Monday, March 8, 2010

Hike 32: Eaton Canyon to Mount Wilson--The Trailhead(s)

March 7. I also did this as hike Hike #3, way back in early January. And I've hiked out of Eaton Canyon for a number of other hikes. This write-up (and probably the next post or two--I don't think I'm going to be staying up late enough to tell the whole story) will talk generally about the sights along the way.

There are several access points to Eaton Canyon. First is the Eaton Canyon Nature Center, operated by the Los Angeles County Department of Parks. It's located on the east side of Altadena Drive, just north of New York Drive. It's got a small museum and several nature walks. Just inside of the doors of the museum and to the right is a collection of handouts, including self-guided tours of the short nature trails around the museum. Even though this area has been heavily altered, the rules of nature still operate. As noted in my previous post, the last time I was in this area, I saw a red-tailed hawk eating a small rabbit he caught along one of the short nature trails.

There's a large sign facing Altadena Drive that indicates where to turn to enter the Nature Center, but it comes up on your pretty quick if you're not paying attention.

About a half-mile further north on Altadena is another access point, also on the east side of the road. There's no sign there, but there's a relatively large shoulder on the side of the road with parking for 6-10 cars. This gate does not appear to be locked during the night.

Another half-mile north on Altadena Drive, and you'll pass Crescent Drive. Turn right on Crescent. In about 150 yards, Crescent hits Pinecrest. About 100 yards up on Pinecrest and you'll see a gate for the third access point. This gate is locked from dusk to dawn. Also, there's no parking on Pinecrest on weekends, and parking is limited to two hours on weekdays. So you're usually better off parking on Crescent, unless you're sure you'll be out in less than two hours (either because you're only walking to the waterfall or because you're going to run or bike to Henninger Flats and back).

In other words, accessing the Eaton Canyon trails from Pinecrest will save you two miles roundtrip for any hike in the area, but you'll have to be out before dark. Alternatively, parking at Eaton Canyon gives you good access to the nature trails, water fountains, and restrooms. Parking mid-way between these two places has the advantage that you don't need to worry about your car getting locked in the nature center parking lot, or being separated from your car by a tall, razor- and/or barbed-wire topped fence at Pinecrest.

From any of these three access points, you'll likely head east to where the bridge for the Old Mount Wilson Toll Road crosses Eaton Canyon wash.

At the top of the bridge, on the west side, is the access to the eastern end of the Altadena Crest Trail (Hikes 26 and 31). Cross under the bridge and you'll have a short, half-mile hike to a waterfall (Hikes 1 and 19). Depending on the quantity of recent precipitation, the waterfall may be roaring or dripping.

Eaton Canyon Falls, Feb 10, 2010

The trail to Henninger Flats is accessed by heading up the Old Mount Wilson Toll Road, which continues up from the east end of the bridge (Hikes 2, 3, 11 and 31). It's about two miles from the bridge, or about three miles from the nature center. You'd head this way if Henninger Flats is your destination, or if you were planning to continue on to Mount Wilson.

Next: The Hike to Henninger Flats

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