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L.A. Walks: Trek a ghost route left by the long-gone Red Car trolley line in Silver Lake

Mere blocks from the busy streets and freeways dividing Silver Lake from Echo Park and Atwater Village is a wide, bucolic green space: all that's left of the Red Car electric trolley line that once ran from downtown Los Angeles through Edendale and to Glendale and beyond. The trolley's tracks and trestles are gone, but a long undeveloped corridor remains.

and to Glendale and beyond.
and to Glendale and beyond. (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

1. Start walking from Riverside Drive near the intersection with Gleneden Street, in front of the decades' worth of murals painted by students of Allesandro Elementary School. Head south on Riverside under a high freeway overpass, then turn right onto Allesandro Street.

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People walking dogs at the wide dirt path that swings into an open field. This two-mile walk is mere blocks from the busy streets and freeways dividing Silver Lake from Echo Park and Atwater Village.
People walking dogs at the wide dirt path that swings into an open field. This two-mile walk is mere blocks from the busy streets and freeways dividing Silver Lake from Echo Park and Atwater Village. (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

2. Turn right onto Rosebud Avenue and duck under the Glendale Freeway, then turn immediately left onto Corralitas Drive. At the end of the cul-de-sac, take a wide dirt path that swings wide into an open field.

Public staircases, designed for pedestrian access to the trolley line, are on both sides of the road.
Public staircases, designed for pedestrian access to the trolley line, are on both sides of the road. (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

3. This broad open space narrows into a canyon and shows some remnants of its electric trolley car past. Here and there are concrete footings that once supported platforms for passengers of the famed Red Car, which served the area from 1906 to 1955.

4. As the canyon narrows into deep shade, the path passes a makeshift memorial and goes through a chain-link gate. On the left is Rose Scharlin Cooperative Nursery School, one of the city's oldest preschools.

The view along the walk of what's left of the Red Car electric trolley line that once ran from downtown Los Angeles through Edendale.
The view along the walk of what's left of the Red Car electric trolley line that once ran from downtown Los Angeles through Edendale. (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

5. The path broadens into a wide dirt road — one of the area's few unpaved city streets. Public staircases, designed for pedestrian access to the trolley line, enter from both sides. Walk on, past the intersection with India Street on the right. Farther on are views of the roaring 5 Freeway and in the distance Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

6. As the trail ends at a bluff and begins to wind steeply downhill, stop to imagine a trestle — the Fletcher Viaduct, the trolley bridge, dismantled in 1959, that crossed Fletcher Avenue far below. Across the divide, you can see a staircase that helped pedestrians access the trolley stop. Just below are the colorful footings that held up the trestle, now the basis of an ongoing community art project.

Views of the 5 Freeway and in the distance Forest Lawn Memorial Park are seen from the trail.
Views of the 5 Freeway and in the distance Forest Lawn Memorial Park are seen from the trail. (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

7. Take the trail downhill, walking carefully, then turn right on Fletcher and right onto Riverside to return to your starting point.

8. If the weather is wet or the trail looks too steep or slippery, return to the intersection with India Street. Turn left, walk a block, then turn quickly right onto Riverside Terrace and left onto Gleneden Street. When you hit Riverside Drive, you're back at the beginning of the walk.

Fleming is the author of "Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles" and the just-published "Secret Walks: A Walking Guide to the Hidden Trails of Los Angeles."

Red Car route walk info 

The stats

Distance: 2 miles

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Difficulty: 2, on a scale of 1 to 5

Duration: 1 to 11/2 hours

Details: Ample street parking. Dogs on a leash are OK.

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