If you’re looking for a short summer hike with cool water and a significant amount of tree cover, the Hermit Falls Trail in the Big Santa Anita Canyon/ Mount Wilson area is a pretty good one… Just don’t expect to be alone if it’s the weekend. I took my 8 year old and 3 year old daughters on this hike and knew it would be a pretty good workout since I anticipated carrying my 3 year old back to the top from the falls below.
The first half of this nearly 3 mile round trip hike is pretty much all downhill to the falls. From the Chantry Flat parking lot (2,200′) to the falls (1,520′) there is an elevation loss of about 680′. Then its turn around and hike back up the to the parking lot. My oldest daughter has been really excited to get some practice in for some overnight backpacking trips this summer and wanted to carry a little bit of weight in her pack, so I gave her a bunch of snacks, her and her sisters jackets, some water and her camera. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot of weight, but it adds up quickly, especially when she only weighs a little over 50 pounds herself.
When we got to the Chantry Flat parking lot, we found it to be full, so we had to drive back down the road and find a spot to park off to the side. If you’re going to do this hike be sure to display your National Forest Adventure Pass in your windshield. This is a very busy area and you will receive a notice of required fee warning if you do not display your pass. Once we parked, we had to hike along the shoulder of the busy road until reaching the parking lot. We were pretty fortunate that we caught someone leaving and we didn’t have to park a very long way down the road. This could have added a considerable amount of extra length to our hike if we had to park further down the road where most other people were ending up.
From the Parking lot, head down the blocked off but paved road. After the road bends around to the right, begin to look for the sign and the trail that will be on your right hand side. My girls were both very excited to have their cameras along and I was surprised that we found quite a few flowers still in bloom.
The heavily used trail is dry and dusty. There are some sections where there is a fairly steep drop off to the side, so I did find myself holding my youngest daughters hand a few times. Since we were a little slow going and we stopped quite a few times to take photos, we got passed often on the trail. Like I said before this is a heavily used trail. There were many young people heading to the falls to jump off the rocks. Because so many people use the trail, there was a lot of litter left behind and many empty plastic water bottles along the trail. That was discouraging to see, but the people we encountered along the trail were very patient and polite (they called me sir).
Here is a photograph of the stream crossing behind the first dam. I believe this crossing was both of my daughters favorite part of the hike. They both enjoyed stepping from large rock to rock, over the water. I admit I really had to help my youngest across. Below is a photo of the dam. My daughters swear they saw fish in the pool while we were resting and having a snack, but I did not see them.
Here is a photo my 3 year old took while resting by the waters edge below the dam.
My oldest daughter took this very nice photo a little farther down the trail.
You continue on and hike farther down. Now you are nearly to the rocks and the falls.
The trail takes you to the top of the falls and not it’s base, so unless your willing to take a leap, don’t count on getting any frontal photographs. The rocks are very smooth and with just a little bit of sand or water on them, become very slippery. I felt I had to watch my youngest daughter pretty closely down here as she was trying to mess and touch the water. It was nice to see so many people enjoying the cool water and the playing on the rocks, but unfortunately many people have decided that the place isn’t quite beautiful enough and it needed graffiti and tags. That was very disappointing.
After a bit, I loaded Lily into the kid carrier backpack and Emma and I began the slow hike up. This really was a great experience and training for her. She wanted to walk at her normal pace and I was constantly trying to get her to slow down. The biggest thing was she wanted to keep up with other people and not let them pass her. I told her to go slower than she thought she should, and explained to her how if she went slower she wouldn’t get tired and wouldn’t have to stop at all and would eventually be to the top before many other people that were passing us. She looked at me like I was crazy, but she finally believed me when we walked right past a group of people that blew past us and were now sitting on the side of the trail and were resting. We managed to make it to the parking lot at the top and we did it without stopping. She learned that slow and steady is far better than fast and having to stop.
All in all if you are looking for a hike that has cool water, shade good scenery and are willing to put up with the crowds, this is an enjoyable hike. The people we encountered were polite and friendly… just be sure to take an extra bag for the trash you will pick up along the way.