TRAILBEAR RIDES THE EMERALD NECKLACE - THE LARIO, UPPER RIO HONDO, SGRT LOOP
On a warm, sunny Saturday, the TrailBear met up with the informative and elegant Alice (from Bikeforum) to survey the Whittier Narrows sector and sort out what connects to what. Alice, mounted on a classic French road bike, has lived in the sector for years, ridden all the trails and knows the rides and the history. What better guide could a TrailBear have as he sorted out the LARIO, the Upper Rio Hondo Bikeway, the SGRT and their cross connections, all of which come together in the Whittier Narrows?
LEGG LAKE PARK, 210’ GE: N34.03749 W118.06359
Legg Lake was the trailhead for the ride. Should it be Legg Lakes? There are three of them. This is a park in the Whittier Narrows Dam County Recreational Area. There are three lakes, many paths and facilities and a five mile round-the-lakes bike trail. It’s a nice place and a handy full service trailhead for the Whittier Narrows sector as the LARIO is to the west and the San Gabriel River Trail is to the east, and both close aboard.
It’s a fee park. It’s a free park. We can’t figure it out. You can tell the free lots – they are filled. You can tell the pay lots – they are empty – save for a few of the not too bright and the ticket takers. We parked in a free lot just off Rosemead Blvd. at the base of the north lake. Water and restroom there, and throughout the park. This is not Irvine, however. Dear Wife said the loo should be downchecked from 2* to 1* after a day of use.
ACCESS POINT ON DURFEE, 217’, GE: N34.03053 W118.05623
The first question was: Is there safe bike access from Legg Lake(s) to the San Gabriel River Trail? Yes, there is. From the southern parking lot, between two maintenance yards, you will see a sidewalk leading to Durfee Ave. Across the street is a locked drive gate with open ped gate on the right side and a stack of trail signs. Scamper across Durfee, fling yourself through the ped gate and mount up. This road will take you down to the Four Corners Junction – where the trails meet at Whittier Narrows Dam.
THE FOUR CORNERS JUNCTION, 210’, GE: N34.02351 W118.05465
Just above the Whittier Narrows Dam is the Four Corners Junction where the San Gabriel River Trail, the Upper Rio Hondo Trail and the access trail from Legg Lake come together. From here you can ride up the SGRT for miles and miles to the mountains. You can ride down the SGRT for more miles to the sea. You can head up the Upper Rio Hondo. You have choices. We headed up the Upper Rio Hondo.
WHAT’S IN A NAME? LARIO? RIO HONDO, UPPER RIO HONDO, WHAT?
It would be easier if the LA River Trail ran to the Rio Hondo confluence and the Rio Hondo Trail ran up it. Tidy, logical and easy to understand, but no. Which is why we have the LARIO Trail (LA River/Rio Hondo) and the Upper Rio Hondo Trail. LA County Department of Public Works notes that the LARIO is 28 miles long and starts north of the Whittier Narrows Dam.
The Friends of the Los Angeles River’s official guide book, “Down by the Los Angeles River,” notes that the Upper Rio Hondo Trail begins at the Peck Rd. Water Conservation Park in Arcadia and continues 5.2 miles down to end at Rush St., at the top of the Narrows, where the LARIO Trail begins.
Having done the trail, TB notes that you really can’t tell. Same cracked asphalt on both sides. Besides, if that is the case, why is there an Upper Rio Hondo Trail sign way down at Four Corners? It should be LARIO. Inconsistent signage, that’s what. This is confusion and a point of interest to geographers.
For the bikies, just think of it all as LARIO, from sea to Peck Road Park on the west side of the Narrows and SGRT, from sea to canyon mouth, on the east side of the Narrows. Which is why this review is on the LARIO page. (The other reason is that no one has posted a review or a photo on this page, and TB was feeling sorry for the poor LARIO.) Truth be known, the LARIO/URH from the Narrows to Peck Rd. is a rather nice ride. TB will be back to check out the ride from Narrows to LA River.
We headed up Siphon Rd./Upper Rio Hondo Trail to the junction of Rosemead and San Gabriel. Across Rosemead is a section of the LARIO heading south to the sea on one side of San Gabriel. On the other side it heads up to Peck Rd. Park. The only trailhead in this sector is a failed one: Bosque del Rio Hondo Park at 34.029412° -118.068235°. It’s a charming little park at the corner of the intersection with three problems: $5 fee, no water working, restrooms locked. For this I should pay $5.00?! (TB is parked in a free lot at Legg Lake.)
BOSQUE DEL RIO HONDO NATURAL AREA WAYSIDE, 201’, GE: N34.02986 W118.07021
A bit of sidewalk work and the trail dives into the greenery. Alice pointed out that Back in the Day – before the cars made it possible to drive to the ocean – this was it - riverside beach recreation. There is a nice wayside with tables and trash. No water fountain seen. This part of the trail is quite green and pleasant. Meadows filled with spring flowers, groves of trees and garlands of trash way high up from the last decent flood thru here. Nice riding.
LOMA AVE. TRAILHEAD, 208’, GE: 34.043544° -118.068393°
From the meadows we passed alongside the shotgun range, ducked under the Pomona Freeway and hit the junction of the LARIO and the side trail to Loma Ave. trailhead. This area is devoted to flying model airplanes. There is even a small runway. You can find parking, restrooms and water at Loma Ave. Free? No idea. The trail here has an overhead cover to provide some protection from the model aircraft.
