We often talked about buying a GPS as we wondered how far we hike and what elevation gain and loss we experience. After seeing several great websites that cover hikes in GPS detail, we decided to make the investment and purchased a Garmin 62s. This model is meant for hiking and could once and for all satisfy our curiosity. After a cursory glance at the ‘quick start guide’, we were ready.
With Gwenn and Mitch well aware we were going to hike, we drove the short distance from REI in Arcadia, CA to the Chantry Flat trailhead just a few miles north on Santa Anita Avenue. The trail head itself starts just at the beginning of the parking lot, on the right side, and immediately starts with a significant descent from 630 m (2068 ft) down into the Santa Anita Canyon where it reaches the low point for the hike at 514 m (1689 ft) after the first 1.3 km (.8 miles). Starting a hike by going down 120 m (400 ft) is tough mentally because it means having to climb a reasonably steep hill to finish the day. Once down the hill the trail flattened out and became shady and pleasant, though there were plenty of people in this first section, something we prefer to avoid.
Leaving the crowds
The crowds thinned considerably once we left the main trail to the very popular Sturtevant Falls and instead took a left toward Spruce Grove Camp, a campground 5.8 km (3.6 miles) from Chantry Flat. The turn comes in the middle of an area with several cabins grouped and you must watch for the sign on the left. There are two choices, and we recommend the trail to the top of the falls (it is marked as such). The trail at first followed the left (west) side of the North Fork Santa Anita Canyon (the canyon split just before the trail junction) until it reached the top of Sturtevant Falls, then followed the Canyon floor most of the rest of the way. There was a great overlook above the Falls where we could see the crowd below and several great pools above the falls for the dogs to jump in and cool off. We had to be very careful to keep them out of the poison oak that was plentiful along both sides of the trail, and the pools gave us some small reassurance that they were cleaning off.
Spruce Grove Camp
Before reaching our destination, the trail left the Canyon floor and began to switchback up the west side of the Canyon until we were in an open area on the side of the hill and were able to look back on the foothills leading west toward Los Angeles. The trail soon led back into the thick cover of the Canyon as we approached the campground. Once we reached the Spruce Grove we took one of the available picnic tables and gave snacks to Mitch and Gwenn and took a break. We were delighted to see the route carefully stored in the GPS. The return trip was uneventful as we carefully avoided poison oak once again. We made the final hill a speed challenge and arrived at the car feeling we’d had great exercise and yet another great trail experience in Southern California.
- Distance: 11.6 km (7.2 miles) round trip
- Start elevation: 629 m (2063 ft), but don’t forget the 120 m (400 ft) initial drop
- Highest point: Spruce Grove at 909 m (2,984 ft)
- Total elevation change: 1,143 m (3,750 ft) round trip
- Steepness: 99 m/km (521 ft/mile)
- Total time: 3 hours
- Dog friendly: Yes
- Things to love: Many waterfalls while hiking the canyon floor, great view of LA Basin at one point, shady
- Things to be aware of: Poison Oak, big downhill section at the beginning, crowds to Sturtevant Falls base