Most hikers jostle for space on the 1.8-mile Gabrielino Trail to popular Sturtevant Falls in Big Santa Anita Canyon
. But with extra daylight to spare, this misty—and mystifying—oasis becomes one of many spectacular highlights on a less-traveled 9.25-mile round-trip journey. Here’s how you do it: Backtrack from the falls a quarter mile and take the narrow, lightly used Lower Trail to the right, which slices across a sheer wall above the falls, meandering through a lush land of mossy pools and sparkling cascades. The trail traces through carpets of chain ferns and flowers as the stream struts its best stuff en route to Cascades Picnic Area, which possesses a lone table kept company by the burbles of the creek. Continue through the woodsy canyon and reach Spruce Grove Camp, a little-used cluster of hike-in campsites among giant big-cone Douglas firs. Sun-speckled picnic tables make it a nice spot for taking a lunch break before heading back the way you came.
From I-210 in Arcadia, exit at Santa Anita. Turn left on N. Santa Anita Ave. and follow it 2 miles until it becomes Chantry Flat Rd. Continue for 3 miles until the road ends at Chantry Flat trailhead and parking lot. Buy a $5 adventure pass at Adam’s Pack Station. (If general parking is full, Adam’s will let you park in its lot for $10—no adventure pass needed.) Begin on the paved trail at the Chantry Flat trailhead with signs to Sturtevant Falls. From the falls, backtrack 0.25-mile to where the Gabrielino Trail splits. Take the Lower Trail on the right for 2.25 miles to Spruce Grove Camp. Return the way you came. This is a 9.25-mile round-trip hike. The road is sometimes closed; best to check with the Forest Service (626-574-5200) or Adam’s Pack Station before heading out. Dog-friendly!