The Eaton Canyon Natural Area is located at 1750 N. Altadena Drive Pasadena, CA 91107 (626) 398-5420 www.ecnca.org.
The nature area is at the base of Mt. Wilson along the southern end of the San Gabriel Mountains.
From the I-210 East, take Altadena Drive north 1.6 miles just past New York Drive on the right hand side.
The park is open from dawn until dusk while the office and gift shop are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The park is approximately 190 acres. Having been completely destroyed by the October 1993 fire, the Eaton Canyon nature Center was reopened in November 1998.
Visitors can see Coast Live Oaks, Acorn Woodpeckers, Western Fence Lizards,
Scrub Jays, Tarantula Hawks, Cottontail Rabbits, Redtailed Hawks,
Rattlesnakes and Great Horned Owls.
The Eaton Canyon Nature Center(elevation 960 ft.) is about 1.1 miles from the Henninger Flats Toll Road Bridge(elevation 1250 ft.).
It is about 1.5 miles from the Eaton Canyon Waterfalls.
Henninger Flats(elevation 2,600 ft.) is about 3.7 miles from the Nature Center.
Mount Wilson(elevation 5,710 ft.) is a little over 10 miles from the Nature Center.
The morning of Feb 2, 2003 we took our son on his first hike at the Eaton Canyon Nature Center.
It was a warm day for winter but the workers at the Nature Center said it was still cold enough that the rattlesnakes were hibernating.
We did the Junior Nature Trail Hike which was developed for kids in memory of Mary Shannon.
Stop 1 on the hike was at a medium size pond. We didn't see any tadpoles but
they are in the pond throughout the year. They turn into frogs and toads that
live throughout the canyon. There is a Sycamore tree near the pond and plenty of birds making noise.
The Laurel Sumac Plant was our second stop. There was also some California Sagebrush near by.
The documentation on the hike says that cowboys used to rub California Sagebrush
on their clothes to make them smell better before going
into town after weeks of working with cattle. The Nature Center Guide goes
on to say that this is how California Sagebrush got the nickname of cowboy cologne.
A large oak tree was Stop 3 on the hike. The Coast Live Oak Tree
is called live because it keeps its leaves all year long.
The thick bark helped the tree survive the October 1993 fire.
The tree had acorns all over the place. It is said that poison oak
grows around oak trees so we were on the lookout for the itchy plant,
trying to avoid it at all costs. The next stop was the Prickly Pear Cactus
which is said to have yellow flowers in the spring. Part of Stop 5
included a large Sycamore tree which is said to be used by hummingbirds.
Stop 6 of the hike shows the types of rocks in Eaton Canyon.
We looked for footprints at Stop 7. Unfortunately we didn't see
a whole lot but there are supposed to be a lot of California Ground Squirrels
and Cottontail Rabbits in hte area.
We saw the Scale Broom plant at Stop 8.
Stop 9 allowed us to compare the White Sage on the left to the Black Sage on the right.
The mountains can be seen from throughout the canyon. We made a
conscious effort to pause at Stop 10 and enjoy the view.
One nice thing about the winter weather in the Los Angeles basin is that
the smog isn't as bad as in the summer. We were able to enjoy a clear view with blue skies.
Stop 11 marked the end of our hike. The stop had a Coffeberry bush.
Deer and coyotes are known to eat the Coffeeberry berries.
In summary, the hike was extremely short. If you want to try a longer hike then
see my notes on this page regarding the Henninger Flats hike.
I left for my friend Matt's place at 8:25am
on the morning of Sunday, February 9, 2003.
We made good time on the freeways as the traffic
was not bad that morning.
After driving about 10 miles up the Angeles Crest Freeway, we pulled over
at the Ranger Station and purchased an adventure pass.
Next we drove about 1/4 mile further to the Switzer Picnic Area entrance.
We then turned down and drove to the parking area.
The start of the hike took us down through the picnic area
and across a bridge over the creek. It seemed like no time
before we reached the Switzer trail which went up and
out of the canyon on the right side.
The trail is actually over a mile from where we parked
but we didn't notice the distance beause we were going downhill.
The trail rises up the mountain quickly and before we know it
we were looking over huge cliffs.
It was strange because they have fences over some of the cliffs
but the worst cliffs of all were not fenced off.
Soon we reached a fork in the trail, but
my copy of the
Trails Of The Angeles
book said to take the left fork for our hike(our hike was
a combination of hikes 17,18 and 33 in the book).
It wasn't long before the trail came back down into the canyon
and we were boulder hopping.
We went up about 1/4 to a medium size waterfall and took some nice pictures.
After taking in a nice view of the falls we went back downstream.
It wasn't long before we were back where the Switzer Trail
had dropped us into the canyon. We saw a water dog
enjoying the pools as we continued hiking downstream.
Finally, we saw the Little Bear Canyon creem merging into the canyon.
A short distance past the Little Bear Canyon we
hit Bear Canyon and followed the trail up the creek.
At one point the canyon really opened up and we were able
to see a great deal of sunlight.
We reached the Bear Canyon campground and noticed that it appears to be
a good place to stop overnight. There were plenty of flat places
to pitch a tent along with numerous picnic tables and a fire pit.
The camp was above the water (which probably lessens the impact
of bugs in the summer months) yet close enough to the creek
to easily retrieve water for cooking and meals(assuming
that a filter was used).
We continued up the canyon until we reached the old cabin ruins
that were abandoned after a fire.
After looking at the ruins we took the trail up
out of the canyon to a nice viewpoing just short of Tom Sloan Saddle.
Admiring the view, we stopped for lunch and quickly ate our sandwiches.
We decided to head back towards the truck at 1:05pm after eating lunch.
Keeping things interesting, we made a friendly bet on what time we would
arrive back at the truck. I bet on 3:05pm and Matt bett on 4:00pm.
In no time we were back at the ruins in the canyon.
We continued to make good time as we quickly came back to the Bear Canyon Creek.
A short time after passing Bear Canyon Creek, we missed the time saving
trail and traveled one of the more difficult parts of the canyon
by boulder hopping. At one point another hiker spotted us and
yelled down stating that the trail was up above us.
Once back on the trail we continued our adventure.
It was interesting seeing previous landmarks on the way back down.
We noticed that we often took different boulder hopping
paths on the way down because our vantage point was different
that the one on the way up.
Eventually we came out of Bear Canyon and headed up the Switzer trail.
When going uphill our fatigue started to set in and we moved slowly.
Once the trail ended it seemed to take forever to do that last mile
and we didn't end up getting to the truck until about 3:45pm.
One thing we did not notice until pulling onto the 210 freeway
was a Notice of Non-Compliance from the Forest Service.
It had a time of 10:40am from Officer No 109158.
Under remarks it said "Scratch Off & Mail D932078."
This was strange because we had the date February 09, 2003 scratched
off in our pass hanging on the rear view mirror.
Overall the hike was a huge success. We went under ideal conditions.
Onc nice thing about going in the winter was our comfort level
with the lack of snakes. It is a well known fact that the rattlesnakes
hibernate in the winter so we didn't worry about blindly stepping
over leaves, branches and rocks. Another nice thing about going in
February was that we didn't get too hot. Yet another benefit was
that the trail did not get crowded and we hardly saw any people
as we got further and further away from the Angeles Crest Highway.
Angelinos are fortunate because the San Gabriel Mountains
are a huge mountain range with all kinds of different terrain.
In all, we hiked over 10 miles but we didn't notice the
exercise because we were too busy taking in the scenery.