Brown Mountain / El Prieto Trail is a 7.0-7.5 mile loop (depending on where you park) located in the heart of the San Gabriel Mountains in Altadena. The trail begins as part of the Gabrielino Trail, then veers off to its own loop that leads to the top of Brown Mountain. There is a delightful variety of scenic views, shrubby chaparral, and riparian areas of shaded streams with distinctively cooler pockets, which makes for a very interesting hike.
This is a very popular mountain biking trail (we saw WAY more mountain bikers than hikers). Keep your ears open for them as they come down the trail quickly even though it is a single track for much of the route.
MAPS, DIRECTIONS, REVIEWS on AllTrails
Street parking is available at the west end of W. Altadena Drive OR in the parking lot at the corner of Windsor and Ventura in Altadena.
The trail begins at the west end of Altadena Drive. Follow the footpath down the hill until it meets up with the paved road and the fence that secures the JPL facility. Take a right and follow the road to the trail.
At the paved junction, follow the sign to the JPL bridge/Arroyo Seco Canyon.
KEY TURNS AND TRICKY SPOTS
While it is well marked at the beginning, there are very few signs once you hit the loop. We used the “record” feature on the AllTrails app to ensure we stayed on track and ended back where we started.
Follow the paved road over the bridges until you reach the signs for the trail junctions. Keep RIGHT at the Lower Brown Mountain Road sign, then keep right again at the sign for Brown Mountain Rd & El Prieto Trail.
Watch for the landing off to the right as this part of the trailhead is a little hard to see. This is a loop, so you can opt out to follow the trail to the left or right. The clockwise loop (following the trail to the left) offers a slower incline with a wider trail on the way up, and a steeper more rugged trail on the way down. Counterclockwise (following the sign to the right) offers a more rugged and steeper incline on the way up, with an easier trek down. The choice is yours.
We opted to take the trail clockwise (starting on the left). These instructions pertain to the clockwise route.
The trail is easy to follow all the way to the landing at the top. On the way down, there are two things to note:
Take the trail down to the right from the top landing. It is marked with a “Share the Trail” sign.
On the descent, the trail splits again and you need to follow the smaller trail to the RIGHT in order to get back to the beginning of the loop. There is a “Share the Trail” sign at this point as well. Otherwise, it is NOT marked!! If you miss this junction, you will probably end up in a residential area of Altadena called “The Meadows”. If this happens, you will need to find Canyon Crest Road. Follow Canyon Crest, then keep right at Florecita, then right again on Crestford. Crestford will then take you to West Altadena Dr. But better still…don’t miss the trail!
ALONG THE TRAIL