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Hiking Chantry Flat to Sturtevant Falls in the Angeles National Forest

This walk in the Angeles National Forest is a great chance to get some real mountain hiking experience without driving too far or breaking too much of a sweat. It gets a little crowded on weekends, so go early for the best parking spaces. Wear boots or shoes that will tolerate a dunking, because this walk requires a couple of easy water crossings. Before you go, pick up an Adventure Pass ($5 for a day, $30 for the year) at a Sport Chalet or Big 5 sporting goods store. If it's Friday, Saturday or Sunday, you can also park near the trail head and buy your Adventure Pass from the charming Adams' Pack Station store at Chantry Flat.

Hikers head toward Adams' Pack Station before beginning on the trail for Sturtevant Falls.
Hikers head toward Adams' Pack Station before beginning on the trail for Sturtevant Falls. (Christina House / For the Los Angeles Times)

1. From the trail head near the end of North Santa Anita Canyon Road, just north of Arcadia, begin a paved half-mile descent past growths of pine, oak, sumac and bay laurel into the deeper shade of Big Santa Anita Canyon below.

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Hikers pass a cabin in the Angeles National Forest.
Hikers pass a cabin in the Angeles National Forest. (Christina House / For the Los Angeles Times)

2. At the bridge, stop to soak up some history. During the Great Hiking Era, from the 1890s to the 1920s, this was a regular destination in the San Gabriel Mountains for tens of thousands of walking enthusiasts. The Sierra Club's first Southern California headquarters was here, as were a dozen hiking lodges and hotels with names like Joe Clark's Halfway House and Sturtevant Camp, which still offers rooms and cabins to rent.

Trees are reflected in the creek along the trail from Adams' Pack Station to Sturtevant Falls. The creek is part of the Big Santa Anita Canyon Wash.
Trees are reflected in the creek along the trail from Adams' Pack Station to Sturtevant Falls. The creek is part of the Big Santa Anita Canyon Wash. (Christina House / For the Los Angeles Times)

3. You'll begin to see cabins as you approach the creek. The area, homesteaded since the early 1900s, once boasted hundreds of cabins, built by hand from materials that had to be brought in by pack mule. To this day, firewood and water are still brought in that way, on mule trains that also function as the area's sanitation department, making the downhill journey carrying sacks of garbage from the 80 privately owned cabins that remain.

A wading pool at the base of Sturtevant Falls attracts hikers and picnickers.
A wading pool at the base of Sturtevant Falls attracts hikers and picnickers. (Christina House / For the Los Angeles Times)

4. At lovely Sturtevant Falls, water tumbles 50 feet down a sheer rock face into a wide pool at the hike's terminus. The pool is good for wading, and the rocks on the shady banks make for good picnicking.

5. On the return journey, consider extending your walk by a half-hour with a side trip to Hermit Falls.

A cat preens near Adams' Pack Station as hikers walk up to the store to buy national park parking passes.
A cat preens near Adams' Pack Station as hikers walk up to the store to buy national park parking passes. (Christina House / For the Los Angeles Times)

6. Recover from the half-mile uphill at the end at Adams' Pack Station and admire the last remaining pack station in the San Gabriels. It was built in 1936, with a general store functioning since 1953, and is a good place to buy hiking and camping supplies or get a restorative cold drink, hot coffee or quick snack.

Charles Fleming is the author of "Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles" and "Secret Stairs East Bay: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Berkeley and Oakland."


The Stats

Distance: 3.5 miles
Duration:
1.5 hour
Difficulty:
3 on a scale of 1 to 5
Details:
Dogs on leash OK. Mountain bikes OK. Parking pass required.


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