The Bridge to Nowhere is a 120-ft arch bridge, constructed in 1936 over the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. The bridge was meant to connect a passage between the San Gabriel Valley and Wrightwood, until 1938, when a massive flood destroyed the road. The abandoned bridge remains and has become a local treasure for SoCal hikers and bungee jumpers.
On the first day of June, we embarked on the 10-mile round trip journey early in the morning. My sister Kyrsti and our friends Sydney and Diane signed up with Bungee America for the first jump trip of the day. Since they had to be at the trail head by 6AM, I traveled separately with my friends Rachel and Justin. By the time we arrived at the bridge, Kyrsti and Sydney were preparing for their turns.
I danced around anxiously as I waited for my little sister to plunge 120 feet off a bridge. I know she’s practically a grown up, but the protective big sister instinct runs deep. The jump was no big deal for the young daredevil. The staff commented on her exquisite form as she swan dived towards the river bed. On her second jump, she launched herself off the platform backwards into a perfect flip.
But bungee jumping was only half of the adventure. After all three girls had their turns, we began to hike downstream to investigate a tip on a secret waterfall. The trail to the riverbed from the bridge was severely overgrown. As soon as we reached the water’s edge, we encountered a group of friendly locals in tie-dyed shirts. We casually asked if they knew about any waterfalls. They told us we were heading in the right direction, but we had to keep our eyes peeled because it was easy to miss.
We continued to hike downstream for several miles in search of the landmark leading to the secret waterfall. Luckily, Justin spotted it after half of us had already walked past it. Before long, we were standing at the foot of a pool, looking up at a crystal clear waterfall, cascading over a wall of bright green moss. We all had a moment of silence to soak in the reality of what we had just stumbled upon: a peaceful oasis all to ourselves.
Despite the outside heat, the waterfall was unbearably cold. We took turns imitating our own shampoo commercials in between hyperventilating.
From the waterfall, we hiked back to the river and continued our journey downstream during the hottest part of the day. The temperature reached 100 degrees as each of us took our last sip of water.
We spent the rest of our hike alternating between walking and laying down in the river. I’ve never been so thirsty surrounded by so much water. Shoestring Adventures Lesson #1: Always bring a water filter on a hike where water is available. I won’t let my friends go thirsty… ever again.
I rationed out a bag of warm cherries, savoring the juices from each bite as if it was a glass of water. Despite suffering from mild heat exhaustion and dehydration, each time I laid down in the water under a shady tree felt like heaven upon me.
By the time we reached the trail head, I was running on empty. We had no water in the car, so we would have to pray for a nearby general store. Shoestring Adventures Lesson #2: Always keep an ice chest filled with cool beverages in the car for post-hike recovery.
On the hike back to the car, a man and his son appeared like shining angels of hydration and offered us each a bottle of water. This held us over until we made it to the local deli just a few miles away.
The refrigerators at the deli couldn’t keep up with the demand for icy cold beverages in that heat. We purchased as many room temperature bottles of water and Gatorade that we could carry and hydrated under the misters on the patio before driving home.
Even if I could go back in time, I wouldn’t choose any other day for this hike. Few things are more relaxing than floating in quiet stream on a hot day with people who love adventures as much as you do, even if you’re so thirsty you could drink a river.
Bridge to Nowhere Trail
- Trailhead Parking: You must purchase an adventure pass to park at the trail head. Click here for locations. This is a popular hiking destination, so arrive early for premium parking. I didn’t realize at the time, but a wilderness pass is also required for each hiker. Go to Hikespeak.com for more info.
- Road Trip: 1 hour from downtown Los Angeles
- Trail Distance: 10-mi round trip; 900 feet elevation gain
- Fitness Level: Intermediate
- What to Bring: Bring lots of water (more than 2 liters). Wear hiking shoes, but bring water shoes and a towel for river crossings. In the summer months, bring a bathing suit to swim.
- Source: Go to Hikespeak.com for trail directions.
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