Do you want to walk through the majestic landscape that inspired Plein Air painters from the early 20th Century? Then visit Lower Arroyo Seco Nature Park in Pasadena, where natural beauty still thrives between the canyons of the Arroyo Seco.
G POINT Take a pleasant stroll through this park that features an innovative wetlands restoration project in which water from the concrete Arroyo Seco channel is diverted into a series of parallel side streams, which are now lushly vegetated and provide excellent bird habitat.
Enjoy the secluded, unpaved stretch of the Arroyo below the historic Colorado Boulevard Bridge that flows under the boughs of Sycamore and Oak trees. Follow the trail south and you will pass under several historic bridges with distinctive Beaux Arts arches that were erected in the early 1900s.
For more examples of how this natural landscape inspired local architecture and design, head up the street to the Gamble House, one of the premiere Craftsman homes in the area. The Nature Park also includes a fly casting pond and archery range.
For information and directions to these facilities, see the walking directions below.
WARNING: This park has poison oak. Stay on the trails to avoid it.
Lower Arroyo Seco Nature Park, entrance on Arroyo Boulevard at Norwood Drive.
DIRECTIONS TO THE START
BIKE: There is no bike path along the Arroyo Seco, but Arroyo Boulevard is a designated bike route and a pleasant ride. There is easy bike access from the Metro Gold Line Del Mar Station; follow the transit directions below.
TRANSIT: It's a bit of a walk (1.4 miles), but mainly through old Pasadena neighborhoods with large beautiful houses. Take the Metro Gold Line to the Del Mar Station in Pasadena. Turn right (west) onto Del Mar Boulevard, cross and turn left onto Orange Grove Boulevard. Turn right on Arbor Street, left onto Arroyo Boulevard, and look for the park entry on your right across from Norwood Drive. Walk down the entry road to the bottom of the hill.
CAR: Exit the 134 Freeway at Orange Grove Boulevard in Pasadena and go south on Orange Grove. Turn right onto California Boulevard and right again onto Arroyo Boulevard. The park entrance is on the left, just before Norwood Drive. Look for the three-tier LOWER ARROYO PARK sign. Plenty of parking is available at the bottom of the hill.
Alternately, take the 110 Freeway north until its end and continue north on Arroyo Seco Parkway. Turn left onto California Boulevard. When California ends, turn right onto Arroyo Boulevard and look for the park entrance on the left, just before Norwood Drive.
From the parking lot, walk northeast and veer right. Follow the first southbound trail that crosses the road and you will pass restroom facilities and then a flying casting pond on your left. In March, the Pasadena Casting Club offers three Saturday morning beginning fly fishing clinics that include classroom instruction and casting practice in the club casting pool.
Head north from the pond, cross the entry road, and continue onto the unmarked trail. The side streams are running alongside this trail on your left, but due to thick vegetation, they are difficult to see in some areas.
On your right, there is a trail that veers off and ramps uphill to La Casita del Arroyo. Continue straight ahead. The path veers left, going close to the concrete channel of the Arroyo, then veers right again. On your right, in the midst of great Oak and Sycamore trees, you can see remnants of river-rock retaining walls built in the 1930s by workers of the Works Progress Administration.
At approximately 0.3 miles, you encounter the magnificent Colorado Boulevard Bridge. This is the only local bridge listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It opened in 1913 and was retrofitted and reopened in 1993. This bridge is directly above a much more modest low bridge, still visible today. You can often spot cliff swallows' mud nests on the underside of the bridge.
Continue walking upstream and ascend the sloped path. At the top of the dam, you overlook a small impoundment area. You can see the intake holes for the side streams on either side of the small dam.
This portion of the Arroyo Seco is soft-bottom. The city of Pasadena is currently working to restore natural habitat in this area by removing exotic plants and reintroducing native vegetation.
Veer right to continue along the path. Cross below the 134 Freeway. Just past the freeway, largely obscured by ivy is the 1927 Arroyo Boulevard Bridge. The trail ends at Arroyo Boulevard near Holly Street. From this point, visible just upstream is the 1925 Linda Vista Bridge and the Rose Bowl.
Turn around and retrace your steps to the bottom of the slope below the Colorado Street Bridge. Just below the dam, turn right and cross the Arroyo on the pedestrian bridge. From this bridge, and along the subsequent path, look up along the west ridgeline to see the "Wayne Manor" house, which was used for the 1960s Batman television series.
Continue downstream on the path to the west side of the Arroyo. When the path veers right, turn left and cross the Arroyo. Looking upstream and downstream from the pedestrian bridge, you can see water draining from the wetlands back into the concrete channel of the Arroyo. Walk downstream on the west side and you will come upon an archery range that features 28 hay bale targets. For anyone interested in learning the sport of archery, the Pasadena Roving Archers club offers a free introductory class every Saturday at 8:30 a.m. throughout the year that meet at the archery range.
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