The Bridge to Nowhere is a classic hike for good reason. The route is rugged but doable by most beginners. You'll follow the East Fork of the San Gabriel River upstream, crossing it six times as you dive deeper into the Sheep Mountain Wilderness. Once you're about five miles in, you'll round a bend, and bam! There's a beautiful 120-foot bridge spanning the East Fork Narrows! It's a popular hike, but I'll share a tip that can dramatically change your experience.
- Video & Turn by Turn Hike Directions
- Where to Park, Permits and Fees
- Planning Your Hike (With Shoe & Gear Recommendations)
When planning, always check the park website and social media to make sure the trails are open. Similarly, check the weather and road conditions.
Bridge to Nowhere Hiking Tips
- Weekends are a mess. There are crowds, and many hikers don’t know proper hiking etiquette. You’ll hear Bluetooth speakers, people talking about their lives, etc., and it’s not a peaceful experience. Come at sunrise on a weekday for the best experience. You’ll often have most of the trail to yourself. When I do this, I’m usually the only person at the bridge, aside from some bighorn sheep.
- Bungee America offers bungee jumping off of the Bridge to Nowhere on weekends. The groups leave as a guided hike at 6 am or 7 am, or both. If you want to skip the crowds, don't hike then. FYI the bungee company leases the land around the bridge from Angeles National Forest.
- Most of the time, the hike is easy, and crossing the river is straightforward. But if there are thunderstorms in the forecast, the river can become a raging torrent. People have died here when the river floods, so take it seriously.
- Similarly, in the spring, the river can be higher and cold if there’s snow melting from the mountains. The sweet spot to do the hike is in the fall.
- Technically, a free, self-issued permit is required to enter the Sheep Mountain Wilderness, where the bridge is. There used to be boxes full of permits at the trailhead and along the way, but not anymore. It’s obvious that the permit system is not enforced, but if you really want to get one, visit one of the ranger stations for Angeles NF. Again, you don’t need to, and no one is checking.
- You need a parking pass for the lot. I use an America the Beautiful (National Parks Pass) pass which gets me in all federal land and National Parks. You can also pick up an Adventure Pass which only works in Southern California.
- Use the bathroom before getting to the trailhead. There's a nasty toilet at the trailhead and another one about 15 minutes down the trail at Heaton Flat. There are no other bathrooms along the hike and none at the bridge.
Where is the Bridge to Nowhere?
Gear for the Hike
- After doing this hike many times, I've found that wearing vented trail runners and just walking through the water is your best bet. Your feet will dry as you hike, and the cool water feels good on your feet. Some people bring sandals and dry shoes and switch back, but it's a waste of time.
- If you are skillful, you can also rock-hop across most crossings. A lot depends on how high the river is. Having trekking poles will help you balance across the rocks.
- In the summer it can get brutally hot. Bring at least 1L of water if not more. Winters can be in the 40-60F range, and you should dress accordingly.
- Some sections of the trail are a little overgrown; you may get brushed with vegetation. Even though this is the case, shorts are the best choice given the river crossings.
- Bring a small quick-dry towel to dry off if you want to swim in the pools by the bridge.
- Pack some snacks. 10 miles is a long hike, and you'll need the energy.
My Latest Gear Picks
As a hiking guide, I test lots of hiking gear. On my picks page, I'll show you all of the gear that I actually use. I don't accept paid promotions or talk about the stuff that doesn't make the cut. It's just the gear that works best, so you don't have to waste your money.
Bridge to Nowhere Trail Maps
I like to break the hike up into 3 sections:
- Trailhead to the first river crossing: 1 mile
- Walk along the river: 3 miles
- Ridge to the bridge: 1 mile
This helps me mentally tackle the hike and know how far I've gone. Once you're at the bridge, you simply return the same way that you came.
There are no big climbs on the hike. All of the elevation change comes from small ups and downs along the way.
Bridge to Nowhere Hike Directions
Who was Heaton? He was a miner that lived and worked here from 1891 until the 1920s. Today you can still see people hunting for gold along the river. There's a good documentary on Vimeo called "LA Miner" that's free and worth a watch.
In 1929 work started on the East Fork Road, which was going to connect San Gabriel Valley with Wrightwood to the north. The bridge was a vital link on that road and was built in 1936. But only two years later, in 1938, catastrophic flooding in the San Gabriel River washed the road away, leaving only, well, you guessed it, a Bridge to Nowhere.
That's it! When you're done at the bridge, just hike back the way you came.
Have a question about the guide or want to see what other people are saying/asking? View the Youtube comments for this video. Leave a comment and I will do my best to respond.
This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!).
Don't Miss Out
- Monthly(ish) Email Newsletter - A list of new guides and important info for hikers.
- YouTube - Subscribe for new video notifications. The best way to get notified every time a new guide goes up.
- Instagram - I occasionally share pretty pictures from my hikes, broadcast live from the trail, and let you know about new guides.