While the stay-at-home orders haven’t exactly ended, the trails in Los Angeles County are finally starting to open up after over a month-long closure. We were in the OC for the first few days of LA Co trails reopening, which was probably a good thing. Because everyone has been getting cabin fever, I heard reports of the Pasadena-area trails being very busy. Not surprisingly, those reports weren’t exactly wrong.
After my buddy texted me the trails were opening, it was harder to suppress the call of the mountains. While running our errands earlier last week, we would drive by the trail head to Echo Mountain, as well as the Eaton Canyon Nature Center. We could see that Eaton Canyon was busy, but as there was still available street parking, we figured it was manageable. Echo Mountain had less traffic still, and so we reasoned that a hike during the week would be possible.
So Thursday, after some difficulty with distance learning, and an inordinate amount of stir crazy, we decided to hit the trail. After some debate, we opted for Eaton Canyon for our first hike post-closures, with the intent of heading up to Henninger Flats. We arrived at the Nature Center just before noon, and the main parking lot had already filled. Fortunately there was plenty of overflow parking at the equestrian center, so we didn’t have to resort to parking on Altadena Drive. For me, this was a good sign that the canyon wouldn’t be too packed. That proved correct most of the time. There were more people than would normally be on the trail on a weekday, with many businesses still being closed and kids not physically in school, but we were able to maintain physical distance for most of our hike. The only area we saw that was crowded was the portion of the trail close to the nature center, where the trail is much more narrow and leading to the only open gate.
The day, while warm and very sunny, was pleasant. It felt good to be outside and back in nature, even if it was in the frontest of the frontcountry. Though we didn’t make it to Henninger Flats on this trek, which had been our original plan. The boys found a magazine that they correctly identified as being from a law enforcement weapon on the Eaton Canyon trail close to its junction with the Mt. Wilson Toll Road. Jacob stopped to call the sheriff’s office to have someone check on it, so he and Nate waited for a response. Sami was clamoring to head to the waterfall, rather than up the mountain to the campground. So we waited, and sure enough, the mounted sheriffs came to retrieve the magazine, much to our relief and to the excitement of my equestrienne who hadn’t been to horseback lessons for a while thanks to the Covid. With that delay, I conceded that the waterfall would probably be a better option, with the stipulation that if it got too crowded, we’d have to turn around.
Well, we didn’t get to that point. While I could see that the waterfall trail was significantly more crowded than the toll road, a mishap just after the first stream crossing cost us the rest of the hike. Nate unfortunately slipped on a rock, skinned up his leg, and twisted his ankle, and while he was able to stand after bandaging him up, we did have to turn around. Jacob stayed with him like a faithful albeit annoyed big brother, while Sami who was getting antsy, and I went ahead, exploring the sidetrail at Coyote Canyon to kill time. We made it back to the car safely, and not much worse for wear. The blow to ego was probably worse than the bruise to the ankle; after ice and rest through the weekend, Nate’s significantly better, and recovered for this week’s hike. I’m not sure yet if we’ll attempt Henninger tomorrow, or if we’ll try Echo Mountain. Either way, we’re ready for another adventure.
Some things to consider:
At time of writing, the Pinecrest/Mt. Wilson gate is closed. The only gate currently open is at the nature center. The parking lot fills up quickly, but there is overflow and street parking. However, it does get crazy busy on weekends, especially mid morning, so please plan accordingly.
Masks are required on the trails. We wore ours at the start of the hike and at the busier points on the trail. We took them off to cool down where it was possible to physically distance. There are mixed reports on whether it’s safe to wear masks while exercising. I find it difficult to breathe with the mask on, and as someone with asthma, it’s difficult to breathe at times even without a mask. So we brought and used the masks in areas where there were many people, and took them off when it was safe to do so.
All services are currently closed. The nature center, restrooms, campground, and other amenities are all closed. Please plan accordingly.
*Also at time of writing, the national forest front range trails are still closed. This is one, a bummer, as there is some great hiking at Chantry Flats and beyond. Secondly, the continued closures are forcing folks onto a limited number of trails, which increases the crowding. Hopefully these will open back up soon. There’s no better place to be socially distant than in the outdoors.*
Stay healthy and well. Happy trails!
Correction: Chantry Flats and other areas are open as of May 15. There are still some areas that are restricted, so check online if in doubt.