By Roshan Perera
The famous naturalist John Muir once wrote, “Everybody needs beauty, as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul.”
People are drawn to the outdoors for a variety of reasons. Some want the solitude of a back-country trail, some want a place to escape from the fast pace of modern life, and some want to push their physical and mental boundaries.
For some, pushing these boundaries outdoors may prove a more difficult challenge than most, not because they do not have the fortitude, but rather the access. Access to nature for individuals with disabilities is more difficult and more limited than for others. However, the loss of mobility, vision, or hearing does not diminish the desire that people have to enjoy the outdoors.
Thankfully, the California Department of Parks and Recreation has made strides to increase the accessibility of our parks to those with disabilities and some of these parks are located right here in the San Gabriel Valley.
First, is the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena. It has a combination of a paved trail and a hard-packed dirt trail. The Arroyo Seco trail circles around the Hahamongna Watershed Park and runs all the way down to the Lower Arroyo Seco.
The trail is shadowed by birch trees and has a small babbling brook running beside it at certain points. There are multiple entrances to the Arroyo Seco Trail, including near JPL, the Colorado Street Bridge, and San Pasqual Stables.
For large vans, the best access points are near JPL and the Lower Arroyo Park. However, there are no designated handicapped spots and parking is offered on a first come first served basis.
For first-time explorers, it is best to go through the JPL entrances. To get here, take the 210 Freeway and exit Windsor. Head north before turning left immediately past Ventura Street onto Explorer Road.
The next hike is the West Fork of the San Gabriel River. This trail is a service road that starts from the Highway 39 West Fork Bridge and heads west to a small campground. Because this is a service road, the length of the trail is paved, which caters to wheelchair access and those with mobility issues that may want to try a new outdoor adventure, such as hand-biking. The trail is also great place to break in a new mountain trike.
The initial part of this trail is a very popular area and you will encounter plenty of people crowding around a swimming hole. However, about a mile into the trail, the crowds thin out and there are even wheelchair-accessible fishing spots. The trail follows the river for nearly the entire duration of the trail, all the way up to the Cogswell Resevoir. To reach this park, take the 210 Freeway, exit Azusa, and head north.
Approximately one mile past East Fork Road, the trailhead begins. Be aware that there is a usage fee to enter the canyon. There will be a kiosk where you can pay the fee and get a day-use pass.
Finally, there is the Duarte Recreation Trail: a suburban trail, slightly longer than two miles, running along an abandoned railroad right-of-way. The trail is paved for its entire length and crosses multiple streets along its route. There are two water fountains along the route, plus more at the trail’s terminus in Royal Oaks Park.
The trail is shadowed by oaks and other trees, and there are plenty of flowers.
The trail marks the dividing line between Duarte and the City of Bradbury. As the trail crosses through Bradbury, hikers will see horse ranches where jumping is taught. Be aware that at times you will also share the trail with some of these horses, as well as bikers.
The trail finishes at Royal Oaks Park where there are basketball and tennis courts, in addition to a playground and picnic areas.
To reach the Duarte Recreation Trail, take the 210 Freeway to Buena Vista then head north. The trail starts at the corner of Buena Vista and Royal Oaks Drive. There is free three-hour parking available along Royal Oaks Drive.