4 - 5
FATMAP difficulty grade
This hike in the San Gabriels combines some of the best scenery that LA’s mountains have to offer—dense forest, a tall waterfall, wide vistas, and a proud summit.
It links Sturtevant Falls and Mt.
Zion in a fairly concise loop, tracing canyons and ridgelines through the interior of the range. You can hike the loop in either direction.
The mapped route goes counterclockwise, reaching the waterfall early and making Mt.
Zion’s switchbacks a downhill journey rather than uphill.
This is the preferred direction for most.
Begin from Chantry Flat Recreation Area, following the well-signed paved path downhill, where dirt trails soon begin. The forest here is lush and dense, seemingly a world away from the arid chaparral of lower elevations.
The understory is a carpet of grass, ferns, moss, and a tangle of bushes.
Many types of tall trees twist into the canopy, screening the sun.
Thus, this forest stays cool and green all year long, and is especially verdant with the extra moisture of spring. A wide trail leads through it, alongside a stony creek.
You’ll pass several historic cabins, some of which are still used while others fall to disrepair.
These are private property and should not be disturbed.
When this main trail reaches a fork, follow signs for Sturtevant Falls.
The Upper Falls Trail is the route of this loop, but if you want to witness the 60-foot waterfall from below and wade in its pool, take a side trip on the Lower Falls Trail (not mapped).
This is a short spur that you must backtrack to continue the loop. The Upper Falls Trail climbs steadily and traverses a rocky hillside to reach a viewpoint above the waterfall, then continues along the creek on a narrow but easy-to-follow path.
Continue up the canyon, stop to enjoy a swimming hole or two if desired, and eventually you will pass Spruce Grove Campground then Sturtevant Camp.
These are two surprisingly well-stocked sets of accommodations, considering you can only reach them by trail.
They are available by reservation. Just past Sturtevant Camp is the junction with Mt.
Take this to contour across the forested mountainside toward the peak.
Standing on the summit requires a short out-and-back spur (not mapped).
The viewpoint is brushy, but still affords a panorama of higher San Gabriel peaks all around. Next, steep switchbacks descend the south face of Mt.
This slope is significantly drier and sunnier than any other section of the loop.
Thinner vegetation allows a vista into Big Santa Anita Canyon below and on a clear day, to the city beyond.
At the bottom is the junction with Winter Creek Trail, where you have two options to complete the loop.
The route mapped here takes Upper Winter Trail, a hillside traverse, and drops down to Chantry Flat.
Lower Winter Trail, which follows the canyon bottom by a creek, is slightly shorter but requires backtracking up the paved portion to reach Chantry Flat. Note: A California Adventure Pass is required for parking at Chantry Flat and access to the trails. Sources: http://santaanitacanyon.com/trails/ https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/angeles/recarea/?recid=41832