20 Millard Canyon to Millard Canyon Falls

Participant: Jane Strong
Date: 11 April 2000

Overview: Millard Canyon Trail leads up a tree shaded canyon one-half mile to a 50' waterfall. There are a great variety of entertaining small animals in or near the stream--a mini-course on aquatic ecology!

Directions: From Loma Alta Drive in Altadena, go north on Chaney Trail to the top of Sunset Ridge turning left and going down the hill on the other side to a large parking lot. An Adventure Pass is needed. Walk past the campground. The trail, FS 12W18, begins this side of the stream crossing. Be aware that entrance and exit along Chaney Trail (Road) is between the hours of 6 am and 10 pm only.

Distance: The trail itself is 0.5 miles long from the end of the campground to the waterfalls. It is probably a quarter mile from the parking lot to where the trail begins. Thus the whole hike is about 1.5 miles.

Elevation Change: Robinson says 150' gain.

Season: All

Weather: Warm and sunny. Light filtered through the partially-leaved trees to the canyon floor. In summer, it would be shadier.

Trail condition: It's almost all big boulders and sandy-bottomed stream. At times there are trails on both sides of the canyon, elevated ones for use during high water and low trails through a dry streambed. A useful staircase of rocks enclosed in wire has been built at the beginning.

Although the trail is short and somewhat level, that is, no steep places, it is not always easy. Some of the boulder climbs are two to three feet. A small child would need lots of help. There are numerous stream crossings.

Stream crossings presented little problem today (4/11/00), however, the creek was so dry. In fact, after a while the water disappeared completely! Millard Canyon is drying up! The waterfall was a big disappointment. I got an inkling of the problem early on when I strained to listen for the roar of the falls and heard--nothing. Immediately before the last turn to the waterfall, where there is a sign saying "No Shortcutting" on what looked like a "use" trail, a pitiful trickle begins again. There are a few pools, the largest, less than 12" deep, under the falls itself. The falls, poor things, had barely enough water for a shower!

And, to make matters worse, a small boy was standing at the top of the falls throwing rocks down. I backtracked pretty quickly.

Plants: Broadleaf trees are the main plants--the evergreen California bay tree and the canyon live oak, and the deciduous bigleaf maple and white alder. The most common flower is the creamy-colored, moustache-brush-shaped bloom of eupatory. Other small white flowers with more evocative names are bitter cress, mouse-ear chickweed, nightshade and miner's lettuce. The miner's lettuce grew in two forms, the common one with the white blossom and succulent, round, green leaf encircling the stem and the other with a purplish-pink flower and pointed, purplish-green leaves with white splotches and red-purple edges.

Bugs: Some blood-sucking flies.

Wildlife: The wildlife in the canyon is well worth the visit:

A very pleasant experience!

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Copyright © 2000 by Jane Strong.
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Comments and feedback: Jane Strong
Updated 21 May 2000