Sturtevant Falls was one of the more attractive waterfalls in the Southern California area. The moss and algae growing on the cliff where its waters ran added lovely colors to this pleasant 50ft waterfall. We also liked this waterfall enough to give it a spot on our So. Cal. Top 10 List.
Located in Big Santa Anita Canyon in the foothills of the Angeles National Forest at Sierra Madre just north of the suburb of Arcadia, we noticed that the falls was an extremely popular attraction.
On our most recent visits here, we ended up having a difficult time finding parking that was reasonably close to the trailhead. We would eventually find parking at a suitable pullout further down the winding mountain requiring us to walk an additional 1/4- or 3/4-mile just to get started! Therefore, what was supposed to be a roughly 3.2-mile round trip hike turned out to be closer to 4 or even 5 miles round trip!
Once we made it to the trailhead at the the Chantry Flat Fire Road gate, we walked downhill along the hot, exposed-to-the-sun, paved road leading right down to creek level in the depths of Big Santa Anita Canyon. Notice I said downhill, which meant this trail was kind of an upside-down hike. Thus, we knew that we were going to have to climb back up this paved stretch at the end of our hike.
Once at the base of the descent, the pavement gave way to a well-established, forest-shaded dirt trail flanked by idyllic cabins built before the area was designated Forest Service land. Many of these cabins looked like they were still in use (even actively inhabited). Either that or they had been renovated or had been well kept. I even remembered smelling burning wood as apparently one of those cabins was cooking up something over a wood fire.
Along the creek, we found several manmade dams, which I suspected were either for small scale hydroelectricity for the cabins, flood control, or some kind of water diversion. I wasn't not sure.
After we reached a series of conspicuous cabins next to the trail (one of which was called Bombadil's Castle, whose name I'd imagine came from the Lord of the Rings books), we then crossed what was known as Fiddler's Crossing. That was the first of three fairly straight-forward stream crossings. After traversing the last crossing, we made it to the base of the attractive (especially by Southern California standards) Sturtevant Falls. To get right in front of the waterfall for a direct look at it, we crossed the creek one more time.
And like most waterfalls in the Southern California area, the popularity of the falls made us share it with at least 20 to 30 people at a time. I suppose since we came on a weekend, this shouldn't have been surprising, and I'd imagine it would be much quieter on weekdays. Nonetheless, we still found it somewhat hard to believe that such a getaway could be so close to the city.
Indeed, we found it to be a great way to get good exercise, scenery, and a revitalization of mind and body.
Composed frontal view of Sturtevant Falls from our most recent visit in 2013
The silver lining to having to park far from the trailhead is this great view of the Los Angeles basin
Looking for a place to park along the winding mountain road since the main lot was full
Finally arrived at the main car park and the Chantry Flat Fire Road (not pictured to the right)
Now it's time to make the steep descent down the Chantry Flat Fire Road
Beyond the end of the pavement and on the dirt trail. I believe this is part of the Gabrielino Trail.
Lots of cabins along the trail
Lots of manmade dams along the trail
One of a few signs with wise sayings on them
Passing by a conspicuous cabin that said Bombadil's Castle on it. I'd imagine that was a reference to the Lord of the Rings books. Just beyond this series of cabins was Fiddler's Crossing, which was the first of three stream crossings before the falls.
The trekking poles were helpful to maintain balance while carrying precious cargo on these stream crossings
The busy weekend scene at the falls
Profile view of Sturtevant Falls in 2009
Direct view of the attractive Sturtevant Falls in 2013
View of Sturtevant Falls from further downstream
The hot paved road that we now had to ascend at the end of the hike
Some people park illegally when it's crowded like this. We actually saw this as we were walking back to our car.
Looking up towards the top of the falls from back on our first visit here in 2001
To arrive at the Chantry Flat Fire Road trailhead from say downtown Los Angeles, drive north to the 210 Freeway, then take the 210 Freeway east and exit Santa Anita Ave. (in Arcadia) heading north.
Take this road all the way into the foothills to the end of the road where there's a car park, pack station, and the start of the trail itself. You must have a Forest Adventure Pass displayed on your parked vehicle since it's on National Forest land. And given the popularity of this place, we actually witnessed a ranger actively patrolling and writing up tickets for violators who failed to display a pass (something we had rarely seen until we did this trail).
If you fail to buy one in advance at stores like REI, Sports Chalet, etc., you can purchase one at the pack station by the car park. Finally, we must say that early birds tend to get better parking spots. After say 9:30am or so on weekends, finding parking can be a bit difficult and even frustrating (trust us, we know this firsthand). In fact, we noticed some cars parked illegally (i.e. blocking lanes on the Forest Service Road to Chantry Flat). I wasn't sure if those guys got tickets from the patrolling ranger or not.
Now after having gone through this hiking excursion a few times, we've learned that the order of operations for avoiding a ticket while minimizing the time wasted during the effort to try to stay out of trouble was the following (assuming we hadn't bought one of the forest service passes yet)...
First and foremost is to drive all the way up to the Chantry Flat pack station at the end of the road. Even if there's no parking available (it's very rare to actually be lucky enough to find a spot up here), we've always managed to find temporary stopping spots in the lot without blocking traffic so I could pull over and let Julie walk in and get the day pass or annual pass before returning to the car so I could display it.
Then, we'd offload the gear and other passengers (if it was more than just Julie and I), and they'd wait patiently for me up here at the trailhead while I'd go in search of finding parking. Typically, it would probably be at least 0.5 miles from Chantry Flat before I'd finally find a spot to park. From there, I'd walk back up to the trailhead to rejoin Julie (and the rest of the group if we had more hikers), and then we'd be on our way.
Doing it this way would certainly minimize the amount of back-and-forth walking between the station and the parking spot just to get and display a pass even before getting started with the hike. And only one person has to go through the extra walking (i.e. the driver). Depending on how far you've parked, that could easily be over a mile of walking by itself!
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