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Pasadena, California, United States

Big Santa Anita Canyon Loop with Upper Trail

A beautiful multi-landscape trail with many waterfalls and trees. Offers a challenging and well-maintained trail.

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 (11 votes, 7 reviews)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 10.0 miles / 16.1 km
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly • Dog Friendly
Overview: Big Santa Anita Canyon offers something for everybody. If you are traveling with young children, the short hike from Chantry Flat to Sturtevant Falls is rewarding and great for an easy morning or afternoon hike. However, if you're interested in something more substantial, you can follow the Big Santa Anita Loop trail.

The scenery along the trails in this area is really beautiful, especially along the river. There are many waterfalls, albeit most of them manmade, but are sure to soothe your soul. Plentiful greenery in the form of trees, shrubs and various indigenous plant life make this trail special in its own right. Add to that incredible vistas of both the canyon and the mountains surrounding Mt. Wilson. Many times you'll have to remind yourself you are in Los Angeles County!

The loop climbs steadily from the area of the 55-foot tall Sturtevant falls. The highest point of the main loop is about 3400 feet. Many hikers choose to bring trekking poles for this trail.

A remote campground about 3.5 miles into the loop offers up some picnic tables, pit toilets, and of course, a place to make camp if you choose to stay overnight. There are roughly 6-7 spots and if you plan on having a fire, be sure to bring along your fire permit.

Another unique aspect of the Big Santa Anita Canyon loop trail is the variety of terrains you'll cover. Sometimes you'll be deep in the forest and at other times you'll feel like you're in somewhat of a desert.

If you are a local, this is a great hike to do over and over again. However, beware that during the summer months, it can get quite hot and the bugs can be very annoying, especially while standing or sitting still.

The Adams Pack Station in Chantry Flat offers some supplies and essentials as well as treats such as ice cream, soda, and water. Parking can be very crowded on the weekends in Chantry Flat and you'll likely need to park along the mountain to get a spot in the mornings. Make sure to have an Adventure Pass to park along the road.

Tips: - Pack lots of water for this longer trail
- The trail is well-maintained and marked but its a good idea to have a map. You can pick up a free one at the Adams Pack Station.
- During the summer months, this trail is hot in some areas. Many hikers wear convertible pants that can unzip to convert to shorts.
- Plenty of poison oak is scattered along this trail—make sure you know what it looks like before you go.
- While hiking the warmer, dryer parts of the trail, keep an eye out for rattlesnakes

Take the Foothill Freeway (I-210) into Arcadia and get off at Santa Anita Avenue. Drive about six miles north until it ends at Chantry Flat and the parking lot where the trailhead begins.

Points of Interest


Gabrielino Trailhead

The trailhead is located right near the parking lot by the pit toilets. It's a great view of the valley here before you descend into the canyon. The first portion of the trail is asphalt but eventually goes to dirt. If you plan on doing the full loop (and not just Sturtevant Falls, its a good idea to use the facilities at this time.


A neat bridge to walk across.


Big Santa Anita Canyon is famous for all of the waterfalls it has along the first half of the trail. While manmade, they are pretty and relaxing to listen to as you walk by amongst the trees and river.

Junction for Upper and Lower Trail

At this point, you can choose to continue to follow the trail to go to the 55 foot high Sturtevant Falls or you can start the lower trail to go to the top of the falls which is where the loop starts. Many hikers go see the falls and rest for a bit then track back to this junction to continue the loop.

Water Crossing

There are a few water crossings along the Big Santa Anita Canyon loop. This is the first one. All have rocks that you can cross on. Be sure if you don't have waterproof hiking boots, to try your best not to step into the water and get the inside of your shoe wet.

The tree log on this crossing is a little wobbly so be sure to stick out your hands up from your sides to give yourself better balance.

Sturtevant Falls

The beautiful, 55 foot tall Sturtevant falls is a wonderful place to mingle with other hikers and enjoy the flowing, rainbow-casting, misty falls.

Children especially love this part of the hike because it is a big reward for a little bit of work. Keep an eye on them, however, due to some steep parts of this area where the water flows.

You'll notice to the left of the falls a large, steep hill with signs that say "No Shortcutting"—these are there for your safety, please obey them. The shortcutting refers to the lower trail (top of the falls) which resides directly above this area.

At this point, if you came up for a short hike up to the falls, then you can simply turnaround and follow the trail from where you came. However, if you are taking the journey of the loop, then go back to the junction for the upper and lower trail and follow the lower trail (top of the falls).

Top of the Falls

About 15-20 minutes after leaving the falls and following the lower trail, you'll find yourself at the top of Sturtevant Falls. A lovely view of where you've been in the canyon. The next few miles are very pretty with lots of shade and the running river.

