On any Saturday morning, you’re likely to find the bike path along the Glendale Narrows section of the LA River teeming with spandex-clad cyclists, stroller-pushing parents, and couples enjoying the Southern Californian sunshine—and for good reason.
This section of the river—running past Griffith Park, Glendale, Los Feliz, Atwater, and Frogtown—is surprisingly lush and green, and looks a little less industrial than the rest of the river due to the fact that it has a natural “soft” bottom where trees and other vegetation can actually grow.
Another draw is undoubtedly the cafes, restaurants, and parks along the river at Frogtown and in nearby Atwater, which are perfect for a lazy weekend ride. If that sounds like your speed, here’s how to tackle the Glendale Narrows stop-by-stop on bike.
The best place to begin your ride is downstream at Egret Park, near Elysian Park. You can access the park (and street parking) from Riverside Drive, and from there you can easily make your way onto the LA River Greenway Trail, which takes you along one of the greenest stretches of the river. Egret Park marks the end of the soft bottom section of the river, and you’ll see the greenery start to give way and transition into that familiar concrete canal as it runs toward Downtown LA, as you head in the opposite direction toward Frogtown.
Managed by Friends of the LA River, Frog Spot is a lively community space that regularly features yoga and meditation classes, readings and talks, live music, and guided nature walks down into the river. It’s generally open on Saturday afternoons and it is definitely worth dropping in if there’s something going on. If you’re planning to come by at another time, make sure you check out their calendar for one-off events.
La Colombe, a bright and modern cafe that is accessible from the bike path, is your first chance for a caffeine stop as you head up the river. On weekends, you’ll find it buzzing with customers, especially in the outdoor area by the river, so make sure you get there early to grab your spot. Along with espresso and pour-over coffees, La Colombe also offers a selection of fresh pastries to replenish your sugar levels.
With good coffee, reasonably priced food, a spacious outdoor area, and an amazing location on the LA River, it’s not surprising that Spoke is incredibly popular. While the cafe is usually packed with cyclists (get here early or you’ll have to line up to order), you don’t need a bike to get here (and, if you don’t own a bike, you can always rent one from the attached bike shop). If you come by later in the day, you’ll be pleased to know that Spoke also serves beer and wine, and is a great place to check out live music on warm LA evenings.
Lewis MacAdams Riverfront Park is named for the local activist and poet who founded Friends of the LA River, and has campaigned tirelessly for its regeneration for decades. The park features a 7-foot bronze monument to MacAdams, which includes one of his poems, along with a picnic area, an open-air pavilion, and some picturesque views of the Verdugo Hills. Following the park around to the adjoining Marsh Park, you’ll find a skate park and some giant snake sculptures that are popular with the local kids.
If you’re looking for something a little stronger than coffee to keep you going, then turn off the bike path onto Gilroy Street and head toward Frogtown Brewery, where you can sample a selection of local seasonal brews in their taproom. While the brewery doesn’t sell food, they do work with a rotating roster of food trucks, so you can generally find something tasty parked outside.
Lazy weekends are ideal for a little thrift shopping, and this out-of-the-way store is the perfect place to stop and browse, just off the bike path on Fletcher Drive. The Left Bank offers a highly curated selection of women’s clothing, along with a small selection of men’s items, handcrafted homewares, and knick-knacks. It’s also pretty reasonably priced compared to other vintage stores in the area.
Atwater Village detour
If you exit the bike path at the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge and follow Glendale Boulevard up to Atwater Village, you’ll find a colorful strip of shops, restaurants, and cafes. Here you can browse the secondhand books at Alias Books East, sample legendary pastries and sandwiches at Proof Bakery, or, if you come through on a Sunday, you can check out the farmers market (if you’re hungry, go straight for the pupusa stall).
The finish line: Griffith Park
After you get back onto the bike path from Atwater, you’ll follow the river around the edge of Griffith Park. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can do the full 4.9-mile ride to the end of the Glendale Narrows and exit at the Riverside Drive Bridge. If you cross the bridge, you can stop for a rest at the Bette Davis Picnic Area before you turn around and do it all again.