fated attempt to “tame” the San Gabriel Mountains and provide convenient road access from Azusa to Wrightwood.
And in fact, I wasn’t even aware of these waterfalls until we finally made it to this bridge as part of a longer loop hike encompassing the Devils Gulch Falls (a waterfall that we had done before).
Now, there is a lot of information in the literature about the Bridge to Nowhere hike, which seemed to have gone viral in recent years.
And this write-up is largely just a reflection of how we experienced this hike, where we focus mainly on the excursion to the Bridge to Nowhere and the waterfalls just beyond it (which I suspect can easily act as swimming holes).
Overall, this out-and-back hike would take 11.6 miles in total if we only focused on the Bridge to Nowhere and its neighboring waterfalls.
However, if we included the Devils Gulch Falls in a bit of a small loop hike, then the overall distance would be about 12.6 miles in total.
Either way, you’ll want to allow at least a solid 7-8 hours or more for this excursion (it will take the better part of a day).
Moreover, you’ll want to make sure you’re wearing shoes that can get wet yet at the same time expel water (trail runners are good for this), and you’ll also want to bring trekking poles for balance on the river crossings.
On an interesting note, I’ve noticed some people who have managed to overnight along the East Fork Trail, which might break up the length of this hike provided you’ve got our your backcountry gear.
That said, I even noticed some people who actually live in this canyon as maybe an out-of-the-box way to live rent- and tax-free (and get supplies in civilization during the day).
I’ve made a separate write-up dedicated to the Devils Gulch Falls for more information about the two ways we’ve managed to hike to and experience that hidden waterfall.
Trail Description – East Fork Trailhead To First River Crossing
Having learned from hindsight after a few times hiking here, I’m going to describe how you’re supposed to do this trail (so you don’t have to make the same mistakes we did).
From the East Fork Trailhead (see directions below), we followed the East Fork Trail, which was pretty much a former road leading to the Heaton Flats after roughly a half-mile or so.
Ignoring the trail branching to the right and continuing on the wider road through the flats, we went another 0.4-mile past more signage and railings towards our first encounter with the San Gabriel River.
At this point, we had to skirt the right bank of the San Gabriel River (so you’re likely to get wet here).
Then, we continued hiking the East Fork Trail another 0.2-mile until we then reached the first legitimate crossing of the river (about 1.1 miles from the trailhead).
Trail Description – From The First River Crossing To The Graffiti Walls & Ruins
On the other side of this river crossing, we should keep to this side of the river and look for a trail rising to a ledge further to the left.
Then, we’d follow this ledge for about the next half-mile or so before the trail descended towards a trio of graffiti-laced walls.
This was where we’d cross the San Gabriel River back to the east bank, and from here on out, we’d do some dry hiking for the next two miles.
In the vicinity of the graffiti walls, I also noticed some ruins set back from the river, which kind of acts as an additional landmark.
Trail Description – From The Graffiti Walls To Allison Gulch
From the graffiti walls and the ruins, the trail becomes somewhat more obvious as we now embark on a nearly 2-mile stretch of dry hiking along the eastern bank of the San Gabriel River.
Throughout this stretch, we went through a couple of large yucca fields where the trails of use weave between them.
Plus, there’s a couple of interludes where we had to climb along a ledge to avoid crossing the river prematurely as well as traversing a rockfall area.
Beyond these obstacles, there was a spur trail branching left towards a campsite, which we ignored.
Eventually after about 1.5 miles from the ruins (or 2.6 miles from the trailhead), we would eventually reach a bridge over Laurel Canyon followed by a sign saying “Sheep Mountain Wilderness”.
Roughly another 0.4-mile (or 3 miles from the trailhead), we’d reach the next crossing of the San Gabriel River, where we kept to the right to reach a trail that climbed up to a dam ruin right at the mouth of Allison Gulch.
Trail Description – From Allison Gulch To The East Fork Road
Traversing the gulch’s stream and continuing straight ahead on the East Fork Trail, we then bypassed a sign indicating “Big Foot Crossing 3 Miles”.
Shortly after this sign, we then encountered a landslide that buried the old trail and basically people skirted across this sketchy part (though it had widened in the 2 months since we first came here).
Beyond the landslide, the trail then followed more ledges before dropping down into a basin, where we had to be careful not to climb up to the ledge road on the right too soon (it would eventually lead to another eroded dropoff).
