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Hermit Falls
Big Santa Anita Canyon Via Chantry Flat
Angeles National Forest / Southern California        

Trail Stats
Mileage 2.8
Trailhead 2200'
Hermit Falls 1520'
Total loss/gain 680'
Gain/loss per mi. 514'
Big Santa Anita Canyon, with its thick riparian forest, gurgling streams, and abundant shade, offers a sylvan sanctuary for delightful hiking.

This hike to Hermit Falls is virtually all upside-down (that is, you hike down hill, then you hike up). I usually avoid upside-down hikes, but the rewards of visiting these water-worn pools makes the trip worth while. The first half of this trail can be combined with other trail options (such as the Hoegees Camp Loop and Sturtevant Falls), or you can just use the trail to hike to Hermit Falls and back.

Unfortunately, the beauty and appeal of the setting has become spoiled. With the proliferation of social media, Hermit Falls has attracted the attention of thrill seekers who jump from the rocks into the pools. With them comes drinking, rowdiness, broken bottles, trash, graffiti, and frequent visits from emergence personnel to airlift the injured and dead to the hospital. Read news story.

Season: November - June

As a general rule in the San Gabriels, the front range is best hiked in the cooler months, and the back range is best in the warmer months. This front-range trail can actually be hiked all year long, but will be most enjoyable in the cooler weather. If you hike this trail in the hot season, it's best to go early in the morning or late in the day. You have some nice shade along the canyon bottom, but be aware that the climb back up sun-drenched slopes can be punishing. See Seasons of the San Gabriels for a detailed description of minding the seasons.

Getting to the Trailhead:

From the Foothill Freeway (I-210) in Arcadia, take the Santa Anita Avenue exit and drive north to Chantry Flat, 4.6 miles. A National Forest Adventure Pass is required for parking. Due to popularity of hikes from Chantry Flat, the parking lot can fill up fast, particularly on weekends, so arrive early or be prepared to park along the road. Access Note: Due to chronic problems with the road and bureaucratic incompetence, Chantry Flat is subject to periodic and extended closures. Best to check with the Forest Service (626-574-5200) or the Sierra Madre Police Department (626-355-1414) before hitting the trail. See Access Note below.

Trail Description:

Start from the entrance of the lower parking lot at Chantry Flat. Walk past the locked gate and see a sign calling this route the Gabrielino Trail. Hike down the paved road. As you round the second U-bend (0.2 mile), you'll see the trail junction on the right.

First Water Trail
The sign at the junction reads:
Sturtevant Falls 1.8 [pointing down the road, north]
First Water Trail [pointing right, south]
Hermit Falls 1.2 [pointing right, south]

(View large image)

Leave the road and follow the narrow First Water Trail heading south then eastward descending into the canyon. After three switchbacks (about 15 minutes from the road) you reach a trail junction near the bottom of the canyon. The sign reads:

      First Water Trail
      Foot Travel Only [pointing upstream, north]
      Horse Trail [pointing downstream, south]

Turn right, south. Even though the sign says "Horse Trail," I saw no indication of horses, thankfully.

After a couple minutes you'll cross the creek and take an immediate right (south). Another sign reads: "First Water 3/4 Junct. Chantry Flat 3/4 [pointing west], Gabrielino Trail-Roberts 3/4 [pointing upstream north], Hermit Falls 3/4 [pointing downstream, south]." The odd thing is that there is a map sign at the same location which puts Robert's at 1/3 and Hermit Falls at 1/2. Something's amiss. My hunch is the first of the two signs is correct.

Hermit Falls Upper Pool Continue down steam. In the next five minutes you'll pass three cabins and cross the creek to the west bank (View photo looking back upstream past a cabin). The trail ascends the slope above the steam. After another 9 minutes you'll see an unmarked side spur going down to Hermit Falls. An old gaging station—a large metal cylinder rising out of the ground—marks the location.

The falls consist of three pools joined by two water chutes (the top pool is pictured on the right). The upper two pools are easily accessible, but be careful climbing around the water-smoothed and sandy rocks, they can be slippery. This is one waterfall where you will have to settle for looking down on the main fall cascading into the deep, lower pool. I did not find any safe route to the bottom pool (see "For Further Exploration" in the notes below for a discussion of exploring below the falls).

Return the way you came (or see Alternate routes below). icon

Trail Notes:

