SR-39: Beach Blvd / Azusa Avenue / San Gabriel Canyon Road

ca_39_smallBeach Boulevard, Azusa Avenue, San Gabriel Canyon Road
Runs from SR-1 in Huntington Beach to SR-2 at Islip Saddle with a break from SR-72 to I-10

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Route 39 is one of the more varied state highways in the Los Angeles area. It starts right at the beach at Pacific Coast Highway (SR-1), runs along Beach Boulevard for many miles through the cities of Huntington Beach, Garden Grove, Stanton, Buena Park, and La Habra only to end abruptly at the corner of Whittier Boulevard and Harbor Boulevard. State 39 reappears on the north side of the Puente Hills at the junction of I-10 and Azusa Avenue. It continues north from there, passing through the city of Azusa, onto San Gabriel Canyon Road.

North of Azusa,  State 39 takes on a different look as it turns from a city street into a twisty mountain road. It slowly climbs along the canyon wall, using many sidehill viaducts, passing two large reservoirs and dams. After the junction with East Fork Road, State 39 climbs even faster, rising from about 2000 feet up to 6000 feet in a matter of a few miles. Just after passing the Crystal Lake turnoff the highway is blocked by a large gate. About 4.5 miles of State 39, the rest of the way to State 2, have been closed since 1978 due to a number of landslides. The roadway is passable but isn’t a full two lanes wide all the way up.  The section of highway from Crystal Lake to Angeles Crest Highway (State 2) was originally opened in 1961.

Crystal Lake, the former terminus of Hwy 39, is an interesting area to stop at as well. The namesake lake was formed by a very large landslide at least 20 thousand years ago. It is also one of two natural lakes in the San Gabriel Mountains, the other being Jackson Lake, a sag pond along the San Andreas Fault near Big Pines. The Crystal Lake area is a great place for hiking, mountain biking, and makes for a good “summit” destination for road bicyclists as well. A decent cafe and store, known as the Crystal Lake Cafe is also there. I highly recommend a visit. Their burgers are great and they have a decent selection of snacks as well.

Updates:
According to some sources at Caltrans District 7, there are plans to reconstruct State 39 over the closed segment to open it to the public again. Construction was slated to begin around mid-2005 but was delayed due to funding. More recent information shows that Caltrans wants to abandon the highway, though they may not be able to.

Beach Blvd

Pre-1950 alignment of Beach Blvd, just east of Beach Blvd at Garden Grove Blvd.
Pre-1950 alignment of Beach Blvd, just east of Beach Blvd at Garden Grove Blvd.
SLOW marking on the old alignment.
SLOW marking on the old alignment.
15 MPH advisory at Garden Grove Blvd (old Hwy 22).
15 MPH advisory at Garden Grove Blvd (old Hwy 22).
Beach Blvd at Lincoln Ave in the Buena Park area.
Beach Blvd at Lincoln Ave in the Buena Park area.
Signage at the Harbor Blvd / Whittier Blvd Junction (SR-72).
Signage at the Harbor Blvd / Whittier Blvd Junction (SR-72).

San Gabriel Canyon Road

1934 bridge and railing.
1934 Chapman Canyon Bridge (53-0114) and railing.
Crossing the West Fork of the San Gabriel River
Crossing the West Fork of the San Gabriel River
Old West Fork bridge pier.
Old West Fork bridge pier. Most likely 1930’s.
Aerial Photograph showing the partly constructed realignments of Hwy 39. Crystal Lake is at the top of the photo.
Aerial photograph showing the partly constructed realignments of Hwy 39. Crystal Lake is at the top of the photo. These were under construction in 1970. Courtesy – Caltrans
Unique 1967 date stamp on the realigned portion of State 39.
Unique 1967 date stamp on the realigned portion of State 39.
End of the lower realigned section. Grading continues to the left for a short while. The current highway goes to the right.
End of the lower realigned section. Grading continues to the left for a short while. The current highway goes to the right.
Lower realignment grading. This was never completed.
Lower realignment grading. This was never completed.
Abandoned section of the 1960’s realignment of Hwy 39 near Coldbrook Springs
Looking up the canyon from the West Fork San Gabriel River Bridge (53-2244)
Looking up the canyon from the West Fork San Gabriel River Bridge (53-2244)
Switchbacks on the portion that was not realigned.
Switchbacks on the portion that was not realigned.
Grading on the upper section of the realignment. Construction was halted about 1972 and will most likely will never restart. Maps will be posted eventually.
Grading on the upper section of the realignment. Construction was halted about 1972 and will most likely will never restart.
Section between Cold Spring and Crystal Lake that is one lane wide. It has since been restriped for two lanes.
Section between Cold Spring and Crystal Lake that is one lane wide. It has since been restriped for two lanes.
Crystal Lake Cafe near the top of Hwy 39 off of Crystal Lake Road.
Crystal Lake in August 2017.

Closed Section

South Gate near Crystal Lake.
South Gate near Crystal Lake.
View of the closed section from near the southern end. Hwy 2 is visible as the last set of cuts in the background.
View of the closed section from near the southern end. Hwy 2 is visible as the last set of cuts in the background.
Steep slopes and crumbling rocks along Hwy 39.
Steep slopes and crumbling rocks along Hwy 39.
Section of curbing remaining after the rest has slid down the slope.
Section of curbing remaining after the rest has slid down the slope.
Typical boulders and loose materials that plague the closed section of Hwy 39.
Typical boulders and loose materials that plague the closed section of Hwy 39.
Looking south toward the south closure on Hwy 39.
Looking south toward the south closure on Hwy 39.
Portions are partially covered in dirt or badly eroded.
Portions are partially covered in dirt or badly eroded.
Old broken white shoulder striping.
Old broken white shoulder striping.
Original 1961 stone wall with newer retaining wall visible in the distance.
Original 1961 stone wall with newer retaining wall visible in the distance.
North Gate at Islip Saddle - Jct. Hwy 2 - Angeles Crest Highway
North Gate at Islip Saddle – Jct. Hwy 2 – Angeles Crest Highway
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