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El Prieto Loop

Difficult
 4.6 (86) 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 Trailhead 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

  4.6 from 86 votes

#1

in Pasadena

#84

Overall
  4.6 from 86 votes
5 Star
63%
4 Star
33%
3 Star
3%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
1%
Recommended Route Rankings

#1

in Pasadena

#9

in California

#84

Overall
458 Views Last Month
18,925 Since Jan 28, 2016
Difficult

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6%
6%
88%
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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
This trail is tirelessly maintained by volunteers like Erik, seen here riding past his sawyering handiwork.
Dec 12, 2019 near La Caña…, CA
The crew drops in at the top of El Prieto.
May 12, 2017 near La Caña…, CA
Patrick hits a switchback splashdown special near the top of El Prieto
Mar 17, 2018 near La Caña…, CA
One of the flowy sections along the El Prieto Trail.
Jan 3, 2017 near La Caña…, CA

Weather


Current Trail Conditions

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All Clear 4 days ago See History
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Check-Ins

May 2, 2021
Mykola Malyshenko
Apr 24, 2021
Ben Jacoby
Apr 22, 2021
John D Hill
Mar 7, 2021
Ty Kuo
Trail is open - fireroad climb up is still a great warm up. The juice is well worth the squeeze. — 2h 00m
Feb 27, 2021
Sergio Rodriguez
Feb 2, 2021
Angelo Celzo
Dec 26, 2020
Sydney Aveson
First ride in CA EVER and Mak and I did it with his brother Drew. 8mi — 2h 00m
Dec 26, 2020
Chris Makowicki
7mi