Updated: Dec 16, 2021
The Bridge to Nowhere hike is one of the most beautiful trails I've completed in Southern California. This trail is just shy of 10 miles and lies in the valley of the San Gabriel mountains of the Angeles National Forest and goes along (and through) the San Gabriel River.
As you hike along the trail you go from cottonwoods on a riverbank to yuccas in a dry and rocky desert, then to the mountain top where you reach the mighty bridge to nowhere. In this post, I would like to give some background on this infamous SoCal hike and what to expect if you manage to make the trek.
What is the Bridge to Nowhere?
The bridge was built in 1936 to unite San Gabriel Valley and the town of Wrightwood, but a flood in 1938 washed out the road leading to the bridge. With a lack of investment from either side of the valley, they gave up on restoring the road and left the large stone a cement bridge that still stands today.
Now I don't see how you can build an entire bridge with no road, but I guess they really just didn't care about it that much.
What to pack before going?
1. Adventure Pass: this is a parking pass that lets you park in the Angeles National Forest. You can get one for one day for $5 or an annual pass for just $30. You will be ticketed if you do not have one or if you park in an undesignated parking spot (saw this on the way back to the car around 3pm).
2. Sunscreen and Med Pack: this is self-explanatory, but please always bring these items on your hikes, they could literally save your life.
3. Lots of water or a water filter: this hike does have many river crossings so you can simply filter more water if you bring one, but the last mile is exposed desert so it gets pretty hot.
4. Swimsuit: in the summer when its warm out, you can sit in the beautiful river pools under the bridge to cool off.
5. Lunch and Snacks: after a 5 mile hike through forest and desert and a 1300ft elevation gain, you're bound to be a bit more hungry than a cliff bar can satisfy.
6. Towel and Water Sandals: this is for the many river crossings you'll have to make. If you want to take your time, you can switch out your shoes for every crossing, or just go barefoot and wipe your feet off with a towel afterward.
7. Extra Socks: you can also do what I did and simply trudge through every crossing in your hiking shoes because you simply don't give a fuck if you have wet feet for a while, but a change of socks at the end is sorta nice.
8. Your Phone: not only for epic pics on the trail but for the All Trails app. I love this app because you can download a map of any trail to use offline and it uses your phone's GPS to show you where you are on the trail. It also has helpful trail specific tips if you feel lost while you're out there.
9. Money(optional): if you feel like taking this hike to another level, you have the option on weekends to go bungy jumping off the bridge! The cost as of November 2020 is $99 for a single jump.
What to expect on the trail
1. The general landscape of this trail is a valley between the mountains. You start in the desert, then you go in and out of a riverside forest into the last stretch becoming desert again until the bridge.
2. There are 12 river crossings! with 6 on the way to the bridge and 6 back, this means you will get wet. Also note that the water level is much higher earlier in the year even in summer, in the fall it drops to about ankle to knee high. So take that as you will.
3. There are a lot of uneven rocky areas and multiple scrambling points, so be prepared to climb a bit. Also near the end, there is a steep hill to walk up for about 200ft.
4. The trails are pretty poorly marked, you have to keep an eye out for small spray paint markings on rocks and trees. They can be red or yellow and in an arrow or dot shape. Not to worry though, any trail you take will lead to the same spot eventually.
5. Being one of the most popular hikes near Los Angeles this trail was full of people. Getting there at 8am we still had to park half a mile away from the trailhead. At 3pm when we got back there were cars parked over a mile away. Luckily once you're on the trail it splits up so you're not running into as many people once you're out there.
6. Lastly, always watch out for desert wildlife. We ran across a beautiful kingsnake on our hike and while they aren't poisonous, there is still a possibility of other dangerous animals in the area.
The big takeaway here is that this is not a trail for a nice stroll with only your 16oz water bottle in your hand (even my dog fell asleep on my lap once we got to the bridge). You will get wet and you will want to be prepared. With energizing food, sun protection, and lots of water, you'll have a great time. While the trail can be strenuous and confusing, it is one of the most unique and diverse trails I've ever seen and definitely worth the trip.
Until next time,