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.
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 Giant Water Bug, in this case, giant means one and one-half inches, with eggs on his back--a fascinating creature more colorfully called "Toe Biter"
- Water Striders skating on top of the water, with their shadows of bubbles on the bottom of the stream
- Caddis Fly larva looking like small bundles of twigs on top of the underwater rocks
- two Southern Alligator Lizards in a dramatic stare-down; one was a whooping 16" long, the other about 12", guess who turned tail and scurried off?
- a California Mountain King Snake with bands of ivory, scarlet and black wanting to share the dry, dusty section of the trail
- iridescent-blue Spring Azure butterflies sipping mineral water at the moist streamside
- cream and black Pale Swallowtail butterflies floating regally down the canyon
- a large hawk swooping out of a tall tree to grab a bushy-tailed Western Gray Squirrel with its talons
- a California Newt with reddish-orange limbs and tail, dark body and bulging white eyelids swimming underwater, looking very streamlined, pushing little insects like fallen gnats before it, trapping them in the shallows, making easy pickings for its supper
- little black flies taking their supper from the blood from a scrape on my arm, I was completely unaware of their presence, ugh!
- a red Velvet-ant male flying, alternatively named "cow killer" because of the sting
- Canyon Wrens calling, their songs descending like a cascading waterfall
- pairs of mated electric-blue damselflies, called Vivid Dancers lining the water's edge
A very pleasant experience!
Copyright © 2000 by Jane Strong.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to me at this source:
Comments and feedback: Jane Strong
Updated 21 May 2000