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Beyond Concrete: Hiking in the Arroyo Secco

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The City of Pasadena's Lower Arroyo Seco Nature Park features an innovative wetlands restoration project. 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. This walk also includes a secluded, unpaved stretch of the Arroyo below the historic Colorado Boulevard. Bridge and the 134 Freeway. Warning: This park has poison oak. Stay on trails and avoid it.



Lower Arroyo Seco Nature Park, entrance on Arroyo Boulevard at Norwood Drive. Pasadena, CA.


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 transit directions below,

TRANSIT: It's a bit of a walk (1.4 miles), but mainly through old Pasadena neighborhoods with big, 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 AKROYO 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.


Walk to the northeast comer of the parking area and head left (north) onto the unmarked trail at the point where the paved ramp of the entry road ends. 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 (see side trip). 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 mile, 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. Directly ahead of you is the parking lot.



Montecito Heights Recreation Center

Located at 4545 Homer Street in L.A., this park in the Arroyo has an auditorium, indoor and outdoor basketball courts, a children's play area, an indoor gym with weights, picnic tables, and tennis courts and volleyball courts.

Lower Arroyo Seco Nature Park

With 150 acres, this area is filled with activities and facilities: birdwatching, a fly casting pond and a clubhouse, an archery range, and a community center. Find Parking off of Arroyo Boulevard. Location: At the intersection of Norwood Drive and Arroyo Boulevard. Pasadena, CA 91105

Hermon Park

At 5566 Via Marisol in Los Angeles, this small park in the Arroyo offers barbecue pits, a children's play area, picnic tables, and lighted tennis courts.

Ernest Debs Park

This mid-sized park at 4235 Monterey Road in the Arroyo has 100 picnic tables and 20 barbecue pits.


Audobon Center at Debs Park

An environmental education and conservation center. 4700 North Griffin Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90031 (323) 221-2255


Via-Mar Restaurant Express

5111 North Figueroa Street

Los Angeles, CA 90042-3921

(323) 255-4929

El Pescador

5230 N Figueroa Street

Los Angeles, CA 90042-4002

(323) 255-8164

Chico's Mexican Restaurant

100 North Avenue 50

Los Angeles, CA 90042-3904

(323) 254-2445

Las Cazuelas Restaurant & Pupuseria

5707 North Figueroa Street

Los Angeles, CA 90042

(323) 255-4719

Top photo:

Above The Arroyo Seco. | Photo: Karol Franks/Flickr/Creative Commons License

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