The city lights, the Hollywood sign, the bustling streets—Los Angeles embodies metropolitan life more than almost any other US city. But behind the looming high-rises and celebrity fanfare lies some of nature’s most incredible scenery.

Just north of the city, you’ll find one such treasure—the trail to Sturtevant Falls, which is composed of breathtaking cataracts and swimming holes tucked away in the heart of Santa Anita Canyon. At just over three miles long, the trail to Sturtevant is great for the whole family, pets included, and the perfect way to take a break from the commotion of the city and recharge in nature.

Photo by Jeff Hester

Photo by Jeff Hester

What to Know 

The most common place to kick off this hike is Chantry Flats, where you can begin the descent into Santa Anita Canyon on an asphalt road extending just over half a mile. But if you’re looking to get as far away from pavement as possible, try the alternate route that leads into Hermit Falls. For this trail, head down the canyon at the bottom of First Water Trail.

If you want to extend your hike past Sturtevant Falls, you can continue for about another mile and a half on the Gabrielino Trail until you’ve reached Spruce Grove Camp. Gabrielino trail is the road less-traveled, offering the opportunity to truly step off the beaten path and take in the natural beauty without the crowds. 

What to Wear

Since you’ll be hiking through falls and pools, you’ll want to wear a swimsuit on this outing. It’s also worth mentioning that a good pair of water shoes—not flip-flops—will make your hike more enjoyable. Hats, sunscreen, and sunglasses are also must-haves.

What to Bring 

Though this hike is not a strenuous one, you’ll still want to carry a water bottle as the trip can take around an hour and a half in total. If you want to dry off after a dip in the water, bring a towel as well. You may even want to pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at the base of the falls.

What You’ll See

Sturtevant Falls is, of course, the main attraction of the hike. Towering sixty feet in the air, the waterfall extends over mossy rocks and meets with a wide pool at the bottom.

But the trail’s not just gorgeous falls and refreshing pools—though it would still be well worth the trip if it were. From lush ivy to oak trees that feel as tall as LA’s skyscrapers, there is certainly no shortage of natural beauty along the way. You’ll also pass by several of Roberts’ Camp’s vintage resort cabins, which are sure to inspire all sorts of 1980’s-summer-camp nostalgia. 

Photo by Jason Hickey

Photo by Jason Hickey

Also along the trail, you’ll meet a few bridges that need crossing and creeks that need wading, and trust us when we say that these are some of the most rewarding features of the hike. The impressive views offer a generous payout, and some of the bridges even double as check dams that feature cascades of water running over their edges. 

By the end of your hike, you’ll find yourself wishing you’d seen LA’s natural side sooner. So when you’re feeling lost in the big city, try exchanging LA’s rush-hour traffic for Sturtevant’s rushing waterfalls—it may be just the remedy you need to cure the concrete-jungle blues.

—Amanda Dunn