Lower Arroyo Seco

Although it's a concrete channel through Highland Park and South Pasadena, the Arroyo Seco features streamside parks, new and old. This walk, directly inside the channel, has historic bridges, tall sycamores and oaks, and interpretive signs at South Pasadena's Arroyo Seco Woodland and Wildlife Park.

Access Note: Although many people visit this area every day, this trip may include places that are not yet officially open to the public.

View Walk - Lower Arroyo Seco in a larger map

Starting Point

Montecito Heights Recreation Center, 4545 Homer Street, Montecito Heights

Alternate Starting Point

Arroyo Seco Woodland and Wildlife Park, Pasadena Ave. at Sycamore Ave., South Pasadena

There is easy access from Metro Bus 176; get off at Marmion Way (immediately east of the York Blvd. Bridge). If driving, park on Pasadena Ave.

Walk Directions

Walk to the west end of the parking lot and enter the signed bike path. Share the path with bicyclists. (If you're starting at the alternative starting point, at the north end of the walk, enter the Woodland Park, descend to the Arroyo, and proceed downstream.)

The path turns to the right and parallels the Arroyo Seco. At approximately 0.3 mile (directly before the pedestrian bridge), go through the gate on your left. From this point, you get a good view (up to your left in the hills across the Arroyo) of the Southwest Museum. It's LA'S first museum, cofounded by Charles Fletcher Lummis in 1906 and opened at the present site in 1914. Also note the outlet of the North Branch Creek.

Daylighting the North Branch Creek

As you go down the ramp into the Arroyo, look across the channel and spot the medium-size storm drain directly across from you. This is the outlet for the North Branch Creek. Though the creek exists today as an anonymous storm drain that runs underground below Sycamore Grove Park and the 110 Freeway, its topography is still somewhat evident in nearby areas. It exists as a gully perpendicular to Marmion Way just north of the Metro Gold Line Southwest Museum Station.

In other parts of the world, there have been great creek restoration projects known as "daylighting." This process takes the underground water flow and restores it to the surface, enhancing habitat, water quality, and connecting the community with natural water processes.

The nonprofit urban forestry organization North East Trees (NET) and others have advocated daylighting a portion of the North Branch Creek as it runs through Sycamore Grove Park. The restored creek would add a new natural feature to enhance this park. In 2004, the county began working with the city and the community to study how this daylighting could be accomplished. 
Take the ramp down into the channel and walk upstream. This takes you under quite a few bridges, but it's not easy to distinguish them from below. In order, you will encounter: Sycamore Park Pedestrian Bridge, Ave. 52 Bridge (1939), 'Via Marisol Bridge (1939), Arroyo Seco Park
Pedestrian Bridge (1951), Ave. 60 Bridge (1926), Ave. 60 Off-Ramp (1940), Metro Gold Line Bridge (1895), Marmion Way Off-Ramp, Marmion Way Bridge (1940), and York Blvd. Bridge (1912).

Many of these bridges were associated with the Arroyo Seco Parkway, which opened in 1940. Today it's called the 110 or Pasadena Freeway. For the most part, the bridges are old, but rather plain in their design elements. Many of the freeway bridges featured decorative designs that were
later covered over. The Ave. 52 and Via Marisol bridges have pleasant lighting standards, visible from the walk.

Two of the bridges are exceptional—the York Blvd. Bridge and the Ave. 60 Bridge. The Ave. 60 Bridge has its historic railing and lighting intact. Men-ill Butler's team built this gem in 1926. At that time, the bridge was symmetric around the central arch over the Arroyo Seco. With the intro-
duction of the freeway in 1939, however, the bridge was lengthened.

There are great views of the bridge from inside the channel (especially looking downstream), and also from within Arroyo Seco Park. For a closer look, ascend the bike ramp on your right just past the bridge, and then turn right/downstream. The railing is easy to reach. Inside the park, walk downstream (south). Cross under the bridge, and then turn left onto the asphalt path. Turn left and ascend the ramp marked BIKE PATH. Retrace your steps back into the channel.

Continue walking upstream (north) in the channel and look up to the Santa Fe Arroyo Seco Railroad Bridge, designated Los Angeles City Historic-Cultural Monument #339. Completed in 1895, this is the oldest extant bridge over the Arroyo, and the oldest and highest railroad bridge
in LA County. Over the years, the bridge has repeatedly been rehabilitated and reworked. Today it carries the Metro Gold Line light rail from downtown LA to Pasadena.

Continuing upstream (north), ascend the ramp at the end of the bike path, which puts you in a parking lot at the north end of Arroyo Seco Park. Veer left to continue upstream. Pass through the gate and walk on the access road between the stables and the Arroyo Seco.

Continue below the 1912 York Blvd. Bridge, an important early connection over the Arroyo. The bridge's historic railing has been replaced, but its massive arches are still impressive from below. It's best viewed from the park upstream.

On the upstream side of the bridge is one of the newest nature parks in the Los Angeles River system. South Pasadena's Arroyo Seco Woodland and Wildlife Park opened in 2004. The 3-acre park incorporates existing heritage oak, sycamore, and walnut trees, as well as new understory plantings. It features informative interpretive signage about the plant communities and wildlife of the Arroyo.

Continue walking along the Arroyo channel and turn right on the path just past a large sycamore surrounded by a ring of rocks (just before the golf course). Veer right, then left, and ascend the stairway. At the top of the stairs, turn right onto the bridle trail. As you descend, check out the
stepped bio-swale on your left. This feature is designed to concentrate and cleanse storm-water runoff before it enters the Arroyo.

Descend back to the Arroyo access road, turn left, and retrace your steps to the start.

Directions to the Start

Bike: The walk: follows the Arroyo Seco Bike Path is the Arroyo channel, from just above Ave. 43 to just below York Ave. To reach the start from the north, take the bike path to its downstream end at Montecito Heights Recreation Center.

Alternately, from central Los Angeles, use Griffin Aye., a designated bike route and a low-traffic street with plenty of space for bikes. Take Griffin Ave. north, turn left on Ave. 43, and go down the hill. In two blocks, turn left onto Mosher Ave. and look for the trail entry point to your left at the end of Mosher. Alternately, take your bike on the Metro Gold Line and follow the transit directions below.

Transit: Take the Metro Gold Line to the Southwest Museum Station. Walk i down the stairs or ramp to North Figueroa Street. Cross Figueroa at Woodside Drive. Enter Sycamore Grove Park (to your left) and proceed to the back (east side) of the park. Walk through the pedestrian tunnel, go up the stairs, and cross the 110 Freeway via the pedestrian bridge. After descending the stairs at the end of the bridge, turn right. At this point, you can begin in mid-walk by proceeding to your right through the gate and down the ramp into the Arroyo, or turn left and walk about a third of a mile to the starting point.

Car: Exit the 110 Freeway at Ave. 43 in Montecito Heights. At the end of the off-ramp, turn left onto Ave. 43. Turn north onto Mosher Ave. (directly adjacent to the freeway) and park at the lot at the end of Mosher.

Nearby Dining

Pappa Don's Delicatessen

303 Pasadena Avenue
South Pasadena, CA 91030-2904
(626) 799-8397

Pizza Hut
4329 North Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90065
(323) 221-2700

Mc Donald's
5008 North Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90042-3920
(323) 982-1581

100 North Avenue 50
Los Angeles, CA 90042-3904
(323) 254-2445

Thai Fantasy
5900 Monterey Road
Los Angeles, CA 90042

Aki Sushi & Roll
5916 Monterey Road
Los Angeles, CA 90042-4943

El Buen Sabor Restaurant
4306 North Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA