It’s going to be a million degrees here in So Cal this Labor Day weekend. So in typical Southern California style, we are going in search of some water to cool off in the shade of forest settings. Here are some of my favorite waterfall hikes, easily accessible from the foothill communities along Interstate 210.
Hermit Falls- This hike is a moderate 1.2 miles from the fork to the falls. The hike to the falls is generally safe, though there are a few narrow spots you want to watch out for. The falls are popular with teens as there are some large pools that are deep enough to jump into, especially when the water is high. This is a big no-no. There are reports of severe injuries and even deaths from accidents at the falls. The kids, dog, and I stay at the pools at the top of the falls and splash around. When we’re lucky to have a lot of water, the dog can even swim a bit, which he absolutely loves.
Sturtevant Falls- To get to the falls, take the blacktop paved trail down and cross the bridge. Continue the trail to the right. This Big Santa Anita trail is the most popular trail and so gets the most traffic. The kids love the rock hopping and water crossings, and at the end, you’re rewarded with a beautiful 60-foot waterfall.
Eaton Canyon Falls
Eaton Canyon Falls is a 40-foot waterfall with a nice pool for wading. Our dog absolutely loves this hike. When the Pinecrest Gate is open, it’s a short half-mile hike from the bridge to the waterfall. There are some boulders to climb over, which the kids enjoy. The trail from the nature center is not very shaded, and adds 1.3 miles each way to the hike, but it is a flat, relatively easy hike. Our first grade classes take this hike to the waterfall on their annual nature field trip. It’s easily a favorite first grade memory, and usually goes without issue.
The short hike to Millard Falls begins at the parking lot for the Millard Trail Camp. It’s about a half-mile from the campground to the falls. For a longer hike, you can begin at the junction of Chaney Trail and Mt. Lowe Road. The parking area at the trail camp is larger, but requires an Adventure Pass. The canyon hike is marked by lush and green riparian forest, against the granite backdrop of the canyon itself. The excursion itself was a fairly easy one once we lifted our dog over the rocks at the start of the hike. The trek is bit over a mile out and back, but there were stream crossings and smallish boulders to hop, which the kids thought added to the adventure. This is one of my favorite hikes; prior to Covid, this was one of the hikes on our Sunday evening rotation, and this trail isn’t nearly as busy as the nearby Eaton Canyon.
We’ve done this hike within the Angeles National Forest two ways. The first was with our Cub Scout Pack. This route took us from the Switzer Picnic Area to the ruins of Switzer’s Camp, which is only 1.1 miles from the bridge. There’s a short spur trail to get to the top of the falls. The kids enjoyed this hike. The forest was always pretty and fairly well-shaded, and they especially liked having snacks while watching the water falling through this two-tiered falls.
The second way takes you to the lower falls. From Switzer’s Camp, head to the junction. From there, head left and downhill to Arroyo Seco. Once back down, head upstream for 0.1 miles and you’ll come to the lower falls. After a good rain, there is usually enough water for some fun wading. If you want a longer hike, you can head back into Bear Canyon, which boasts a relaxing campground.
Adventure passes are required to park in any of the lots along Angeles Crest Highway. If you arrive early enough, there is a parking area downhill at the picnic area. This lot fills up early, so you may need to head back up and park in the upper lots. This adds about a half-mile and an uphill workout to your hike.
There are many waterfall hikes in the Angeles National Forest and its vicinity. Be sure to check any restrictions before heading out, especially as the Covid19 pandemic makes social distancing a requirement. We had the misfortune of finding the Mt. Wilson Trail to First Water, another nice water hike, closed Fourth of July weekend due to the anticipated crowds. Be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen, and know your limits especially in extreme weather conditions. If you bring your canine companion, I recommend doggy booties to help protect their paws, as well as plenty of water and treats.
However you decide to adventure- out or in- this sweltering Labor Day 2020 weekend, be safe and well. Happy trails!