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El Prieto Loop

Difficult
 4.5 (104) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A fire road climb and a fun downhill singletrack.


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Map Key

8.3

Miles

13.4

KM

40%

Singletrack

2,396' 730 m

High

1,156' 352 m

Low

1,262' 385 m

Up

1,263' 385 m

Down

6%

Avg Grade (3°)

20%

Max Grade (11°)

Dogs Leashed

E-Bikes Not Allowed

The portions of this loop on Fern Truck Trail, Brown Mountain, and El Prieto Trail are within the Angeles National Forest, which restricts e-bike usage to OHV routes only.

Overview

A great lollipop loop for an after work ride! This starts with a good fire road climb that rewards with an awesome singletrack downhill.

Need to Know

  • El Prieto features blind corners with extreme height exposure. Use a bell.
  • This loop is part of a multi-use trail network popular with hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians. Cyclists should yield (slow down, say hi!) to hikers and stop for equestrians.

Description

From the Windsor parking lot, head north past the Fire Danger sign and the yellow gate. This ride starts out smooth for the first mile, with a leisurely ride past the Jet Propulsion Lab campus and into the Angeles National Forest. Stay right at the fork, following signs for El Prieto Trail and Fern Truck Trail. After a creek crossing and a short climb, you'll come to a clearing where the El Prieto Trail ends. Stay left on the fire road and get ready to start a 2.5-mile climb up Fern Truck Trail.

The last quarter mile of Fern TT is relatively flat, and you'll know you've reached the saddle once you pass the hitching post. Rest, enjoy the view, and get ready for some fun. As you look out over Los Angeles, to the right is where you came from, behind you is upper Brown Mountain Rd leading to the Ken Burton Trail, and to your left is lower Brown Mountain AKA the way to El Prieto Trail.

Head down lower Brown Mountain Rd for about a mile, keeping an eye out for the El Prieto Trail sign on the right. This stretch of Brown Mountain is fast and fun, but can be overgrown at points.

El Prieto Trail is a unique singletrack experience. Expect to find extreme height exposure, 180-degree switchbacks, stream crossings, mandatory drops, and rock gardens all within an oak-lined canyon. This is classic mountain biking with a challenge for everyone. Beginner level riders may choose to walk some technical sections, but the trail is rideable from beginning to end for experienced riders. Beware of poison oak along this trail, as it is present all year.

El Prieto has been re-routed three times, and there are two spur trails that lead up out of the canyon to the beginning of Brown Mountain Road and The Meadows neighborhood, totaling five forks in the trail. The original trail is always to the right, taking you to the bottom of your Fern Truck Trail climb. "The right way is the right way."

However, the first three splits are all re-routes that you might not even notice, since the popular option is towards the newer trail on the left. Few choose to ride the (more technical, slower) original route. Either way is fine. The fourth and fifth forks lead up to the ridge and neighborhood on the east side of the canyon, you'll want to be sure to stay to the right on those.

It's over too soon, and you finish the El Prieto Trail right where you started your climb on Fern Truck Trail, at what used to be the log jump. As you head back the way you started from and exit the first/last water crossing look to the left for some 'Extra Credit' singletrack.

History & Background

Brown Mountain is named for abolitionist John Brown, whose sons lived at its base. The canyons along the front range of the San Gabriel Mountains were popular vacation spots for early urban Angelenos and also for a time supported a thriving logging industry. The remains of these activities can be spotted as the occasional stretch of paved trail, stone steps to nowhere, and bare cabin foundations, as well as the debris check dams throughout the canyons.

Contacts

Shared By:

Alex Johnson with improvements by John May and 1 other

Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 104 votes

#1

in Altadena

#93

Overall
  4.5 from 104 votes
5 Star
61%
4 Star
35%
3 Star
4%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
1%
Recommended Route Rankings

#1

in Altadena

#12

in California

#93

Overall
145 Views Last Month
22,916 Since Jan 28, 2016
Difficult

0%
0%
7%
11%
82%
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Photos

Jen keeping it rolling through dusty ruts. Great trail for the area!
Jul 11, 2019 near La Caña…, CA
It's fun to jam down this trail, but you'll miss all the beauty of the canyon.
Dec 12, 2019 near La Caña…, CA
Patrick hits a switchback splashdown special near the top of El Prieto
Mar 17, 2018 near La Caña…, CA
The crew drops in at the top of El Prieto.
May 12, 2017 near La Caña…, CA
This trail is tirelessly maintained by volunteers like Erik, seen here riding past his sawyering handiwork.
Dec 12, 2019 near La Caña…, CA
Rider POV
May 25, 2016 near La Caña…, CA

Weather


Current Trail Conditions

Update Conditions
All Clear 3 days ago See History
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Check-Ins

Jul 17, 2022
Jeff González
Nice! Stay hydrated!
May 21, 2022
Kevin Chong
Apr 30, 2022
Private User
Apr 5, 2022
Nate Woiwode
Too much fun, but bring a bike bell. Hikers a plenty. 9mi — 2h 00m
Apr 3, 2022
Will King
Very popular, a bell is very much needed here. — 8h 00m
Mar 30, 2022
Bryan Avalos
Mar 5, 2022
MTBr Of Socal
Watch out for newbie riders trying to come down fast. They've got no bike etiquette and no bells.
Mar 1, 2022
Edgar Santos