Pedal Into L.A.'s Trolleyed Past

Mountain Biking in California's San Gabriels
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What today is the Angeles National Forest used to be California's First National Forest and was only the second in the United States. On December 20, 1892, it was created by a proclamation of President Benjamin Harrison as the San Gabriel Timberland Reserve. On March 4, 1907, its name was changed to the San Gabriel National Forest, and it received its current name on August 1, 1908.

After the two enormous fires of 1919 and 1924 destroyed over 200,000 acres of watershed, Rush Charlton, Supervisor of the Angeles Forest at the time, realized that the greatest obstacles to the control of fires were the inability to locate the fires and the difficulty of transporting the firefighters through the mountains. As a way to overcome these obstacles, a system of fore-lookout towers, firebreaks, and fireroads was built.

During the Great Hiking Era, which lasted into the 1930s, more and more people began to hike, ride horses, take the Mt. Lowe trolley and, in a few spots, drive cars into the San Gabriels. Resorts, campgrounds and trails were built to accommodate them.

Even after the San Gabriels' Great Hiking Era ended, the opening up of the backcountry to cars and the increasing numbers of cars meant that more facilities got built and more dirt fireroads got constructed. Treacherous routes were replaced by safer ones. Dirt roads were built to allow for the installation and repair of powerlines. And the abandoning of the Mt. Lowe Railway left a gently graded, cyclable road from Echo Mountain to Ye Alpine Tavern.

Today these dirt roads provide a fine network of travel for the mountain bicyclist.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 4 Dec 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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