The San Gabriel River Trail – A Facilities Survey from the Sea to Downey
SCENERY … *** Let’s face it, we’re riding in a glorified concrete ditch called the San Gabriel River. It gets a bit wilder further upstream, but down here it is concrete and urban views of back yards and industry. It you want to take a ride on the wild side: Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes in Idaho – 74 miles of great scenery and blacktop.
FACILITIES … **** The facilities at the parks on the route were average to above average.
TRAIL SURFACE … ** Be nice if they would pave it. Again. Use stimulus $$. Spokane did a trailhead and paved some miles of the Fish Lake Trail with those funds. It’s tired blacktop with numerous cracks running down the trail and across. There seems to be one cross trail crack every 10-20’. Some are inches wide. Most have not been filled. Potholes here and there. Areas of serious erosion on the inside bank, i.e., a 20” deep gully extending to the blacktop – common.
“Parking and restrooms are available at the ranger station at the north end and beach access at the southern end.”
Seriously? Sounds like a challenging ride. Thirty + miles of trail with facilities only at the ends? Not likely. Just means that no one has updated the map with “Here There Be Parking” and other icons. They can do that from Washington, D. C., if they get the data. Time to go and collect some data.
TrailBear has been interspersing his OC trail surveys with segments of the San Gabriel River Trail. And, “Yes, Virginia…” there is water and parking and restrooms and such along the trail (along with a skate park, assorted tennis courts, baseball diamonds, community centers, picnic pavilions, shopping centers and more). There is a string of parks, like beads, the length of the trail. Let’s start at the bottom, where the river meets the sea and follow the chain of facilities uphill to the mountains. Bring up Google Earth and cut/paste the coordinates into the GE search box to see what is where.
TRAIL END SOUTH – SEAL BEACH … GE: 33.742323° -118.114405°
You have choices here: the trail end beach access parking or the Marina Park, just up hill. There is a beach access parking lot with restroom, water, restaurant and pay station at the Seal Beach side of the river where it meets the sea. Park and pay and start riding inland and uphill. The trail is right over there.
Your other alternative, another full service trailhead with free parking, is the Seal Beach Marina Park at 1st St. and Marina Dr., one block from the trail and from the beach access lot. Try Google Earth: 33.745660° -118.109852°
The SGRT is a levee trail. There is a narrow blacktop trail atop the levee. The lanes are about 5’ wide and the pavement is, at best, a *** and more often **. Watch for cracks, ‘gatoring sections and really watch for potholes. Good way to taco a rim. The sector from the beach to the power plant had them outlined in paint. That helps. Above that, best be looking.
When you leave the beach, your destination landmark is those smoke stacks in the distance. That is the Haynes Steam Plant – LA Power and Water. When you underpass the Pacific Coast Highway, look right. That canal is the cooling water intake for the plant. The plant is further along.
This section of the trail is industrial – remains of the oil boom. The beach itself was wall to wall derricks in the early part of the 20th Century. On the far bank you can see some pumps still pumping. There is still oil down there and the new oil islands offshore show that you can get it – but from offshore, NIMBY.
Once past the steam plant, aim for the trail junction at El Dorado Park, about 2.5 miles inland. Here you meet the Coyote Creek Channel (straight ahead) and cross the bridge to rejoin the SGRT. Signage is sparse to absent. Best make GE photo maps of the trail.
On the far shore of the SGT is the golf course at El Dorado Regional Park. Just ahead, on the trail, is the other section of El Dorado. Water, restrooms and fee parking are inside the park. Not really worth it as there are better trailheads up the line – and they are trailside and free .
HARTWELL JUNCTION & WALMART … GE: 33.831031° -118.092907°
At Carson St. you have choices. There is a bike/ped bridge there leading to the Hartwell Trail, which traverses Hartwell Park in Long Beach for 2.3 miles to end at Clark St. On your right is Wal Mart. The SGRT goes ahead.
Consider Wal Mart and the rest of the Long Beach Town Center mall to be a full service commercial trailhead – with acres of parking, restrooms, water, food, and shopping of all sorts, including an In & Out Burger store. Ahead is the Carson St. underpass. Watch speed in any of these underpasses. There is a lot of silt washed down by the rains, so skidding out on a turn is a real option. Add to that a blind corner or two and it gets interesting. Now add flocks of roadies entering from both ends.
Diagonally across Carson is the West San Gabriel River Parkway Nature Trail, which runs up to the Monte Verde Park. Ahead is Rynerson Park, then Liberty Park. Both have good facilities but Liberty was where the action was. A lot of bikies stage out of Liberty Park. We made this our trail head for exploring the midsection of the trail.
LIBERTY PARK, CERRITOS … GE: 33.853436° -118.100740°
Liberty Park, at 19211 Studebaker Road, Cerritos, is a comfortable full service trailhead. The park has a lot of facilities ranging from a Community Center right down past tennis courts, ball fields, a track and such to trailside parking, water, and restrooms – handy for the folks going up and down the SGRT just over the fence.
