About Sturtevant Falls
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 Top 10 List of Best Southern California Waterfalls.
However, we also noticed that this waterfall was an extremely popular attraction so that came with its share of headaches.
That popularity probably had a lot to do with its location in Big Santa Anita Canyon in the foothills of the Angeles National Forest.
After all, that was where the urban sprawl sat right up against these foothills at Sierra Madre (just north of the suburb of Arcadia).
Parking Difficulties at Sturtevant Falls
On our most recent visits here, we ended up having a difficult time finding parking that was reasonably close to the trailhead at Chantry Flat (see directions below).
Typically under these circumstances, we would eventually find parking at a suitable pullout further down the winding mountain.
Of course, we’d do this after securing a day pass beforehand or at the pack station at Chantry Flat.
Thus, we could wind up walking an additional 1/4- or even more than a mile in each direction just to get started!
Therefore, what was supposed to be a roughly 3.2-mile round trip hike could turn out to be closer to 4 or even 5 miles round trip!
Indeed, it seemed that the parking situation continued to get worse over the years.
That said, the authorities here seemed to be very keen on writing tickets for not parking behind the white lines or not having permits displayed.
Sturtevant Falls Trail Description
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.
It led 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 Sturtevant Falls excursion.
Along this descent, right at the second significant bend, there was a trail junction leading away from the pavement on a narrower trail towards Hermit Falls.
We have a separate write-up for that waterfall, and we’ll not get into that on this page.
Once at the base of the descent, the pavement gave way to a well-established, forest-shaded dirt trail.
Idyllic cabins built before the area was designated Forest Service land flanked the wide and busy foot trail.
Many of these cabins looked like they were still in use (even actively inhabited).
In fact, many of the cabins appeared to have been renovated or 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 man-made dams, which I suspected were either for small scale hydroelectricity for the cabins, flood control, or some kind of water diversion.
I wasn’t 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 weekends (once on a Memorial Day Monday), this shouldn’t have been surprising.
Therefore, 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.
Sturtevant Falls resides in the Angeles National Forest near Arcadia in Los Angeles County, California. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website or Facebook page.
The Sturtevant Falls hike began at the Chantry Flat Fire Road.
To arrive at the Chantry Flat Fire Road trailhead from say downtown Los Angeles, we’d drive north to the 210 Freeway, then take the 210 Freeway east and exit Santa Anita Ave (in Arcadia) heading north.
We’d take this road all the way into the foothills to the end of the road where there’s a parking lot, pack station, and the start of the trail itself.
We had to display a Forest Adventure Pass on our parked vehicle since it’s on National Forest land.
Indeed, 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 we happened to not buy one in advance at stores like REI, Sports Chalet, etc., we can purchase one at the pack station by the parking lot at the end of the road.
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 though I wasn’t sure if those guys got tickets or not).
Sturtevant Falls Parking – how best to manage the logistics
Now after having gone through this hiking excursion a few times, we’ve learned that the order of operations to be most efficient at parking and starting the hike immediately without getting into trouble.
Of course, this assumes that we didn’t have a forest service pass in possession when we’d arrive (though having one before would save a lot of headaches).
Anyways first and foremost, we’d drive all the way up to the Chantry Flat pack station at the end of the road.
Even if there was no parking available (it’s very rare these days 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.
Then, 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.
With the pass in hand, 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 display the pass in the vehicle, then 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.
Only one person has to go through the extra walking (i.e. the driver).
Depending on how far we’ve parked, that could easily be over a mile of walking by itself!
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