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Hiking / San Gabriel Mountains

Relaxing at the Source of Los Angeles River

May 26, 1991|JOHN McKINNEY

Tucked away in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains is inviting Oak Spring, one of the sources of the Los Angeles River. The spring is a delightful destination for a day hike.

We hikers--not to mention freeway commuters--know the L.A. River as a cement-lined flood-control channel. It's surely not a thing of beauty.

But the river's source is another story; it hasn't been tamed or touched by engineers, nor engulfed by the metropolis. Oak Spring is a great place to relax--and perhaps contemplate the competing notions of converting the L.A. River into a freeway or restoring its scenic splendor.

Oak Spring Trail follows Gold Creek, a tributary of Little Tujunga Creek. True to its name, Gold Creek yielded some fair-sized nuggets. The gold is long gone, and these days the land belongs to Angeles National Forest and a few private ranchers.

Another lure of this trail is the views of city and forest from Yerba Buena Ridge. Vistas to the south take in the San Fernando Valley, while those to the north include the one-time Paradise Movie Ranch, where many a Western was filmed.

This hike has a couple of options. You could begin or conclude the hike at the Tujunga District Office by utilizing the Doc Larsen Trail, which leads east from the Forest Service office to an intersection with Oak Spring Trail. Just up Oak Spring Trail from this intersection is Fascination Spring, another oak-shaded retreat.

Directions to trail head: From the Foothill Freeway (Interstate 210) in Pacoima, exit on Osborne Street. Head north on Osborne, which soon becomes Little Tujunga Canyon Road, and travel four miles to Gold Creek Road. Turn right and wind a short mile to the signed Oak Spring trail head on your right. Park carefully in one of the dirt turnouts off the road.

The hike: The path immediately begins its ascent, soon leaving shady Gold Creek Canyon and heading into the high chaparral. You top one minor ridge, then another, and enjoy good clear-day views of the San Fernando Valley as well as the handsome foothill country to the north.

The trail then descends to Oak Spring. The spring is a modest enough source for the Los Angeles River, but the shady surroundings are a delight. You'll want to linger at this tranquil spot before deciding whether to head back the way you came or climb Yerba Buena Ridge for the fine view.

Oak Spring Trail, Doc Larsen Trail Where: Tujunga Ranger District, Angeles National Forest Distance: To Oak Spring 3 1/2 miles round trip, with 1,000-foot elevation gain; to Yerba buena Ridge Fire Road, 7 miles round trip, with 1,800-foot elevation gain. Terrain: Foothills of San Gabriel Mountains. Highlights: Discover source of Los Angeles River, plus San Fernando Valley views. For more information: Call the Tujunga Ranger District, Angeles National Forest, at (818) 899- 1900. Open Monday-Friday.

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