Hiking To Sturtevant Falls

In October 2014 President Obama designated 346,000 acres of the San Gabriel Mountains as a National Monument. While the location of this hike falls just outside the boundaries of the newly designated National Monument, the article pays homage to this decision nonetheless.

A nature girl always remembers her first SoCal hike.

While standing around at a party in the Hollywood hills, bemoaning the fact no one walks in this town, someone mentioned a great hike to a waterfall just outside the city of Los Angeles. With waterfalls being few and far between in the Midwest, my place of origin, my interest was immediately piqued. Before long we had set a hiking date and were off in search of a place called Sturtevant Falls. Soon I was hooked, in love, and couldn't stop coming back.

What I love most about the Sturtevant Falls hike is its multi-dimensional nature.

First, it's a great destination hike. Some of us need goals and I am no exception. With this hike the goal is an amazing 50-foot waterfall considered by many to be one of the finest around Los Angeles. Only about a mile and half down the trail, after a bit of boulder hopping, nature rewards with a grand sight. Flanked by sheer rock walls, water cascades down into a small pool. Hikers frequently wade into the chilly waters posing for selfies standing aside the falling water. Again, I am no exception. Due to drought conditions, I've noticed the falls have become nothing more than a sad trickle. But with the winter rains I am certain it will return to its typical sensational self.

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Second, the scenery, both natural and manmade, sparks imagination and takes me back in time. I'm a kid again, chasing frogs or searching out newts in a stream which curves alongside to the right of the trail downward to the falls. To my left lie idyllic cabins which look to be inhabited by hobbits. In fact, they are resort cabins built in early 1900s, during Southern California's golden age of hiking, and now turned privately owned seasonal residences. As I imagine Bilbo Baggins bursting out of a cabin door, tea cup in hand, one of the real residents comes down the trail leading a pack mule. As they pass on the left I notice the beast of burden is loaded down with provisions. As no drivable roads lead down to the cabins, mules and horses are the only method of transporting goods of sizeable load. Middle Earth may not be that far away, after all.

Third, for being only a short 3.5 miles roundtrip this hike packs a punch, aerobically speaking. The first mile or so is a fairly steep climb down. My first time, I didn't really notice as I was transfixed by the geological wonders of Big Santa Anita Canyon. Easily fooled hiking at top speed down the path to the waterfall, only later did I realize I had to turn around and hike back up. I'm convinced no treadmill or Crossfit experience compares the incline in the last half mile. I bring snacks or a lunch, as the fuel is needed for the trip home.

Dining near the waterfall is nearly picnic perfect, if you're willing to make a boulder your table and the ground your chair. Important to note: solitude is on short supply. Most weekends we dine al fresco with anywhere from 20 to 30 people and more often than not, their dogs, too. Simply focus on the waterfall, as the sound of the water cascading down the rocks usually drowns out the noise pollution from fellow nature lovers.

Whether you're new to Los Angeles or the San Gabriel Mountains, Sturtevant Falls is the perfect introduction to discovering monuments of nature in our midst.

How to get there and important info: Take the 210 east through Pasadena to Arcadia. Exit on Santa Anita Avenue and head north. Go up the mountain for 5 miles until the road ends at Chantry Flats. A National Forest Adventure Pass is required to park a vehicle at the trailhead at Chantry Flats. Don't forget to buy one ahead of time (available at most sports stores and 7-11s in the area) and display it in your car before hiking.


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