Features: The East Fork San Gabriel River is formed at the confluence of Vincent Gulch and the Prairie Fork. From there, this major fork of the San Gabriel River flows south through the rugged Sheep Mountain Wilderness and potential Wilderness Addition. At Heaton Flat, the East Fork parallels a road all the way to the San Gabriel Reservoir. The Forest Service found the East Fork to be eligible for Wild & Scenic protection in recognition of the river’s outstandingly remarkable fishery, recreation, and historical values.
The East Fork (along with the North and West Forks) is the best remaining habitat for and supports the best remaining population of the threatened Santa Ana sucker. The sucker is part of a rare native assemblage of southern California fish species. The stream also supports a healthy wild trout fishery. The year-round flowing waters of the East Fork offer recreational opportunities in an undeveloped setting of peace and solitude that is unique for southern California. Historic mining sites along the river provide a record of the southern California gold rush that led to the first exploration and settlement of the San Gabriel Mountains.
The hike up the East Fork from Heaton Flat offers “monumental” scenery “on a scale seen nowhere else in the San Gabriels”, representing “nature in its grandest proportions”according to John Robinson’s definitive guidebook, Trails of the Angeles. The hike also requires several wet crossings of the East Fork so be prepared for wet feet and avoid this hiking during heavy rains or run-off. A 4.5-mile hike up this rugged canyon takes you past the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” (which was formerly connected to a road wiped out in the 1938 flood) and the Narrows, one of the most impressive stream gorges in the San Gabriels.
Directions to the trailhead: From Interstate 210 in Azusa, drive north on Azusa Avenue, which becomes San Gabriel Canyon Road as it leaves the city and enters the mountains. Continue 10 miles past Morris and San Gabriel Reservoirs, and turn right on the East Fork Road. Proceed 8 miles up the road as it parallels the lower East Fork to the parking area where a locked gate prevents further vehicle access. Proceed down the road to Heaton Flat and continue upstream on the East Fork Trail.
Caution: Weather and road conditions can change in an instant. Always check with the managing agency before embarking on a trip. Always hike with a friend and carry a cell phone for emergencies. Bring plenty of drinking water, food, and clothing for changing weather conditions. Let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be back. Remember, California’s wild places are beautiful but they can also be dangerous to the unprepared and unwary. The California Wilderness Coalition assumes no liability if you intend to visit any of the wild places featured in our materials.