It’s summer. You’ve been cooped up way too long in the artificial world of your cubicle. You need to get out. You need to breathe fresh air and rediscover the natural world all around us. Where can you go?
From Pasadena, there are plenty of trails and places to explore the outdoors, all more or less under 45 minutes of driving, depending on where you live. Here are some options.
Travel east on the 210 Freeway to Highway 39, and then head north into the mountains. Crystal Lake is about 10 miles up. There you can hike, camp, and even rent a cabin.
Drive all the way up Santa Anita Avenue through Arcadia, through Sierra Madre, and up to Chantry Flats. On the weekends this is one of the most popular places in the local mountains, so try to visit during the week when it’s less crowded. You can hike down into the canyon and see some of the century-old cabins, then hike up to the Sturtevant waterfall in approximately a mile and a half. Signage is found along the trail heads. [Steep and strenuous in sections]
LITTLE SANTA ANITA CANYON
Travel north on Baldwin Avenue to Mira Monte Avenue (a block from the very top), and turn right. Park wherever you can and hike up Mt. Wilson Trail Drive. This is a steep trail in sections, with a great view. There’s a place called First Water where you can go to the stream and relax. You can continue on the trail all the way to the Mt. Wilson road if you’re ambitious. [Steep at the beginning]
Drive north on Baldwin Avenue in Sierra Madre to Carter Avenue, go left, and proceed about a half-mile to Bailey Canyon Park. You could actually just stroll around this smallish park and have a good time. It’s been planted with many of the native plants. You can hike up behind the dam into the canyon, and about two miles up switchbacks where you’ll see the foundation of an old cabin. Great view, but bring water. [Easy, but steep in sections]
COBB ESTATE & ECHO MOUNTAIN
Drive to the top of Lake Avenue and park where you can on the street. Hike behind the wrought iron gates and you can stroll around the grounds of this former estate that is now full of native plants and some surviving ornamentals. [Easy]
From here, you can also travel directly east and take the switchbacks for about three miles through chaparral to the historic site of Echo Mountain, where there was once a popular resort some 70-plus years ago). [Moderate]
From Loma Alta Drive in Altadena drive up Chaney Trail to the high point, and then drive down into the river bottom. You can park and hike upstream (to the waterfall) or downstream where you view the old cabins and a great selection of native plants. This is a pleasant spot to spend a summer day, though parking is limited. [Easy]
From the high point of Chaney Trail you could also park along the road, then hike up the road all the way — about four miles — to the historic Mount Lowe Camp. [Moderate]
You can park anywhere around the Rose Bowl and hike as long as you wish up the east or west side of the Arroyo Seco. There are horse trails on both sides, and though you’ll see plenty of people along the way, don’t underestimate such “backyard” walks. [Easy]
To get to the upper Arroyo, drive north on Lincoln Avenue, then west on Altadena Drive. Park wherever you can at the end of Altadena Drive (it’s a residential area). Hike down the horse trail and head north. There’s a lot of variety as you hike north, and numerous side trails you could take for little explorations. [Easy]
ANGELES CREST HIGHWAY JOSEPHINE PEAK
From the 210 Freeway, exit on Angeles Crest Highway and head north. In about 10 miles you’ll arrive at the Clear Creek Station at this junction. Park where you can and find the trail at the northeast section of the junction. Follow this all the way to the top — about three miles — and you’ll end up at Josephine Peak where there once was a fire lookout station. There’s a fantastic view at the top. [Moderate]
Continue up the Angeles Forest Highway to the Red Box junction. Here you can park and use a bathroom and stretch. The Gabrielino Trail passes through Red Box, directly to the east and west, and you can explore a bit of it. [Easy]
Or, just continue all the way up to Mount Wilson where the view is incredible, and you can walk around the site. If your timing is right, you can purchase some snacks at the pavilion there. [Easy]
Griffith Park is one of the largest urban parks in the US, with a hundred miles of hiking trails if you stretched them all out. Travel east on the 134 Freeway from Pasadena and follow the freeway signs to Griffith Park and the Zoo as you approach the 5 Freeway. Once at Griffith Park, go to the ranger station and get a map and inquire about the current trail conditions.
Drive west on the 210, and exit on Osborne in Lake View Terrace. This is barely a 30-minute drive west of Pasadena. Go north on Osborne, then east on Foothill until you come to the entrance of Orcas Park. Park in the parking area and then you can explore the entire wash, which is part of the Hansen Dam area. You could actually have an invigorating hike by doing a perimeter walk around this basin. [Easy]
Get a book or map before you go and study the trails and your options. I strongly recommend John Robinson’s “Trails of the Angeles” for the local trails mentioned here.
A daily parking pass is required for all locations in the Angeles National Forest. The pass costs $5 ($25 for a year pass). The local Forest Service office is at 701 N. Santa Anita Ave. in Arcadia, (626) 574-1613. For trail information, check fs.usda.gov/angeles, or contact a local ranger.
Always be prepared when you take a hike. Dress comfortably for the season, with a hat if necessary. Carry water since many of the trail sites don’t have any. n
Christopher Nyerges teaches survival and hiking skills at Pasadena City College and through the School of Self-Reliance. He is the author of “Enter the Forest,” “How to Survive Anywhere,” “Guide to Wild Foods” and other books. Visit christophernyerges.com.