Underrated Routes: The Arroyo Seco Trail



Today’s ride takes us on an adventure up the Arroyo Secco to Brown Mountain Dam. This trail is also known as the lower section of the Gabrelino Trail.

It’s a moderate 8.5 miles out and back loop with about 600 feet of vertical climbing. This ride is intended for Gravel Bikes, Cyclocross Bikes, and Mountain Bikes.

The ride starts off in beautiful Altadena California at the end of North Windsor Ave next to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). There is a small parking lot that does tend to fill up early. With that said, there is plenty of street parking just south on Windsor Ave.

From the parking lot, you pedal north into the mountains on the Gabrieleno Trail. Otherwise known as, The GAB! This trail twists and turns as it heads north paralleling the Arroyo Secco. This route is perfect for those hot summer days where you want to avoid the scorching sun.

After about a mile of pedaling on pavement into the canyon, you will reach a fork in the road where you will want to bear left!

Shortly after the fork, you will find a spot to fill your water bottles. Although you spend a lot of time in the shaded canyon, it is definitely recommended to fill up here before heading any further!

After filling up, make your way up the trail to the next landmark, the Gould Mesa Campground:

While on your way to the campground, you will experience a many water/creek crossings on this route. Depending on the time of year, the Arroyo Secco could have no water or it could be a raging river after heavy rainfall. Usually, the water crossings average 4-10 inches of water so be prepared to get your feet wet! 

After passing the Gould Mesa Campground, the trail narrows and turns more to a single track rather than a dirt road. Here you will find tons of flowy corners and fast straightaways! (As seen in the video)

The next and most notable landmark on the route would be the blue wheelbarrow:

This spot is a great place to regroup with other riders or a nice place to just take a break and grab some much-deserved H2O.

After the blue wheelbarrow, you are about 1.5 miles away from the Brown Mountain Dam.

This section of trail is where you will find some of the more technical water crossings and rock gardens. It is good to note that these sections are 100% do-able on a gravel or cyclocross bike. However, there is no shame in stepping off the bike and just walking around/over.

Shortly before arriving at the Dam, you will pass through the Paul Little Picnic Area. Paul Little is also another great trail reference to gauge how far into the ride you are. By now you are a professional at crossing creeks and hopping rocks so the last bit of trail will be a piece of cake!

Once at the Brown Mountain Dam, break out a snack, just relax, and take in the sound of the waterfall! It is pretty remarkable to think of how they built this Dam in such a remote mountain canyon:

After enjoying your snack, you get to descend everything you just climbed!

There are plenty of B lines (alternatives that link to the main trail) that branch off the trail as you descend.

These B lines usually incorporate some harder features that are not on the normal trail. Some have jumps and drops! (video shows some of the fun B Lines).


Check out the ride on Strava: Pure Cycles - Underrated Route - Arroyo Secco

We hope you are inspired to go out and check this place out for yourself.

Stay tuned for the next Underrated Route and see you on the trails!