The LARIO ends and the Upper Rio Hondo begins north of here at Rush St. The greenery of the Whittier Narrows Rec Area gives way to the traditional SoCal river – a concrete channel. However, the views to the mountains are wide open and it’s a pleasant ride up “river”.
LASHBROOK PARK, 241’, GE: N34.06591 W118.06348
There are some new pocket parks being developed along the Rio Hondo and SGRT as part of the Emerald Necklace program. Lashbrook is one. At the upper end is a water fountain, wayside, tot lot and one of those decorative gates we seen in this area. Some on-street parking for access. Good looking wayside.
The Necklace is a series of river-side parks on the Rio Hondo and SGRT from Whittier Narrows to Peck Rd. They hope to do a cross trail between Peck Rd. Park and the SGRT to make a loop. That will be nice. It’s about a 19 mile loop ride, and scenic. Check it out:
FLETCHER PARK, 255’, GE: N34.07108 W118.04781
Fletcher Park, by the 10 Freeway and the El Monte Bus Station, was rather a bust. There is parking, there is water, there are locked restrooms. This may be due to the “diverse demographic” one finds floating about a bus station. Pioneer Park is a bit further on. Try there.
Further up the trail, where Valley Blvd. crosses the river, there is a new El Monte wayside park, plaza with benches and veteran’s memorial. Nice spot. Next scenic attraction is the El Monte Airport with small aircraft coming in over the trail. Round the corner at the airport and ahead is a dam. Can it be? Yes it is!
PECK ROAD WATER CONSERVATION PARK, 324’, GE: N34.10022 W118.01217
It’s the end of the trail. From the sea way down in Long Beach Harbor, up the LA River, up the Rio Hondo Channel, through the Narrows and onto the Upper Rio Hondo Trail to Peck Lake (former gravel pit). It’s a large lake and a nice park. Usual water, restrooms, parking lot with shade, picnic tables, BBQs, trail to other side of lake, etc.
For Alice and the TrailBear, it’s just half the ride. Now, how to get back to the SGRT and down to Legg Lake again? Consult TB’s map collection. If we go cross-lots on these neighborhood streets and work down to Lower Azuza Rd., we will hit an access point on the SGRT. Says so on the LA County Bike Map.
Step one – dash across N. Peck Rd. Enter the Rio Hondo Parkway – which is not. Nice, quiet ‘hood streets with low traffic and interesting homes. Thence to Cogswell and down toward Lower Azuza. The smart move would have been to cut over on Roseglen, cutting off some of Lower Azuza, a busy arterial with no bike lanes.
Sidewalk ahead, dive onto it. Bridge ahead and there is the SGRT access. Hard right and we are back on Class 1 trail, descending a series of the weir dams on the San Gabriel.
THIENES AVE. TRAILHEAD, 238’, GE: N34.03894 W118.02828
At the end of Thienes Ave. is one of the newer bits of the Emerald Necklace – the Thienes Ave. trailhead. Here is some on-street parking, a decorative gate, a water fountain, a sheltered bench, info signs and horses. The area just up river is a horse sector, with stables and such. The equestrian center is down in the river bed by the dam and there is horse traffic up and down. Mostly on their own horse trail, but they share the underpasses. Whoops!
TB vows to mount the MagicShine light next time – all the better to see the horse apples in that dark freeway underpass. Plus, the light has a strobe feature that may cause grand mal seizures but it sure attracts attention. See bear, avoid same. Heading out around dawn he often sees a bikie coming his way. You can see that bikie three blocks off with his strobing headlight. Also has a strobe taillight. Gotta get one of those.
From Thienes Ave. we are back in the Narrows. Here comes the Nature Center – no horses or bikes. Here comes the Four Corners Junction. We head to the top of the dam to see the sights. Photos in all directions. Then back down to the corners and up the trail to Legg Lake and the van. Done. Except the survey paperwork. That is done by 22:55 that night.
The loop ride was about 19 miles. We poked into corners here and there, so your mileage will vary. It was an enjoyable ride. Do it again? Sure will. The LARIO Trail has a bad rap, but the Upper Rio Hondo is a good ride. The loop makes it better. Next time it will be down the Rio Hondo to see how that section of trail stacks up.
The best trail heads were at the ends – Legg Lake and Peck Park. The Thienes Ave. trailhead over on the SGRT was a welcome sight. From there the next water up is at the base of the Santa Fe Dam, about 6 miles up.
TRAILBEAR’S TRAIL SCALE RATINGS…
SCENERY – 4* URBAN. Liked the greenery in the Narrows. Liked the wide open vistas of the mountains on the Upper Rio Hondo. Good ride.
TRAILBED – 3*. They must have bought a 2” asphalt job on these trails. Cross cracks about every 10’ for miles. Some filled. Many not. Thumpa…thumpa…thumpa. Seems to be the norm in LA County. Better trail surfaces in Irvine and the OC.
FACILITIES-2* to 5*. The local park restrooms will never make a 5* on the Irvine Scale. The new waysides are well done 5* projects. Love those decorative gates.
Putting the icons on the map.