The trail leading to the Bridge to Nowhere is a very popular hike lying about an hour from downtown Los Angeles and heading into the wild canyons of the San Gabriel River.
Also known as the East Fork Trail, the hike gets its name from the scenic and grossly out of place arch bridge lying about 5 miles up the canyon with only a trail on either side. The bridge was built during the planned construction of a highway connecting the San Gabriel Valley with the mountain city of Wrightwood. Work began in 1936, but about two years later, a large flood washed away the roadbed, and plans to continue working on the highway were suspended. Today much of the former roadbed is visible and makes up a portion of the hike itself, though sporadic floods and landslides ensure that the landscape and trail network remains fluid.
The route to the Bridge to Nowhere moves through the shaded canyon bottom and the shadeless plateaus along the former roadbed. Several river crossings are required, though the changing trails mean that this number might fluctuate from one season to the next. Having the right footwear to walk through shin-deep water is a must.
The hike itself is very technical, crossing running water, sandy washes, stony dry riverbeds, and narrow yucca-filled labyrinths just waiting to stab hikers who aren't sufficiently careful. Some scrambling is also required. Although the trail splits and becomes hard to follow at quite a few points, heading upriver will eventually lead you to the bridge. At about 3.5 miles, look uphill to the east, and the old roadbed will become visible. The easiest way to proceed is getting onto the trail on this roadbed.
The bridge itself is on private property, with permission to pass granted by the owners. There are no amenities at any point along the river. On weekends, the bridge serves as a popular bungee jumping spot.
While the Bridge to Nowhere is a popular hiking destination, the Narrows of the East Fork Canyon lying a quarter mile beyond it offer the most scenic swimming holes of the hike, along with several flats among the trees where hikers can set up camp for the night. The Narrows is prone to flooding, which can change the available campsites; however, there are multiple areas that are suitable for camping that can be found by hiking deeper into the Narrows and further from the bridge.
Since the vast majority of hikers are on day hikes to the bridge, camping out in the Narrows gives backpackers an opportunity to experience the bridge along with some of the swimming holes without the crowds.
Before beginning the hike, hikers are required to fill out a wilderness permit, available in the East Fork parking area or about a half-mile in at the group campsite. All cars in the East Fork parking area must display a California Adventure Pass, available at Big 5 Sporting Goods or Liquor Land - both located on Azusa Avenue north of the I-210 freeway in Azusa. For those interested in camping, be aware that daily Adventure Passes are good only until 10 a.m. the following morning. Vault toilets and trash cans are available in the parking area.
Be sure to carry plenty of water and sun protection, and be sure to watch out for the poison oak that lies in areas along the trail and in the Narrows camping areas.