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Hiking the Angeles: Millard Canyon

About two weeks ago from time of writing, a small brush fire at Eaton Canyon disrupted our weekly Monday night hike up to Henninger Flats with our Boy Scout troop. Fortunately, our awesome L.A. County and Pasadena firefighters were quickly able to extinguish the wind-fueled blaze before it got more than about an acre. The bad news was that folks were being evacuated from Eaton Canyon and immediately surrounding trails, which meant that we could not get onto the trail up to Henninger.

Not one to waste an opportunity for fun, however, my younger boy went home with his buddy, a fellow Scout, to hang out before their patrol meeting later that evening. That left myself and my older two, a Boy Scout and a Venturing Scout to figure out the evening. Jacob and Emily both did not want to head home, and as Sami was having dinner with her uncle and cousin, we figured we would try to find another hike. After all, Los Angeles County is home to literally hundreds of trails. And I had already carb-loaded in anticipation of making a molehill out of a mountain.

But where to go? We had debated on heading up to Echo Mountain like we had just the week prior, but the early sunset made it more difficult for us to get down the last time we headed up to the ruins. Instead, we decided to take the recommendation of a very kind and knowledgeable L.A. County Sheriffs officer, who recommended Chaney Trail, about 5 miles from Eaton Canyon. So my two big kids and I loaded back into the van and headed to the trailhead. We were originally going to head up, toward Echo Mountain, but the high winds and chilling temps impeded our progress. We made it about 100 yards, then I made the executive decision to turn around. Especially since I was unfamiliar with that portion of the trail. And Jacob was in a short-sleeved tee with no jacket. So much for ‘Be Prepared.’

Still not one to give up so easily, even though by now the high schoolers were starting to get a bit whiny, we got back in the car and headed down toward Millard Canyon. At the bottom of the canyon, there was a parking lot, and what looked like a serene trail. Ignoring the protests of my now unenthusiastic children, we hit the trail from the parking lot and quickly came upon the Millard Campground.  There were a few campers on a Monday evening, and they said that the waterfall was just a short hike from the campground. There wasn’t much wind down in the canyon, hence the temperature was tolerable, even for jacket-less Jacob. With a renewed sense of adventure, my Scouts and I hit the trail to Millard Falls.

In the dusk’s fading light, the trail reminded me of something I would see in a fairy tale. The hike was marked by lush and green riparian forest, against the background of the canyon itself. The excursion itself was a fairly easy one, a bit over a mile out and back, but there were stream crossings and smallish boulders to hop. There wasn’t a ton of water coming out of the 50-foot falls, which comes from a stream at the top of the falls. In our current drought conditions, the small pool at the base wouldn’t be enough to wade in, but it is enough for kids to get dirty. For those who are more adventurous or just want more of a workout, the trail continues to Dawn Mine.  Maybe on a day when we have more time, the older two and I will try that. But for the evening, the out and back from Millard Falls was adventure enough. It was great to try a different trail, and find a campground that is easy to get to for a simple family campout.

Some things to consider:

Forest passes are required, as Millard Canyon is located in the Angeles National Forest. These can be picked up at REI, the U.S. Forest Service, and other retailers. We went on a Monday night when it was quiet, but I have been told that the campground can get busy on weekends.  There are six campsites available on a first-come, first-served basis. The U.S. Forest Service indicated that the campground occasionally closes due to bear activity.

We were so excited to find this little slice of heaven within the San Gabriel Mountains. Happy trails!

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