Glendale Narrows: Biking The Los Angeles River Trail To Elysian Park

Summer in Los Angeles isn’t exactly synonymous with sparkling rivers and verdant flora; more like radiating asphalt and dry gardens.

It’s a stereotype that makes the Glendale Narrows in Northeast LA all the more impressive.

Stretching for just over 7 miles along the western banks of the Los Angeles River, this paved cycling and pedestrian trail is teeming with life — from plants to waterfowl. That’s because it’s one of the only sections of the 48-mile waterway without a concrete riverbed, allowing native species of rush and cattails to thrive here. Come on the right day and you may even catch sight of a few kayaks paddling below the river’s resident population of bikers and joggers.

Seriously, river kayakers in LA — who would’ve thought?

To make a good thing even better, the length of the trail is divided into two well-marked lanes of smooth asphalt, and there are bridges and underpasses to help you traverse any street-level intersections without missing a beat. Thus you can reliably count on 7 miles of uninterrupted cycling from the zoo to Elysian Park.

Now before all you LA cyclists go accusing us of false advertising, we should mention that the scenery isn’t always what one might call “Amsterdam-esque”. Yes, the eastern half of your sightline will be taken up by bubbling water and the distant San Gabriel Mountains (although sometimes the current is a little more memorable than others).

To the west, however, it’s all I-5 and automobiles as far as the eye can see. On windless days of particularly heavy traffic, the air quality can begin to deteriorate as a consequence, so just bear that in mind.

Though the Glendale Narrows are navigable in both directions, our preferred method of tackling the trail is via Buena Vista Park and the bike lanes on Riverside Drive. The roadway ends almost directly at the northernmost trail entrance, and with relatively little traffic it’s an easy way to tack on a few extra miles to the ride.

When all is said and done, this is easily some of the best cycling you’ll find in Los Angeles. Enjoy the experience.

Originally published at on September 1, 2016.

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