About Santa Anita Canyon
Santa Anita Canyon is a beautiful area of the San Gabriels, full of varied landscapes and a cascading 50 foot waterfall – Sturtevant Falls. Located in the Angeles forest above Sierra Madre, the canyon makes a great getaway adjacent to the Los Angeles basin. The landscape is populated by turn-of-the-century Forest Service canyons, a few campgrounds, and an old outdoor resort.
Gold was discovered in the 1850’s at the lower end of the canyon but never amounted to much, although that resulted in the construction of the first of today’s trails. In 1898 a prospector built the first cabin in the canyon near the gold strike, nicknamed “Hermit’s Cabin” below where the dam of Big Santa Anita Reservoir is today. This cabin no longer exists.
The trail from Chantry Flats to Sturtevant Falls has been a popular hike for those wanting to escape the urban sprawl of Los Angeles since the early 1900’s. While Santa Anita Canyon offers various trails to hike upon, I chose the Sturtevant Falls trail-its most popular trail. This is an easy hike and perfect for anyone new to hiking but be aware that the last 0.6 mile return to the parking lot is all uphill. This is a well-traveled and well-maintained route, with plenty of clear trail signs. With all the “upper and lower” versions of trails, it might get confusing, so be sure to pick up a map (located at Adams’ Pack Station in Chantry Flats) and should be able to find your way.
Adams’ Pack Station
Visitors to the canyon sometimes see pack animals being led along the trail. The Pack Station at Chantry Flats has been in business since the 1936, hauling supplies in to the Camps and the cabins by horse and mule train. This is the second pack station; the original one being in Sierra Madre, but when the road to Chantry Flats was constructed that station was discontinued. Without a road in the upper canyon there is no other way to bring in or haul out large or bulky items. Adams’ pack station serves as the life-blood of 80 antique recreational cabins plus Sturtevant’s Camp which was established in 1893. Built in 1953, a general store can also be found at the station. The road to Chantry Flats is open from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM. You can buy your AdventurePass (often called the “parking pass”) at the Pack Station on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Sturtevant Falls Trail
To get to the Sturtevant waterfall, start from Chantry Flats and make your way through the thick forest and vine-covered trail. Along the way you will encounter a pristine creek surrounded by a collection of quiet cabins. While the resort camp isn’t abandoned, chances are you won’t come across any of its inhabitants. There are 80 cabins scattered along the creeks, built between 1907 and 1936. Each of the cabins were built by their individual owners, and display a unique style all their own.
Be prepared to hear the sound of falling water throughout the trail. After the floods of ’38, a series of concreteflood control dams were built over much of the canyon watershed near Los Angeles. Over time, the dams have become overgrown with greenery and moss, so they’re not nearly as intrusive as you’d imagine a large concrete dam to be in the middle of the forest.
As you make your way through the trail, you will hear the gentle bubbling of water. The trail climbs away from the creek for a bit, and winds through some smaller side canyons, covered with ivy, which further softens the sounds of the running water as you make your way through the dense, cool forest.
The picturesque canyons are accompanied by the vibrant colors of leaves. Sweet, floral scents waft in the canyon breezes and the streams are as full as they’ll be until next winter’s rains. Rock hopping is necessary at a few creek crossings, but what would a waterfall hike be without these?