This 13 mile loop route with 2,854 feet of gain barely qualified for the San Gabriel Trails Project. It does, however, include several miles of trail that are, indeed, within the San Gabriel Mountains. Those several miles of the Cross Town Trail in La Cañada’s trail system are what this loop is named after.
The idea for developing this loop route came to me two days ago on a run with my wife at Cherry Canyon Park in the San Rafael Hills. I decided to start that run from near Descanso Gardens on the north side. This area was new to me, and I noted that a trail continued on the opposite side of the street northward through a powerline easement toward the mountains. I wondered then whether I could take that trail and connect the San Gabriels to the San Rafael Hills. Using Google Earth, I ended up planning a route that started and ended by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, using the Flint Wash Trail to get to the San Rafael Hills, the La Cañada Trail to get to the San Gabriel Mountains, the Cross Town Trail through the San Gabriel foothills, and a fire road to take me into the Angeles National Forest near Gould Mesa Campground where I’d take the familiar Gabrielino Trail along the Arroyo Seco back to JPL. Things ended up not quite working out the way I planned.
I started the run a little after 8:00 am from the Windsor lot overlooking Hahamongna Park and NASA JPL. From there I headed south, eventually crossing over Devil’s Gate Dam. Just past the dam is a pedestrian bridge, and just past that (and easily missed) is the Flint Wash Trail entrance. This trail winds through an easement for a little over three miles between houses in an overall very wealthy residential neighborhood. Many of the homes have horse stables and, of course, horses which are sometimes ridden on the trail. While it does wind through residences, the trail is actually an enjoyable one with some rollercoaster-like up and down sections and a lot of woodsy shade.
At roughly mile 3.1, you cross Hampstead Road and enter Cherry Canyon Park. There are a lot of trail options here and you can run around for miles and miles. The park is within the San Rafael Hills between La Cañada and Glendale. While the terrain does not go that high (thus the lack of a “mountain” moniker), many of the trails are very steep and sometimes technical. It’s a nice place to run for a change of pace from the bigger mountain climbs and descents. On this day, however, I simply followed the Cherry Canyon Motorway (a fire road) uphill to a ridgeline where I turn onto the Descanso Motorway (also a fire road). Following the Descanso Motorway gradually takes you down into the La Crescenta/La Cañada area.
At mile 5.4, you cross Descanso Drive and catch the La Cañada Trail, which will take you north via high voltage powerline easements to the San Gabriel Mountains. Most of this pathway is very open with limited shade. The path alternates between standard dirt road and an artificially-constructed decomposed granite surface. Your route is well-marked. Just look for the signs. The only confusing location is at Foothill Boulevard (mile 5.8) where you have to cross Foothill and walk a little ways up Indiana Avenue to find the trail behind a garden center. There is no sign directing you. I had to use Google Maps on my phone to locate it.
After a lot of street crossings (and a pedestrian bridge over Interstate 210), you eventually reach a small park and the start of the Cross Town Trail (mile 6.7). From here, the trail switchbacks steeply up into the foothills gaining 800 feet in 1.2 miles. The trail is fairly wide and appeared to be usually well-maintained, but many areas were pretty bad during this outing (rock slides and washouts) because of the recent very heavy rains. Nothing, however, seemed remotely problematic.
Today was a clear day, and the views from the trail were really nice.
The trail tops out at about 2,600 feet. Right after hitting the mark, it descends steeply down. I recommend having shoes that do well on angled decomposing granite. Some of these sections would have been difficult to hike down, but I made it down running with relatively few slips.
My intent, as noted in the opening, was to take the Cross Town Trail to where Google Earth said it ends along Angeles Crest Highway. I did note when researching the route that I could not actually see a trail at the eastern end on the aerial photo. I checked a few websites from one or two years ago that said following the route involved bushwhacking and they didn’t do it. On this day, I saw no visible route. Apparently, the trail used to head that way, but now dumps out further southwest in a residential neighborhood. I was momentarily confused, but a sign at the trail’s end came to my rescue. It gave specific directions to the Gould Canyon Trail. I hadn’t taken that trail before, but I remembered seeing signs for it at Hahamongna Park so I figured it must get me there.
The Gould Canyon Trail was much like the Flint Wash Trail. It also winds around through residences, crossing many streets along the way. It does drop several times into a v-shaped drainage that winds between neighborhoods. This drainage did appear to be a type that likely has fairly high and fast flows for short periods during heavy rains, so this trail may not be a good option during significant rain events as the drainage probably can’t be safely crossed. The trail eventually dumps you out across the street from Hahamongna Park near the spot that used to be Oak Grove Park. From here, I crossed the Arroyo Seco back to where I started.
Link to Garmin info here: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1599844310
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