Poison Oak

Stay away from the plentiful poison oak along this trail. It's branches grow in leaves of three and the leaves look very much like oak leaves.

Spruce Grove Campground

Spruce Grove Campground is a great place to stop and have some trail mix, crackers, or whatever you brought! It's peaceful in this area especially in the morning. Picnic tables, firepits and pit toilets are available to use at this location.

Pack in what you pack out since there are no trashcans at this campground.

Sturtevant Camp

Less than a mile from Spruce Grove Campground is the historical Sturtevant Camp. This old yet still operational hikers camp is available for rent year round "to serve families, couples, clubs, churches and organizations ranging from 2 to 44".

Upper Zion Trail Junction

Follow the directions for the Mt. Zion Summit.

Mt. Zion Trailhead

From here you may choose to continue on up to the Mt. Zion summit or simply take this opportunity for a short rest.

From this point, for the next 1.5 miles or so, is downhill and also a large part in the sun.

Lower Zion Trail Junction

At this point in the trail, you are nearing the end of your trip and you can choose to take two main routes back to Chantry Flat. The lower winter creek trail is shorter but at the end, you walk up that steep asphalt hill to the parking lot. On warm day and after a long hike, it's not the best way to end your expedition.

Another option is to take the Upper Winter Creek trail because while you have to do a little more climbing, you come down into the Chantry Flat area without having to hike up the big asphalt hill. It is another mile longer than the lower trail but its worth it and it is the route this guide follows.

Resting Area

The previous 0.5 mile to get to this point can be a little tough especially if you've been hiking this whole loop. This is a nice spot to rest and catch your breath. The good news is that there is just a short little bit of uphill then next few hundred feet but then you are mostly downhill back to Chantry Flat. Additionally, you'll be in the shade most of the time as you go in and out of the forest areas.

Chantry Flat

If you finished this whole trail, great job! That's a 9-mile hike! Reward yourself by visiting the Adam's Pack Station on the other side of Chantry Flat and get an ice cream.
Pictures in this guide taken by: kylehayes
life time experience... had a great trip there

by inqueba on Jul 17, 2014
Just Loved It... i visited it with My childhood friends.. it took us 7hrs... had a great time

by hairtransplant on Jul 17, 2014
I did this loop sole doing the whole thing backward. Upper winter creek - visit hoegees camp - mt. zion trail and summit - spruce camp - upper fall - chantry flat. I started at around 8 am and the whole thing lasted about 5 hours.

I ran into a young Asian gentleman with his 5-6 year old son at upper winter creek who camped at hoegees camp and coming back to Chantry Flat. I looked at his backback and admired his packing skills. The backback looked so neat it even looked like a wooden box. I asked him if it wasn't cold at night, but he shrugged off mentioning warm sleeping bag.

Personally upper winter creek trail has good open mountain view and near Sturtvant Camp had good canyon views.

A great one. Next time I am going to Mt. Wilson via Sturtvant Camp and come back via Upper Winte Creek - I think it is 13 miles RT, but I also heard that it feels more like 15 miles. But I will see.

Visited on Dec 22, 2013

by henryschi on Jan 17, 2014
We had a great time doing this hike. It took us about 5 hrs, we chose to do the lower winter trail at the end to cut out 1 mile because it was getting dark. Plan on doing this again in the early morning. Bring plenty of water, bug spray and snacks. be on the lookout for bears too!
Visited on Sep 12, 2013

by flutterfly4 on Sep 14, 2013
We called it a Mothers Day Hike because that's what the celebrant wanted to do for Mothers Day and what an awesome treat we got. Enjoyed the Water Fall. Very Scenic and mind freeing, talk about free therapy. The Creek/brook provided coolness and a very comfortable temperature while hiking along it, but you will definately feel the heat once you move away from it. Took water and light snacks, many areas where you can sit by the creek for a light bite. The Climb up the asphalt hill at the end was very challenging especially in the last few turns when your butt will really feel the shift in gradient. In the end though it was all worth it... Highly recommend this trail and i will be doing it again. We finished the day off going to Old Town Pasadena where you can find some great restaurants and watering holes, what ever your heart desires.
Visited on May 13, 2012

by lnailati on May 15, 2012
LOVE love loved it. We did the loop in 4hr 10min lots of water crossing some small and lots of wide ones so make sure you take an extra pair of socks. Did this hike at 830 An on a pretty cool day in the mid 60s pack a light snack and plenty of water
Visited on Mar 28, 2011

by krystl on Mar 30, 2011
Great review...looking forward to doing this hike, one of these times. Growing up with poison ivy (east coast) we had a saying, "3 leaves, let it be" Same holds true for poison oak...3 leaves coming off one stem. Remember also, your dog can get poison oak on them, which in turn means it can be transfered to you if you pet them or they rub against your legs, etc.

by MsHeidi on Jun 07, 2010

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