Hiked Tuesday, January 18. I ended up hiking somewhat further than intended. When I left the house, I was just planning to walk the paved/dirt road that heads up from the upper parking lot. That would be about five miles or so. Once I got there, I figured I couldn't resist seeing Sturtevant Falls. So then, the plan was to hike there and back (about four miles). But once I got to the falls, I couldn't resist walking further. Also, my desire to avoid retracing my steps forced me to take a long, round-about way to get back home.
Chantry Flats is located at the end of Santa Anita Avenue. From the 210 freeway, you'd exit at Santa Anita and drive north. You'll drive right by the race track as you head through Arcadia. After entering Sierra Madre, Santa Anita soon becomes a one-lane road. Make your way through the residential neighborhood, and you'll come to a gate. If you arrive at the gate betweeen 6am and 8pm, the gate should be open. From there, you have a bit of mountain driving. Just keep going straight until you reach the parking lot. Ideally, you've already got your Adventure Pass. If not, you can either hope the ranger station (near the third tier of parking) is open, or hope to find a spot in the grocery store, where they often have an "honor system" five dollar charge to park. Of course, if you arrive on a weekend or holiday, you probably won't find parking anywhere.
The shortest way to Sturtevant Falls is to walk down the paved (but gated) road near where Santa Anita enters the parking lot. After about 7/10ths of a mile, the pavement ends, as does your descent. At this point, there's a bridge that carries you across Winter Creek. The Lower Winter Creek Trail begins here, and you'd get on that by making a left turn, here.
To get to Sturtevant Falls, however, turn right after you cross the bridge. There are pit toilets at this junction, by the way, and if you're heading to the falls, this is probably your last chance to use something other than a tree to relieve yourself. The trail after the bridge is still broad and easy to follow. The rivers remains on your right and there's a hill on your left. On either side, you'll soon pass numerous cabins. After about another 1/2 mile, you may notice a pair of trails heading off to your left. This is the Gabrielino Trail. You may wish to check those trails out, later. On my way in, I ignored them, and continued heading straight.
At Fiddler's Crossing, I crossed the water. I'm not sure if they call this Sturtevant Creek or Santa Anita Creek, but it's the main water in Santa Anita Canyon. From there, it's another 3/10ths of a mile to the base of Sturtevant Falls. If there's been recent rain, the falls run loud and misty. If it's late summer and dry, the water slows to a quiet trickle. Today, the water was running nicely.
After about ten minutes of enjoying the sight and sounds of a waterfall, I then backtracked the 3/10ths of a mile back to the Gabrielino Trail. The one that bears to the right after the split is for hikers, only, and takes you to the top of Sturtevant Falls. The one that bears to the left is open to hikers or horses. I'm not sure if I ever took that route. Both meet up again after .9 miles. The Gabrielino Trail gives you a nice, bird's eye view of the falls. It also keeps you close to the creek, and lets you see the numerous cascades above Sturtevant Falls. After that, the trail continues to follow Sturtevant Creek. When in doubt, just keep going up the main stem of the creek, and you'll be on the right track.
Two-and-a-half miles after leaving the Sturtevant trail, the Gabrielino Trail takes you Spruce Grove, a hike-in campground. There appear to be pit toilets here, although I've never tried them. You'll also have passed the Cascade picnic area, which appears to consist of a bench. There are emergency call boxes at both locations.
Three-tenths of a mile after Spruce Grove, you pass a junction. This is a little after you've passed the entrance to Camp Sturevant, where you would have crossed over the creek rather than continuing straightin into the private camp. At the junction mentioned above, a sharp left turn here would keep you on the Gabrielino Trail as it goes from there towards the West Fork of the San Gabriel River. It would also give you access to the Rim Trail approach to Mt. Wilson. Unfortunately, this section of trail has been closed for over a year. Instead, you need to go on the Sturtevant Trail.
One-eighth of a mile after starting on this trail, you reach another junction. A left turn here would, after three miles, take you to the top of Mt. Wilson. Of course, getting all the way up there and back would require either a longer day or an earlier start. Instead, I turned left, on to the Mt. Zion Trail. It's roughly 1 1/4 mile from there to the top of Mt. Zion. Unfortunatley, by now, my camera battery was dead. Also, the view from Mt. Zion wasn't very interesting. It was hazy, so even the view up towards Mt. Harvard and the solar telescopes of Mt. Wilson was a little fuzzy. The view down into the San Gabriel Valley was even worse.
After spending about two minutes at the summit, I backed down to the main trail and continued to Hoagee Camp, then took the Upper Winter Creek Trail back to Chantry Flats.
So, total mileage for the day: 1.5 to Sturtevant Falls, about 3 miles from the Falls to the Mt. Zion Trail, 2.8 miles on the Mt. Zion trail (including the 1/10th of a mile from the trail to the summit and back), 2.1 miles on the Upper Winter Creek Trail to get back to the paved road, then another .2 mile or so to get to the car. That's about 8.6 miles, total. Hmmmm. It seemed like more. :D Santa Anita Canyon has been heavily modified. In addition to the cabins and the non-native plants that came with them (especially English Ivy and periwinkle, but also a lot of Himalayan blackberry), the flood control folks did some major work here in the 1960s and 1970s.
Thought I'd try uploading a video, again. It's of Sturtevant Falls:
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