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.
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.
San Gabriel Canyon Road