To overnight at Sturtevant Camp is to relive Southern California’s “Great Hiking Era”—the 1880s to late 1930s—when millions flocked to the San Gabriel Mountains to hike, fish, and picnic. Of the era’s several hostelries, only Sturtevant remains. This hike-in cabin cluster tucked deep in Big Santa Anita Canyon at 3,200 feet is open to the public for nightly rentals.
Honeymoon Cottage—a single-room shack with a double bed—is perfect for couples or solo trekkers, while other cabins sleep six or eight people. There’s even a pack-mule service, as there was a century ago. Adams’ Pack Station can haul your gear by donkey from the trailhead at Chantry Flat.
The 3.5-mile path to camp traverses Big Santa Anita Canyon, one of the loveliest, most well-watered canyons in the San Gabriels, gradually ascending 1,400 feet to its upper reaches beyond 50-foot Sturtevant Falls. You’ll be in deep shade most the way, sheltered under a canopy of alder, maple, and towering bigcone Douglas firs in a riparian passage lush with ferns and vines. The camp offers plenty to do, including zip-lining and archery, but more satisfying is simply to build a campfire at dusk and listen to it crackle as birdsong echoes through the wooded glen. Nice note: There’s no wifi or cell service available. The camp’s rustic dining hall, dating to 1897, is a real treat too. Wooden tables and benches line the interior and the pitched roof is decorated with colorful hand-painted horseshoe plaques. A large kitchen, equipped with stoves, utensils, and cookware, makes it easy to prepare even lavish meals. You’re only limited by what food you (or an Adams donkey) haul in.
In the morning, consider a jaunt up to Mount Wilson to visit the famous observatory, which is celebrating the 150th birthday of its founder with a free open house on June 30 and July 1. The steep trail climbs 2,400 feet in under 3 miles.
Take the I-210 to Arcadia, exit at Santa Anita Ave., and drive north for 5 miles to reach Chantry Flat. You will need to display an Adventure Pass to park at the trailhead.. Passes are available just a short walk away at Adams’ Pack Station. Dog-friendly!