Hermit Falls

Angeles National Forest / Arcadia, California, USA

About Hermit Falls


Hiking Distance: 3 miles round trip; scramble
Suggested Time: 2.5 hours

Date first visited: 2010-04-25
Date last visited: 2010-04-25

Waterfall Latitude: 34.19125
Waterfall Longitude: -118.01728

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Hermit Falls is that other waterfall in the Big Santa Anita Canyon area near Arcadia.

While most of the attention and traffic are for the impressive Sturtevant Falls, this waterfall seems to be its opposite in so many ways.

Hermit_Falls_030_04252010 - Hermit Falls
Hermit Falls

Among the differences that we’ve noticed were that it was on a quieter single-track trail, it was more difficult to reach and even harder to see, it seemed to have more graffiti, there were fewer cabins, and it was a smaller and less popular waterfall.

Parking Situation and the Extended Hiking to Hermit Falls

Like the Sturtevant Falls trail, we had to start at the Chantry Flat fire road, which was actually paved as it descended from the Chantry Flat Pack Station area.

When we visited this waterfall, we didn’t get an early start so we had to find parking after buying a Forest Service Pass at the Pack Station.

We ended up parking over a half-mile from the trailhead along the twisting Santa Anita Canyon Road.

Hermit_Falls_001_04252010 - Since Hermit Falls shares the same trailhead as Sturtevant Falls, that meant we had to do extra hiking given that the most choice parking spots were very hard to get without a very early start. Note the person in yellow in the distance was issuing citations
Since Hermit Falls shares the same trailhead as Sturtevant Falls, that meant we had to do extra hiking given that the most choice parking spots were very hard to get without a very early start. Note the person in yellow in the distance was issuing citations

So we had to get back that distance on foot before even starting the hike.

Hiking to Hermit Falls

Then, we descend the paved road (which I believe was Chantry Flat Fire Road) for a couple of switchbacks before reaching a signed trail junction right at the second switchback.

This junction was just a few paces after a sign that said, “May Your Search Through Nature Lead You To Yourself.”

After leaving the main trail to go onto the smaller trail at the junction, we then proceeded down a narrow footpath as it continued its descent while partially exposed to the sun.

Hermit_Falls_075_04252010 - The sign at the spur trail headed to Hermit Falls
The sign at the spur trail headed to Hermit Falls

Since it was warm the day we did this hike, the sun was definitely a factor.

Eventually, the trail flattened out at the bottom of the descent as it then follow the creek downstream in the presence of a few cabins and flood-control dams over which fake waterfalls would flow.

It was actually these man-induced waterfalls that tricked us into thinking that Hermit Falls was close to the starting point.

What they did was create the familiar crashing water noise that then carried up the canyon very well.

Hermit_Falls_006_04252010 - Julie on the narrow trail leaving the Sturtevant Falls Trail and heading further downhill in the direction of Hermit Falls
Julie on the narrow trail leaving the Sturtevant Falls Trail and heading further downhill in the direction of Hermit Falls

After crossing the stream (which I can envision being a little tricky if the waterflow was high, especially in the Spring), we then continued further downstream past the First Water Junction sign.

That sign let us know that we still had 3/4-mile to go from there.

Eventually, we got to a spur trail leading to the top of Hermit Falls.

The First Water Trail continued beyond this spur towards Cabin 1, which turned out to be further downstream from the falls.

In other words, it would be too far from where we wanted to go to even bother going beyond Cabin 1.

Hermit_Falls_063_04252010 - Julie was content with experiencing Hermit Falls from an outcrop well above the waterfall, but even then, she had to be careful not to fall over the dropoff
Julie was content with experiencing Hermit Falls from an outcrop well above the waterfall, but even then, she had to be careful not to fall over the dropoff

So after taking that spur trail, we ended up at the uppermost tier of Hermit Falls along with its little rock pool.

Improving the Hermit Falls Experience

However, we knew that there was more of the waterfall further downstream right below us.

Yet, getting a view of the main Hermit Falls and accessing its plunge pool turned out to be very difficult due to the real steep and tricky scramble that was required.

Just trying to get a view of the falls without scrambling to the base turned out to be dangerous itself considering the edges of the ledge we were standing on had slippery surfaces.

Hermit_Falls_005_jx_04252010 - Me attempting the difficult scramble to get to the bottom of Hermit Falls
Me attempting the difficult scramble to get to the bottom of Hermit Falls

Even though I personally wouldn’t recommend trying the steep scramble to the base of Hermit Falls, I ended up following a family that made the scramble before me.

However, there were a couple of spots that made the descent as well as the ascent difficult as good rock climbing skills and some upper body strength to pull yourself up on the way back up were required.

In fact, if I didn’t see that family already go down, I don’t think I would’ve tried it.

I even discouraged Julie from joining me given the difficulty of the rock scramble.

Hermit_Falls_029_04252010 - Unsightly graffiti around the plunge pool and lower cascades downstream of Hermit Falls
Unsightly graffiti around the plunge pool and lower cascades downstream of Hermit Falls

So when I nervously made my way to the bottom, I had to do some additional awkward scrambling by rocks littered with graffiti to the pool at the base of Hermit Falls.

Had I gone in the water, I might have been able to get a more direct and fuller view of the falls, but I was content with where I was at (and not risk damage to the camera).

I understand that plenty of youthful folks with a high risk tolerance have actually jumped from one of the ledges above the falls into the waterfall’s plunge pool.

Clearly that was something I wasn’t even thinking of doing.

