Arroyo Seco (near JPL)
This is the bottom stretch of the Switzer or Gabrielino National Recreation Trail. If you have little kids, I recommend you check out my earlier post on the Switzer Trail (Your Big Backyard).
This trail offers an overlook of the Arroyo near JPL, and if you get far enough, a nice stream-side walk. However, the first half mile is not all that appealing; a chain link fence separates you from the water. I recommend this trail for families with older kids, as you’re more likely get far enough in to enjoy the pretty part. (We hike with our 18-month-old in a Kelty Kids carrier, but we limit the time he spends strapped in it.) The first mile or so of this route is paved and dirt road, so you might try biking it.
On a recent visit here, I enjoyed watching humming birds feed on the blossoms from this giant agave (more than 10 feet tall).
Arroyo Seco to Teddy’s Outpost/Gould Mesa Camp
Angeles National Forest
Park a the small lot overlooking the Arroyo and JPL, located where Windsor Avenue curves east to meet Ventura Street on the border of Pasadena and Altadena. After parking, look toward the mountains, notice the two roads. Cross the street, dodging the oncoming traffic (yikes!) to get to them. Take the road on the right (the one closed to cars). Follow it until it becomes a dirt road, then a trail. Follow signs for Teddy’s Outpost/Gould Mesa Camp, don’t turn off on the Brown Mountain Fire Road.
Note: Just short of Teddy’s Outpost, the trail is officially closed because of a collapsed bridge. Unless it’s the rainy season, you can easily cross the stream on a few rocks, avoiding the dangerous bridge. It’s another half mile from the Outpost to Gould Mesa Trail Camp, or 1.5 miles to Paul Little Picnic Area.
Recommended Reading: Introduction to the Plant Life of Southern California, by Philip Rundel and Robert Gustafson (UC Press)