Family, Group and Special-Interest Hikes in the San Gabriel Mountains

Many people ask about which hikes in the San Gabriel Mountains are suitable for special purposes. Families with very small children, as well as wheelchair users, want to know which trails are accessible to strollers and wheelchairs. Families with toddlers and somewhat-older children want to know about trails that are easy, fun and safe. Others would like to know how to find group hikes to have the guidance and/or company of others. Yet others have special interests such as birds, native plants, or a desire to meet fellow lovers of the outdoors.

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Question: Which trail would you suggest for taking children on their first hike? I would like to be near a stream or end at a waterfall. I don't want to try something too dangerous with a steep cliff on one side. I would appreciate your input on this.

Answer: Having had two children pass through the ages of 6-8, I've had a bit of experience in taking children on hikes. There are a number of easy hikes to a waterfall that present no danger other than slipping on a rock while crossing a baby stream. Probably the easiest, most scenic, most shaded, and most interesting due to a handful of baby stream crossings that pose no problem to even 2 year olds (except during and immediately after heavy rains), is the half mile one way with only 150' of elevation gain, to Millard Canyon Falls in Altadena.

Both my sons went on that hike starting at the age of ~2, and it's a big hit with kids of any age. I even took one of my cats on a leash on that hike one time! She didn't enjoy it much, and it was her only hike.

Have fun on your hike! And remember that for any hike where you park in the ANF, you need to have an "Adventure Pass" (i.e., "parking fee") on your car.

Tom Chester

Suitable Family Hikes Linked on This Site

Here are some other trails that are great for families:

The Bailey Canyon waterfall trail used to be an easy family hike, but the trail to the waterfall is now overgrown and eroded in several places. Adventurous older kids may enjoy it, but don't make this your first hike. To go to the waterfall, take the left-hand fork just after crossing the water, before the trail starts up the mountain.

In addition, nearly every fire road is suitable for the fancy strollers with bicycle wheels, which allows the parent (or designated pusher) to get double exercise in climbing fireroads with significant elevation gain, as well as unusual exercise in trying to prevent the stroller from descending rapidly sans the "pusher" on the descent! (Make sure to tell your fellow hikers about the "extra exercise" benefits of pushing the stroller so that they will be competing to get that extra exercise!)

Trails on which one of us has used / seen a stroller include:

Also, the new Sam Merrill Trail is now suitable for strollers to Echo Mountain.

Other probably suitable trails include:

If you know of other suitable trails, or have comments about the suitability of any of the above trails, please let us know.

Hikes on Other Sites

Angeles National Forest Visitor Centers

Nature Trails in the Angeles National Forest

Some of these trails are better maintained than others. Some of them still have their interpretive signs, other do not. If you have any copies of the descriptive brochures or any up-to-date information regarding these trails, please let us know.

Nature Trails in the ANF

Accessible from Angeles Crest Highway, SR2
The World of ChaparralClear Creek Vista???overgrown, better in the morning (too hot later), in the "hard" chaparral
Mt. Wilsonfrom Red Box, 4 miles to Mt. Wilson Observatory / Skyline Park1.2 milesindentifies the trees, perennial plants and telescopes; spectacular views
Wolf TreeCharlton Flat0.5 milestall trees, cool and shady, many birds, intermittent stream, picnic area, restrooms
Sierra AltaSim Jarvi Memorial Vista0.3 mileshigh elevation, signs, different kinds of bats in the early evening (feasting upon the abundant mosquitoes!), restroom
Lightning RidgeJunction with Blue Ridge Road0.8 milesexcellent wildflowers, "fire followers" from recent burn (1997), fall color, restroom
Big PinesBig Pines USFS Administration Center0.5 milesis it still there?
Table MountainTable Mountain Campground1 milepines and oaks
Accessible from San Gabriel Canyon Road, SR-39
Crystal LakeCrystal Lake Recreation Areavariesmany self-guided nature trails, $5 entrance fee
Golden CupCrystal Lake RA0.3 milesoaks
TototngnaCrystal Lake RA0.7 milesboulders, lichens, galls, and a fault

For further information about the plants and animals along these trails, see:

Los Angeles County Natural Areas in the San Gabriel Mountains

City Parks

Group and Special Interest Hikes

Links to Sites with Advice about Hiking with Children

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Copyright © 1999-2000 by Jane Strong and Tom Chester.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to us at this source:
Comments and feedback: Jane Strong | Tom Chester
Updated 2 October 2000.