Overall Summary of the Hermit Falls Hike and Additional Options

Hermit_Falls_050_04252010 - Full contextual view of Hermit Falls. If you look carefully, you might notice Julie sitting at the topleft of this photo
Full contextual view of Hermit Falls. If you look carefully, you might notice Julie sitting at the topleft of this photo

All told, it was probably about a 3-mile return upside-down hike (not counting the extra hiking we had to do due to the difficult parking situation).

If you want to combine this waterfall with Sturtevant Falls, realize that it would be a difficult “W” hike.

This meant that you would descend to reach Hermit Falls, ascend in the hot and unforgiving sun to get back up to the paved road.

Then, you’d have to descend again to reach Sturtevant Falls before ascending (in the sun) all the way back up to the trailhead.

Hermit_Falls_076_04252010 - Regardless of whether you hike to Hermit Falls or Sturtevant Falls or both, you're likely to encounter this sign with a wise saying on it
Regardless of whether you hike to Hermit Falls or Sturtevant Falls or both, you’re likely to encounter this sign with a wise saying on it

The total round trip distance if you wanted to do the hike to both waterfalls this way could easily be around 8 miles.

Alternately, you could take the trail within the canyon all the way to Sturtevant Falls though I understand that this would require numerous stream crossings, which can be tricky in high water.

Authorities

Hermit Falls resides in the Angeles National Forest. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website or Facebook page.

Hermit_Falls_002_04252010 - Looking in the distance towards more of the Chantry Flat Road, which we had to walk in order to even get started on the Hermit Falls hike!
Hermit_Falls_004_04252010 - Julie still walking on the Chantry Flat Road just to get to the trailhead. Better display your Forest Pass
Hermit_Falls_005_04252010 - Julie leaving the paved Chantry Flat Fire Road and going onto the Hermit Falls Trail
Hermit_Falls_007_04252010 - Looking into Big Santa Anita Canyon from the narrow trail to Hermit Falls
Hermit_Falls_008_04252010 - Julie at the last descending switchback next to this manmade dam. At least we were now mostly in shade from the sun
Hermit_Falls_010_04252010 - Sign for the First Water 3/4 Junction seen on the way down to Hermit Falls
Hermit_Falls_012_04252010 - As we continued downstream en route to Hermit Falls, we passed by another dam
Hermit_Falls_069_04252010 - A trail junction
Hermit_Falls_014_04252010 - Context of Julie on the narrow trail leading to Hermit Falls with steep dropoffs immediately to her left
Hermit_Falls_024_04252010 - The uppermost waterfall and pool upstream from the main drop of Hermit Falls
Hermit_Falls_025_04252010 - Looking up at part of the difficult scramble I had just descended as Julie walked away from it
Hermit_Falls_035_04252010 - Looking towards the bottom of Hermit Falls across its deep plunge pool
Hermit_Falls_052_04252010 - The family I followed chilled by the plunge pool at the bottom of Hermit Falls
Hermit_Falls_053_04252010 - Another look up at the steep rock obstacle that I had to figure out how to climb to get back up and out of the bottom of Hermit Falls
Hermit_Falls_065_04252010 - Julie precariously taking photos from the ledge above the top of Hermit Falls
Hermit_Falls_071_04252010 - Julie heading back up after having had her fill of Hermit Falls
Hermit_Falls_073_04252010 - Almost back towards the sun-exposed trail junction with the main trail to Sturtevant Falls as we made our way back towards the trailhead

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To access Hermit Falls, take the I-210 into the city of Arcadia and exit at Santa Anita Ave.

Then head north towards the foothills (north of the freeway) as Santa Anita Ave. becomes the winding and mountainous Santa Anita Canyon Road.

Sturtevant_Falls_15_004_01182015 - The parking situation at Sturtevant Falls (and Hermit Falls since they share the same trailhead) can definitely test one's patience
The parking situation at Sturtevant Falls (and Hermit Falls since they share the same trailhead) can definitely test one’s patience

Take this road all the way to its end at the Chantry Flat Pack Station and parking lot.

Once here, you can buy a Forest Service Pass (if you didn’t possess one already) and then try your luck at finding parking.

If this lot is full, you’ll have to drive back down Santa Anita Canyon Road and look for a pullout somewhere.

You’ll definitely want to have that Forest Service Pass because we consistently saw employees issuing citations for parked vehicles not displaying the pass.

Sturtevant_Falls_127_05272019 - This was the Chantry Flat Pack Station, where you can pay for parking (if available) as well as purchase a Forest Service Pass if you didn't have a valid one in hand already to display in your car
This was the Chantry Flat Pack Station, where you can pay for parking (if available) as well as purchase a Forest Service Pass if you didn’t have a valid one in hand already to display in your car

We also saw citations issued to vehicles displaying passes but not completely parked behind the lines marking the road.

For context, Arcadia was 17 miles (over 30 minutes drive) northeast of downtown Los Angeles and about 7 miles east of Pasadena along the I-210.

Top down sweep from the uppermost waterfall to the plunge pool way down below from our precarious vantage point at the top of the main falls


Top down sweep from the base of the main falls towards the graffiti-laced lower falls

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Tagged with: los angeles, angeles crest, angeles national forest, arcadia, monrovia, pasadena, southern california, california, waterfall, gabrielino trail, altadena, san gabriel, big santa anita, sierra madre, scramble, swimming, swim, chantry flat



Visitor Comments:

Combined Hermit-Sturtevant hike April 26, 2011 7:38 pm by Andrey Selva - You don't need to get all the way up and down to combine Hermit and Sturtevant Falls hikes into one. First Water is connected with Robert's Camp by a trail going along the creek and cabins. Although be ready to get wet in the high water season because there are some creek crossings and they… ...Read More

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