Head up river. Just beyond the park is the vast Cerritos Auto Mall. You ride past the extensive back parking lot. It’s a half mile long. Next attraction is a large equestrian center. From here onward you will be sharing the underpasses with horses. They have their own riding trail at the bottom of the levee, but hikers, bikers and riders all meet in the underpasses.
So, in addition to the silt that washes down, you will find a garnish of horse poop. Might want to take the underpasses at a slow bell and pick your line. (This is another reason the Gutterbunny has fenders.) Besides, who wants to jam it into a blind crossing to find Dobbin coming the other way?
Ahead is a RR bridge and then the 91 Freeway. On the trail side a Par 9 golf course wraps around a sewer plant. Aside from smell, you can tell: Windsocks. Lots of them. They want to see which way that green cloud of chlorine is blowing.
THE BRIDGE AT CARUTHERS PARK/BELLFLOWER SKATE PARK, BELLFLOWER … GE: 33.880385° -118.108287°
1.86 miles upriver from Liberty Park you meet the bridge to Carruthers Park, 10500 Flora Vista Street, Bellflower, CA 90706 – just above the 91 Freeway. Cross over and check out Carruthers. Not a bad park. Another full service trailhead for the SGRT. It has a skate park, decent restrooms, water, tables, courts and – something new from last fall – the trail end of the Bellflower Bike and Pedestrian Path.
Remember that RR line you undercrossed before the 91 Freeway? Yep. Turns into the BB&PP across the river. The BB&PP runs from Carruthers Park up the old Pacific Electric Red Car line to Lakewood Blvd. The City of Paramount would like to extend it across their town. It was 20 years in the planning and lobbying, but now it’s open. Check it out. Once upon a time there was over 1,000 miles of light rail hereabouts.
Above Alondra Blvd. you enter a region of modest homes with horses in the back yards (and goats and chickens and more). The homes backing on the river have deep lots and it seems that almost everyone has a stable in the back yard. In some cases it appears they have more money in the stables or barn than the house. Leads one to wonder if they are boarding horses. They have gates letting directly onto the horse trail. If you are into horses, this is an option.
GLAZIER PARK … 33.894984°
At GE: 33.896843° -118.108193° is a local access path leading to a greenbelt. O.K., it’s a muddy little horse-trampled track, but it gets better. At 0.12 miles inside, there is a small parking area in the greenbelt. The street is Excelsior Dr. and 0.25 miles from the trail, on the far side of the 605 is Glazier Park - a neighborhood park with restrooms and water.
FOSTER RD. GREENBELT ACCESS, NORWALK … GE: 33.909874° -118.109350°
In Norwalk, just below the 105 x 605 interchange, the trail reaches the Foster Rd. Bridge. You can cross to the far side or take the greenbelt bike/walk running between Norwalk and Domart. They have done a fine design job on this greenbelt. It’s worth a small detour to ride it. No water was seen there. However, a block south is the New River Park.
It was at the bridge that TrailBear met the commo crew for the Bellflower Lions Club’s 25th Annual Tour de Sewer. (What a charming name!) It’s a 15, 30, 62 mile ride (not race) and looks like a fun event. Today it was happening amid heavy showers. TB has it on the calendar for 2011. He was entranced by the Tour de Sewer jersey – which comes in 2XL –bear sized.
Check it out…
THE TARGET AT FIRESTONE, NORWALK … GE: 33.925679° -118.107179°
On Firestone Blvd, between the river and the 605 Freeway is a Target. After shopping, cross at the light and take the sidewalk 0.2 miles to the entrance to the trail. Another option, with sidewalk access (no way the TrailBear is going street riding on Florence Blvd.) is the Costco @ Norwalk on 12324 Hoxie Ave. – just the other side of the 605.
WILDERNESS PARK, DOWNEY … GE: 33.936187° -118.100282°
We surveyed the Wilderness Park on our initial van survey of parks on the trail. There were welcome signs out: “No In and Out. $2 Parking.” We gave it a pass that day. Looked like a nice park from the street. Busy on weekends. Lots of room in the parking lot today. Must be the rain. Still charging on weekends to park. That big white building houses the restrooms, meeting rooms, etc. It’s a great place to get out of the rain – nice wide porches on both sides wit benches. Wilderness would make a nice trailhead for this section of the trail.
The Tour de Sewer rest area was set up at the trail entrance to the park. Great day to ride, for sure. Blustery, rainy, heavy showers. Nothing on the radar when we left Newport Beach. Now look at it. Wife down at Liberty reports heavy rains there. Spotty here for the moment. TB shelters on the porch and tried to get a radar map on his phone. No joy. However, the skies towards Liberty Park are looking better, so time to hat up and head downstream.
The survey will continue all the way to the mountains, but not today. The showers headed that way. Best TB head the other direction.
LINKS WORTH LOOKING AT…
Marina Park, Seal Beach. Full service trailhead one block off the trail at 115 N. Marina Drive, Seal Beach. Free parking.
Liberty Park, 19211 Studebaker Road, Cerritos. Your full service trailhead on the lower third of the SGRT.
LA Bike Paths – a very helpful site with maps.