Ride Report: San Gabriel Mtns (JPL/Sunset/El Prieto)

This past Sunday I headed up to the San Gabriel Mtns in Los Angeles County.  There are several names for this trail, but it is commonly known/referred to as – JPL (Jet Propulsion Lab).  From this main trail you can branch out to many segments of the San Gabriels such as the Ken Burton Trail, El Prieto (technical descent back to the car), Sunset Trail, Millard Camp ground, Lower Merrill and many more…

My riding buddy for the day was my new friend Irmina D.  I met Irmina many years ago through a family function; we are somewhat related through my cousin as she is his sister-in-law.  Several weeks ago, I saw Irmina again; my cousin tells me that she is an avid rider. To make a long story short, I asked my cousin to get us in contact so I can ride with her group.  Through a week of emailing back and forth, we finally decided on a ride – JPL.  We met at the parking lot 8AM Sunday morning.  After getting our gear together, we made a quick pit stop at the local Jack-in-the-Box closer to the freeway.  From here, I reset my computer to ZERO and we started our ride.

Our ride started on asphalt.  We stayed on this for less than a mile then it eventually took us onto the dirt for the start of our ascent.  It was a gradual climb up to the saddle, some sections steeper than others.  Reaching the top of Brown Mtn (bottom of Ken Burton Trail approx 4 miles up) we stopped and rested for a bit.  Actually I needed the rest, Irmina wasn’t tired at all.

IMG_1809 copy by you.

From here we headed to Sunset Trail via Millard campground.  Though a brief descent with roller coast effect we reached the bottom, passing the trailhead for El Prieto.  Along the way down I encountered mechanical problems with my rear brake.  For some reason, my rotors were now rubbing against the calipers, emitting an awful, annoying sound…ugghhhh!  We stopped several times and adjusted my calipers.  We could not clear the rotors completely, however it was good enough for the rest of the ride.

IMG_1824 by you.                                        Tight turn ahead…

From Millard, we rode onto a singletrack climb.  Through this section, we passed many downhillers wearing their armor and full face helmet.  Apparently there are many sections on this mountain that is popular to many DH/FR.  The singletrack ended into another asphalt climb.  From here was another grind up to the top of Sunset Trail, at least 2 ½ miles.  This would be brutal as the sun was out beating on us.  Stopping several times to replenish on GU and other supplements we continued to the top.  Reaching the top of Sunset (10 miles), we rested briefly before starting our way down a fast, loose, singletrack with switchbacks and occasional one-footers.  Down the trail I watched Irmina fly through these with her Intense 5.5 and navigate through tight switchbacks with ease… amazing handling skills! Man, all the way down to Millard, I found myself trying keep up with her to no avail. We eventually made our way back down to Millard Campground.  As we started our trek upto El Prieto trailhead, I started getting cramps.  Again, I needed to rest… El Prieto will be our final descent back to the cars.  From here we will ride through more singletrack, water crossings, down mini boulders/rocks… more fun!  The ride ended with both of us crash-free. Truly an awesome ride, especially trying to keep up with Irmina.  We finished our ride with a total of 18 miles.

A little note on Irmina – she has participated in several endurance and local races.  She also frequents places like Mammoth, Whistler, Downieville, Moab… an avid rider indeed and her skill set was very impressive.

Trail Directions: Take 210 West and exit Arroyo Blvd. and turn right. Go straight until you see a parking lot at the bend in the road. Find parking in the lot or locally.  The parking lot overlooks Jet Propulsion Lab.  There should be a road leading to a swinging gate. Go pass the gate and follow the road.
Trail Conditions: Fire road – hardpack; singletrack / switchbacks – loose in many places. Lots of loose rocks. 

Below is a video of our ride. My video camera mount came loose therefore a little shaky on some areas. Also I guess YouTube makes low resolution even lower… (It was fine on my PC but looks really low res below)apologize for the poor quality.

3 Replies to “Ride Report: San Gabriel Mtns (JPL/Sunset/El Prieto)”

  1. Cool. Now you are in my territory. This was one of my favorite training rides back in the 90s when I started racing. Great trail.

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