Instead, we kept in the yucca patch basin before the trail eventually reached the next crossing of the San Gabriel River (about 0.7-mile from the mouth of Allison Gulch).
After crossing the river, we then dry-hiked the west bank for another 0.1-mile before crossing back to the east side of the San Gabriel River.
From there, we then returned to another wide open yucca patch area where we then continued another 0.1-mile or so as we climbed up a well-worn embankment leading up to the continuation of the ledge road, which I’m calling the “East Fork Road”.
Trail Description – East Fork Road to Bridge to Nowhere & Its Waterfalls
Continuing along the “East Fork Road”, the trail would climb roughly 1000ft in elevation over a fairly sun-drenched, yucca-stabbing, overgrown trail (defying my expectations of finding concrete and clearings).
For the next 1.4 miles or so, the trail would continue rising above the basin, traverse another landslide obstacle, and then traverse through a blast zone where they must have blasted rock to make way for the road that once went through here.
Beyond this blast zone, we encountered the first of a handful of signs indicating that we had made it to the Bridge to Nowhere, and that it was a “no drone zone”.
Eventually after going by some abandoned building and some heavily surveilled containers (probably containing bunjee jumping infrastructure), we ultimately made it to the famous Bridge to Nowhere roughly 5.5 miles from the trailhead.
While a lot of people turned back from this bridge, we actually went another 0.3-mile further.
That was because after getting past a somewhat narrow and eroded ledge, the trail descended towards the San Gabriel River nearby a pair of cascades on the river.
These cascades easily could serve as swimming holes as a refreshing reward for the long hike to get here.
However, one has to be cognizant of the current in the river as well as the fact that you can’t go under the bridge, which is private property (the landowners don’t want any liability on their hands for trespassers who get hurt).
These waterfalls were ultimately the end of the line for us though I did notice there were more cascades that were further downstream from the Bridge to Nowhere.
Anyways, it took us around 3.5 hours to get to this point, and we had the option to keep going further upstream towards some primitive campsite, or go back the way we came, or start backtracking then pursuing the Devils Gulch Falls.
If you want to read more about that optional adventure to the hidden Devils Gulch Falls, then you’ll want to consult that separate write-up.
The Bridge To Nowhere Waterfalls are in the Angeles National Forest within the Sheep Mountain Wilderness near Azusa in Los Angeles County, California. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about this area as well as current conditions, visit the Angeles National Forest website or Facebook page.
The popular Bridge to Nowhere hike begins at the East Fork Trailhead, which you can easily route to as it’s well-represented on routing apps like Apple Maps, Google Maps, Waze, and more, but I’ll describe the directions old school below…
Driving to the East Fork Trailhead is pretty straightforward so we’ll pick up the driving directions from the Azusa Ave exit off the I-210 Freeway.
Heading north on Azusa Ave, we followed it for just under 12 miles as it passed through downtown Azusa and into San Gabriel Canyon, where the road became Hwy 39.
The mountainous road skirted by the west side of the San Gabriel Reservoir before we turned right at the East Fork Road, right before a bridge near the headwaters of the reservoir.
From there, we followed the East Fork Road for a little over 5 miles before keeping left at the next turnoff (the road on the right went towards Glendora and Baldy Village).
Once onto the turnoff to stay on the East Fork Road, we then followed it to the end for the remaining 3/4-mile before reaching the parking area for the East Fork Trailhead.
Unfortunately, there is limited parking at this lot, which causes people to have to resort to parking alongside the road, especially on the weekends.
I can’t advise on what’s legal or not as far as roadside parking is concerned so the best advice that I can give regarding the parking situation is to either show up early or don’t come on the weekend unless you want to wait for a spot to open up.
Overall, this drive should take roughly 30 minutes (spanning the 210 Freeway exit and the end of the East Fork Road).
Because this is National Forest Land, you’re supposed to display your National Forest Adventure Pass as well as to fill out a wilderness permit (self-help kiosk next to a building across from the parking lot entrance).
For some geographical context, the city of Azusa is about 24 miles (less than 30 minutes drive without traffic) east of downtown Los Angeles, about 43 milees (over 30 minutes drive without traffic) north of Irvine, and 39 miles (over 30 minutes drive without traffic) west of Riverside.
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