Millard Canyon: A Glimpse of the Arroyo Past

Downtown and ocean views from the Sunset Ridge Trail by Millard Canyon. Photo by Yosuke Kitazawa | KCET

In the first chapter of our Highland Park installment, we explored the time when the Hahamong'nas were settled along the Arroyo Seco in the areas that became Northeast L.A., Pasadena, and Altadena. Millard Canyon, near the Hahamongna Watershed Park where many of the villages were located, was significant during their time in that it was a major trade route between the Hahamong'na villages near the canyon (what is now Hahamongna Watershed Park) and their trade partners to the north. Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portolà stumbled upon the area while on a journey to find the Monterey Bay, and it was there that Portola met Chief Hahamongvic, and the two shared stories and allegedly smoked a peace pipe.

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The Hahamog'nas walked along the Arroyo Seco through the canyon to reach the other side of the mountains. Photo by Yosuke Kitazawa | KCET
Today Millard Canyon offers a glimpse of the Arroyo Seco as seen by the Hahamog'nas and the artists that came after. The natural state of the Arroyo Seco, most of which is now encased in concrete, can still be experienced on the trails, with views of historic cabins that once were littered along the length of the Arroyo Seco, many occupied by artists that thrived in the area at the turn of the century.

This cabin is nestled near the brink of Millard Canyon Falls. Now owned by the Altadena Mountain Rescue Team, it was probably built in the early part of the 20th century.
Cabins like this are sprinkled around the canyon. Several are permanent homes to nature-loving residents. Photo by Yosuke Kitazawa | KCET

A similar Arroyo cabin is seen in this photo, dated 1933.
Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

Unfortunately the most direct trail to the base of the waterfall has been closed since the Station Fire. The recent wind storm seemed to have knocked down a few trees as well. The creeks by the brink of the falls is still accessible via the Sunset Ridge Trail however.

Path to the waterfall is officially closed to the public. Photo by Yosuke Kitazawa | KCET

Depending on the time of year, plenty of water flows through the canyon. Photo by Yosuke Kitazawa | KCET

The natural beauty of the Arroyo Seco remains in the upper sections of the stream. Photo by Yosuke Kitazawa | KCET

About the Author

Yosuke Kitazawa is the Site Editor of KCET Departures.

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