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Nobody Hikes in L.A.: Mystery And History On the Road to Nowhere

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By David Lockeretz of Nobody Hikes in L.A. / Special to LAist

Some things are just not meant to be, and one of them is any kind of road connecting the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains with the Angeles Crest Highway. One such effort, in the 1930s, was wiped out by a giant flood - resulting in the Bridge to Nowhere. Another, begun in the 1950s and abandoned in 1969, was Shoemaker Canyon Road. Built with prison labor, the road was intended to climb the west side of the canyon created by the San Gabriel River’s East Fork. However, by the time the project was scrapped due to budget cuts, only 4.5 miles had been completed.

Today, the so-called “Road to Nowhere” is a hiking destination that’s not quite as popular as the nearby Bridge to Nowhere, but still makes a worthwhile trip if you’re in the area. It’s shorter and considerably easier; there is no wading in and out of the water, and the route is always clear. The hike might not have the iconic status of the Bridge, and the scenery isn’t as dramatic, but it nevertheless offers an interesting hiking experience, mixing history and nature. And tunnels.

To get to the Road to Nowhere, follow Highway 39 from Azusa for 11 miles to East Fork Road. Turn right as if you were going to the bridge, but after 3.3 miles, bear left on Shoemaker Canyon Road. Follow it 1.8 miles to where it dead-ends and park before the vehicle gate. Remember your National Forest Service Adventure Pass.

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The hike follows the roadbed, ascending moderately along the side of the steep canyon wall. You get nice views across the canyon; sharp eyes may even pick out the Heaton Flats parking area that is the start of the Bridge to Nowhere hike.

At 1.7 miles, you come to the first tunnel. At almost a quarter-mile, the tunnel gets quite dark toward the middle, so flashlights or head lamps are recommended. Exiting, you round a horseshoe-shaped curve, and arrive at the shorter second tunnel. On the opposite side, you reach a good turnaround point, where you can enjoy a great view of the East Fork. You can also see Iron Mountain—said to be the most difficult in all of the San Gabiels—towering above on the east side of the canyon, and you may also get a glimpse of Mt. Baldy.

For more information about the Road to Nowhere hike, visit this site.

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