After a January and February of record setting rainfall (ending LA's long drought, thankfully), the natural areas in and around Los Angeles are unusually green and fresh, with a bumper crop of wildflowers. Hiking in LA is always hugely popular, with a wide variety of landscapes to explore. Right now, Eaton Canyon is a perfect choice, not only because of the wildflowers, but also because the hike ends with a dramatic waterfall made possible by a large runoff from the mountain snowpack.
Eaton Canyon is a nature preserve near Altadena and Pasadena, California that has several hiking trails and a nature center with nature exhibitions and programs for children. The main trail climbs through a desert landscape next to a natural wash full of boulders and scrub oak. At the moment, the banks of this dry river bed are full of wild sunflowers. The trail then enters a shady canyon where the trail zig-zags back and forth across a creek, so be prepared to leap and balance on quite a few stones, or be willing to get your feet wet! There are many shady spots with small water falls that would make terrific picnic areas.
After about two miles of climbing through the canyon, the trail finally reaches a 40-foot waterfall that lands in a pool deep enough for swimming, if you don't mind icy snowpack runoff. I personally enjoyed watching from a safe distance while the kids and teenagers squealed with excitement as brisk water hit their bodies.
If you take the hike on a Saturday or Sunday during peak season, be prepared for a crowd. Since this hike is so pleasant, with a dramatic waterfall, and only minutes from the center of town, it is one of the more popular spots for hiking in LA. Last Saturday morning, the overflow parking lot was filled, and certain portions required waiting for a crowd to clear the trail. While it was not as peaceful as some more remote hikes I have taken in and around LA, the crowd was actually in a good mood and rather festive.
If you prefer serenity, check out one of our other Hikes of the Month, or go to Eaton Canyon during the week or in the off-season. Just be aware that in late summer, the waterfall tends to dry up and is less dramatic, so early spring provides the best experience.