  • Access Note: Chanter Flat has been subject various closures over the years. The torrential rains of January 2005 caused major damage to the road to Chantry Flat forcing its closure (see photo). Bureaucratic incompetence between the three agencies that have jurisdiction over the road to Chantry delayed its reopening for well over a year. They even closed Chantry for the repair of picnic tables! Chantry Flat was finally reopened in summer 2006. The road continues to be subject to periodic and extended closures. See the Forest Service website for supposed updates, but realize that they are generally unreliable in providing timely information to the public. Best to call them at 626-574-5200 or the Sierra Madre Police Department at 626-355-1414.
         Read Tribune Editorials:
          - Chantry Flat road closure taking too long (2-7-05)
          - A taste of paradise (6-10-06)
  • Alternate routes: If you want an alternate route, adding about a mile to the hike, try this: After visiting Hermits Falls, return back up the trail to the First Water 3/4 Junction. Instead of retracing your steps up to the road, continue to hike upstream 0.75 mile to Roberts Camp. You'll pass several more check dams and rustic cabins en route and enjoy more sylvan beauty. Once at Roberts Camp, veer left, cross the bridge and walk up the road 0.6 mile back to Chantry Flat. This makes your entire hike 3.5 miles (Jerry Schad includes this route as part of his Hoegees loop hike). Or from Roberts Camp you can continue up canyon 1.25 miles to 50-foot Sturtevant Falls, then return to Roberts Camp and up the road. This makes your entire hike 6.0 miles. See Sturtevant Falls hike description.
  • Other exploration: You may be curious if there is a way to circle around down stream and then come up stream to reach the lower pool of Hermit Falls. It's not easily achievable. Here's what I found: From Hermit Falls, if you go back up to the main trail, you can continue down it, south (although as of 6-13-06, it has been deteriorating and is dicey in spots with a steep downside slope, and is being invaded by poison oak). After about 0.2 mile you see a cabin below. If you take the side spur down past the cabin, you reach the creek. You can forge your way up stream through ivy and thorny blackberry vines, stepping over fallen tree limbs and dodging stinging nettles. In about 100 yards from the cabin, the canyon narrows and the stream is channeled between two sheer rock walls. To continue, you would have to wade up the creek and climb up and over some large boulders blocking the route. It does not appear to be a doable route without appropriate equipment and technical skills.
          If you climb back up to the cabin, the main trail continues downstream. The topo maps shows that in another half mile or so the trail runs adjacent to Santa Anita Dam reservoir to intersect the service road for the dam. But the sign on Chantry Flat Road indicates that the road to the dam is strictly off limits to the public.
  • Bugs: As is typical in streamside settings, bugs and mosquitos can be plentiful. Mosquito season usually begins in the spring and peeks in the summer. Be sure to have repellent on hand.
  • Creek crossings: Crossing the creek in the several places along the route can be a little dicey with some possibility of getting wet or injured if you loose your footing. And creek crossings may be hazardous after a heavy rain.
  • Topo map note: The USGS map (Mt. Wilson Quadrangle) does not show Hermit Falls, but the Gaging Station on map is the location of the upper pool of the falls.
  • Elevation: Various sources put the elevation of Hermit Fall at a range from 1593' to 1440'. I've used an estimate from the USGS topo map for the location of gaging station, which is at the upper pool of the falls, at about 1520'.
  • Trash: Because Hermit Falls has turned into party city, it is often littered with broken bottles, trash, and graffiti.
Hike Log
Hermit Falls
7-14-03

10:30 AM A: Trailhead (2200')
10:34 B: Trail Junction (road)
10:51/:54 C: Trail Junction
10:56 D: Cross Creek / Trail Junction
11:08 E: Cross Creek
11:18 / 1:04 F: Hermit Falls (1590')
Explore trail downstream
1:15 E: Cross Creek
1:22 D: Cross Creek / Trail Junction
1:26 C: Trail Junction
1:48 B: Trail Junction (road)
1:54 A: Trailhead (2200')
Hermit Falls topo

View Large Topo Map

Related links on Dan's Hiking Pages:

Links:

  • Trails From Chantry Flat - by Tom Chester. Detailed mileage for the various trail sections for Chantry Flat and connecting trails.

  • Chantry Flat - by Tom Chester. A summery and history of recent road closures.

  • Water Falls of the San Gabriels Mountains - by Tom Chester. A list all the major waterfalls in the SGM. Tom provides various interesting information about the classification of water falls, etc.

  • Flora of Chantry Flat / Santa Anita Canyon - by Bob Muns presented by Tom Chester. List of 248 plants. Includes Latin name, common name life form intro, flower period, and habitat.

  • Big Santa Anita Canyon - A good site with lots of information: trails and maps, history, stories, cabins, photos, and links.

  • Adams' Pack Station - Since 1936, this yesteryear, family business has been the life-blood of 80 antique recreational cabins and Sturdevant Camp. Today, in addition to the pack service, they still operate a general store with food, refreshments, books, souvenirs, and Adventure Passes. Drop by and enjoy the rustic charm. The website provides lots of helpful and interesting information.

  • Canyon Cartography - For an old-school-crafted map of Big Santa Anita Canyon

  • News story: Canyon Student Dies After Jumping Into Pool at Hermit Falls - November 12, 2013

Books:

  • Los Angeles County: A Day Hiker's Guide - by John McKinney (The Trailmaster, 2006). "Hermit Falls." Good hike description. Puts it at 3 miles round trip with 400 feet in elevation gain. Falls height: 30 feet. Previously published in Wild L.A.: A Day Hiker's Guide (2003), now out of print.

  • California Waterfalls - by Ann Marie Brown (Foghorn Press, 1997). "Hermit Falls." Good trail description.

  • Afoot and Afield in Los Angeles County - by Jerry Schad (Wilderness Press) - Area A-6, Trip 2: Hoegees Loop. Good trail description of first half of the trail with historical background. (Does not include Hermit Falls.)

  • Trails of the Angeles: 100 Hikes in the San Gabriels - by John Robinson with Doug Christiansen (Wilderness Press). See hikes 41 through 44. Good trail descriptions with historical background for the canyon. (This Hermit Falls hike is not covered.)
Last Hiked: June 12, 2010


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This page was last updated December 8, 2013.

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