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.
Table of Contents
- Suitable Family Hikes Linked on This Site
- Hikes on Other Sites
- Group and Special Interest Hikes
- Links to Sites with Advice about Hiking with Children
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.
Here are some other trails that are great for families:
Suitable Family Hikes Linked on This Site
- Arroyo Seco
- Switzer Picnic Area
- Millard Canyon to Millard Canyon Falls
- Eaton Canyon Nature Center to the bridge
- Sierra Club's Little Hikers Committee sometimes has hikes in the San Gabriels
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:
- Mt. Wilson Toll Road to Henninger Flats
- Brown Mountain Fire Road
- Ski Lift Access Road from Blue Ridge Road to Mtn. High West
Also, the new Sam Merrill Trail is now suitable for strollers to Echo Mountain.
Other probably suitable trails include:
- Chantry Flat to Sturtevant Falls
- Van Tassel Fire Road
- The CCC Road, also good for dogs, few to no mountain bikes
- San Olene Fire Road
- West Fork of San Gabriel River
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
- Chilao Visitor Center is open Saturday and Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. during the summer, and 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the winter. Admission is free. Nature trails circle the Center, which is listed in the Watchable Wildlife Guide as an International Birdwatching site. For more information about the Center, conditions and activities call (626) 796-5541.
Charlton Flat to Vetter Mountain Trail
- Grassy Hollow Visitor Center is open 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For more information call the Center at (626) 821-6737, or the District Office at (661) 944-2187.
- Mt. Baldy Schoolhouse Visitor Center is open 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.,Tuesday through Sunday. An indoor trail leads you on a short, simulated trip from the foot of the mountains to the high peaks. For more information call (909) 982-2829.
Nature Trails in the Angeles National ForestSome 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
Name Location Trail
Highlights Accessible from Angeles Crest Highway, SR2 The World of Chaparral Clear Creek Vista ??? overgrown, better in the morning (too hot later), in the "hard" chaparral Mt. Wilson from Red Box, 4 miles to Mt. Wilson Observatory / Skyline Park 1.2 miles indentifies the trees, perennial plants and telescopes; spectacular views Wolf Tree Charlton Flat 0.5 miles tall trees, cool and shady, many birds, intermittent stream, picnic area, restrooms Sierra Alta Sim Jarvi Memorial Vista 0.3 miles high elevation, signs, different kinds of bats in the early evening (feasting upon the abundant mosquitoes!), restroom Lightning Ridge Junction with Blue Ridge Road 0.8 miles excellent wildflowers, "fire followers" from recent burn (1997), fall color, restroom Big Pines Big Pines USFS Administration Center 0.5 miles is it still there? Table Mountain Table Mountain Campground 1 mile pines and oaks Accessible from San Gabriel Canyon Road, SR-39 Crystal Lake Crystal Lake Recreation Area varies many self-guided nature trails, $5 entrance fee Golden Cup Crystal Lake RA 0.3 miles oaks Tototngna Crystal Lake RA 0.7 miles boulders, lichens, galls, and a fault
For further information about the plants and animals along these trails, see:
- Plants Blooming Now in the San Gabriel Mountains
- Books about the San Gabriel Mountains: Natural History
Los Angeles County Natural Areas in the San Gabriel Mountains
- Eaton Canyon Natural Area offers 5 miles of nature trails. Eaton Canyon serves as a trailhead to the Mt. Wilson Toll Road and Henninger Flats. For more information, call (626) 398-5420
- Other Los Angeles County Natural Areas & Wildlife Sanctuaries
- Devil's Punchbowl Nature Center, 28000 Devil's Punchbowl Rd., Pearblossom, CA 93553 (805)944-2743. This area has hiking and equestrian trails, picnic areas, a natural history museum and a seasonal stream.
- Placerita Canyon Nature Center, 19152 Placerita Canyon Road, Newhall (805) 259-7721. The area maintains 8 miles of hiking trails, one of which is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. See Roy Randall's hike from Placerita Canyon State Park
- San Dimas Canyon Nature Center, 1628 N. Sycamore Canyon Road, San Dimas (909) 599-7512. Nature trails meander through more than 100 acres of chaparral-covered foothills, oak woodland and riparian vegetation. A one-mile nature trail loop begins in an oak woodland and climbs gently into chaparral-covered foothills.
- Arcadia Wilderness Park / Preserve is located in rustic Santa Anita Canyon at 2240 N. Highland Oaks Drive, (626) 355-5309. A self-guided nature trail and a Nature Center with life mount exhibits are available. Park hours vary depending on season.
- The Claremont Hills Wilderness Park is in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains with hiking trails, intermittent streams, and a wide variety of animals. Enter from Mills Ave. Closed during periods of extreme fire hazard. This link for mountain biking information has trail condition updates
- Glendora Wilderness Park, Big Dalton Canyon Road, has hiking trails set in natural surroundings.
- Monrovia Canyon Park 1200 N. Canyon Blvd. Facilities include a nature trail, a waterfall trail (1.5 miles) and Ben Overturff hiking trail (7 miles).
- Sierra Madre Bailey Canyon Wilderness Park, Oak Crest Dr, Sierra Madre, map
Group and Special Interest Hikes
- Wheelchair users can usually navigate many of the stroller-friendly trails, but sometimes face other obstacles, such as getting to the trailhead, that can be negotiated by people using strollers by simply picking up the stroller. For a special guide to wheelchair-friendly trails, see Darryl Musick's Wheelchair-accessible hikes
- Bird Watching Hikes / Field Trips
- Pasadena Audubon Society's Where to Bird in and around Pasadena, San Gabriel Mountains and Canyons in the Foothills and current field trips
- Audubon's Southern California Field Trips
- California Native Plant Society's Los Angeles / Santa Monica Mountains Chapter Calendar of Events
- The premier group for organized hikes is the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club. They publish a thick (~70 pages) Schedule of Activities three times per year. Nearly all of the hikes are open to the public.
You can search the upcoming hikes on the web, join the Sierra Club / Angeles Chapter and get the schedule mailed to you as part of your membership, or purchase the schedule in many outdoors-related stores such as Sports Chalet and REI.
- Some individual chapters of the Sierra Club also list their scheduled outings separately. Most of these are contained in the Schedule of Activities, which can be sorted by chapter on the web, but sometimes hikes are listed in these pages that didn't make the deadline for inclusion in the Schedule.
- Pasadena Group (you can also subscribe to their newsletter for $10 per year)
- Hundred Peaks Group (you can also subscribe to their newsletter for $9 per year)
- Dogs in the ANF
- Sierra Club's K-9 Hiking Committee Schedule - some of these hikes are in the San Gabriels
Links to Sites with Advice about Hiking with Children
- family.com's Walkin' in L.A. discusses the abilities of different age levels
- It's a Family Affair: Trail Tips with Young Hikers from GORP Falcon Guides has preparation hints
- Taking Kids Outdoors from Texas Parks & Wildlife talks about expectations: yours and theirs
- Exploration is the topic of Finding A Place: Helping kids discover themselves from GORP NY Outdoors
- about.com's advice about Hiking with Kids includes what to do when your child won't go another step
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.