El Prieto - Mountain Biking

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A technically diverse ride with easy access and beautiful fire road climb that bring you to a tight singletrack descent.

Written by

Brian Townsend


5.5 miles

You can also connect to another trail for more mileage.

Destination Distance From Downtown

10.7 miles


5 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

1 hours

1-3 Hours


All Seasons

Dog Friendly


Fees Permits




Often referred to as ‘JPL’ because of its proximity to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, these trails are the preeminent, most technical, singletrack around Pasadena. The network of trails is great for all day weekend rides or just an afternoon jaunt into the mountains.

What Makes It Great

These mountains tell an interesting story of the west during the Civil War. El Prieto means “The Dark One” in Spanish. The name comes from an early homesteader in 1865 named Robert Owen, an African American, who settled there and became a staple of the developing community. After his death, John and Owen Brown, two brothers and prominent abolitionists who fought for the Union, built a cabin on the adjacent land. Their charisma and love for nature helped to cultivate the mountain community. The peak above El Prieto is named after the Brown boys and Owen’s grave is still visible in El Prieto Canyon.

Just north of the Windsor-Ventura intersection, the San Gabrielino Trail begins, ride it north. San Gabrielino is paved and slightly downhill, after 1.2 miles you hit a fork, continue right onto the Fern Truck Trail. It climbs for a few hundred feet until it turns to dirt where there are two trails that turn off to the right, ignore these and continue straight up the fire road. The climb is 2.7 miles long and not very steep, but it is exposed to the sun in the afternoons. This is an old fire road that has been over grown and narrowed over time, the views are awesome. 

After 2.7 miles, you enter a clearing; a sign on the left indicates that if you continue left that will take you up Brown Mountain, feel free to go up there and explore, its pretty and just an out and back.  To get to El Prieto continue straight where the trail begins to descend. After .9 miles, the turn out for El Prieto will show up on your right (see first photo below). El Prieto is 1.5 miles long and full of twisty, rutted fun. It pops you out at the Fern Truck Trail and you can either turn left to go back to you car or go right up the truck trail to do another lap.

El Prieto is perhaps the most diverse trail around; it has tight technical turns, smooth dirt, stream crossings, small drops, and rock gardens. Watch out for poison oak in the late summer and take your time on your first visit. 

Who is Going to Love It

Riders who love technical downhill and variable terrain will keep coming back. The climb isn’t super challenging, but makes you work for the downhill. If you’re worried it is too technically challenging, ride Brown Mountain, its easier, but if you can handle that then El Prieto is the next step up.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Exit the CA-210 at N. Windsor Ave/N. Arroyo Blvd and head north 2.3 miles, parking on left just before the Windsor-Ventura intersection. North of the Windsor-Ventura intersection, the San Gabrielino Trail begins, take it north for 1.2 miles then turn right onto the Fern Truck Trail. Open from sunrise to sunset.

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Brown Mountain

2899 North Windsor Ave
La Canada Flintridge, CA, 91011
34.193904, -118.168198

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