7 Hiking Trails In & Near Pasadena [Chosen by a Local]

Aug 18, 2021 | Hikers' Ed, Los Angeles County

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Pasadena is a beautiful city nestled in the foothills of the LA forest with a hiking history that goes as far back as the 1800’s.

I grew up near the City of Roses, as it’s commonly referred to, and actually attended Pasadena City College. Therefore, I’m very familiar with the area. 

I’m going to share with you the most beautiful hiking trails in and near Pasadena including a hike to 5 mines, which still remain a secret to this day. 

 

Hikes Located In Pasadena

 

Eaton Canyon Falls

Total Distance 4.4 miles

Type: Out & Back

Elevation Gain: 520 ft

Restrooms Available: Yes

Parking Lot Available: Yes

Dogs Allowed: Yes On a Leash

Rating on All Trails: 4.3

Best Time to Visit: April – June

 

Eaton Falls resides in Northern Pasadena and is the most popular waterfall in the entire Los Angeles National Forest. Get there extra early! 

 

Currently, due to COVID regulations, a permit is required to enter the canyon. You can find the permit here. The hike begins on a dry dirt road which quickly transitions into a much more amusing single track. 

 

The trail closely follows the creek as you make your way through a beautiful gorge filled with white alders and precipitous cliffs on both sides. Because you’re hiking on the canyon floor you can expect plenty of vegetation and some shade.

 

There is a decent amount of water in the creek year round, so you can expect multiple creek crossings. Due to the minuscule amount of rainfall we get in Southern California, the falls is more of a trickle than a waterfall throughout the year. 

 

If you want to see a full flowing waterfall I highly suggest visiting during the months of April, May, and June. Here’s a fun fact that most people are completely unaware of: there’s a second hidden waterfall right above Eaton Falls. 

 

However, getting to the second falls is extremely dangerous and illegal to attempt unless you’re rappelling your way down the canyon from Henninger Flats. 

 

Ruins At Echo Mountain

Echo Mountain Ruins

Total Distance: 5.4 miles

Type: Out & Back

Elevation Gain: 1500 ft

Restrooms Available: No

Parking Lot Available: No

Dogs Allowed: Yes On a Leash

Rating on All Trails: 4.5

Best Time to Visit: October – April

 

In my opinion, the ruins of the resort located at Echo Mountain are the most fascinating part of Pasadena’s history, and a must see for everyone. In 1893 Professor Thaddeus S.C. Lowe built the Rubio Pavilion in Rubio Canyon. 

 

From the pavilion, tourists had two options to get dropped off at the resort. They could either take a cable tram called the Great Incline straight up to Echo Mountain or a trolley named the Mount Lowe Railway, which weaved it’s way up the mountain and completed its course at Eaton Saddle near Mount Wilson. 

 

Once at the resort the tourists would be housed at a hotel known as the Echo Mountain House. Unfortunately, due to fires and floods, all of it was destroyed. 

 

Today we can hike up to the Echo Mountain ruins via the Sam Merril trail that begins at the Cobb Estate off of Lake Ave. With the exception of the remains of a cement road at the trailhead, the trail is a sunny single track consisting of multiple switch backs. 

 

Make sure to take plenty of water and a hat. Once you reach your destination you can enjoy views of Pasadena and explore the ruins of the hostelry, observatory, powerhouse, and the remains of the Great Incline tram. 

 

Secret Mines of Las Flores Canyon

Las Floes Canyon Mines

Total Distance: 2.1 miles

Type: Out & Back

Elevation Gain: 620 ft

Restrooms Available: No

Parking Lot Available: No

Dogs Allowed: Yes On a Leash

Rating on All Trails: Not available

Best Time to Visit: All Year

 

During the Gold Rush of the 1800’s miners excavated roughly 300 mines throughout the San Gabriel Mountains. The mines at Las Flores Canyon were built from 1893-1894 by a man named Wiliam Twadell and his mining company. 

 

He staked multiple mines in the area, some of which are known as the Golden Star, Monitor, and Bald Eagle, but shortly thereafter abandoned the operation due to water shortages, a common issue for miners at that time. 

 

Today you can venture to the mines via a quick hike that begins at the Cobb Estate, just like the Echo Ruins. Instead of taking the singletrack which takes you across the canyon and leads up the mountain, you continue up the cement road and then switch onto a single track that leads you back down to the canyon floor. 

 

It’s a very short and rewarding hike with a decent amount of shade and an abundance of vegetation. The hike has a few very narrow sections with steep ledges, and requires climbing down a 10 foot rocky facewall.

 

Hence, I don’t recommend this trail for individuals who are not in acceptable shape and have good balance. This is definitely not a hike for small children. 

 

Once you get to the last mine you can venture inside and explore for about 100 feet before you reach a deadend. Depending on the season, you may have to trek through shin deep water to reach the end. 

 

Hikes Near Pasadena

 

It would be a shame not to share with you a few amazing hikes that are not in Pasadena but just around the corner. These hikes used to be in my “backyard,” so if your goal is to hike in or near Pasadena, I can assure you you won’t  be dissatisfied. 

 

Mount Lowe Peak

mount lowe peak

Total Distance: 3.2 miles

Type: Out & Back

Elevation Gain: 500 ft

Restrooms Available: No

Parking Lot Available: Yes

Dogs Allowed: Yes On a Leash

Rating on All Trails: 4.5

Best Time to Visit: All Year

 

Mount Lowe Peak, named after Professor Lowe who built the Rubion Pavilion, is famously known for the swing set located at the peak that allows you to literally “swing above the clouds,” as you enjoy the Pasadena views. 

 

In all other directions, you’ll find yourself surrounded by various peaks such as Mount Wilson, San Gabriel Peak, and Mount Disappointment.  

 

You can reach the peak from the Cobb Estate (a 9+ mile hike) or you can begin from Eaton Saddle to shorten the hike to 3.2 miles. If you choose the Cobb Estate as your trailhead you can make a quick pit stop at the Echo Ruins and Inspiration Point further up the mountain. 

 

If you decide to hike from Eaton Saddle you will be required to drive approximately 21 miles from Pasadena up the 2 hwy. The drive features multiple mountain ranges, so I don’t mind at all. 

 

I prefer the route via Eaton Saddle, not only because it’s shorter, but also because the trailhead is at an elevation of 5110 ft, which means more pine trees, better views, and cooler temperature. 

 

You also get to walk through the super awesome Mueller Tunnel that used to be part of the Mount Lowe Railway. The trail is mostly exposed. However, if you decide to bag this peak in the winter months you may be surprised to see snow! 

 

Millard Falls

Millard Canyon Falls

Total Distance: 1.2 miles

Type: Out & Back

Elevation Gain: 268 ft

Restrooms Available: Yes

Parking Lot Available: Yes

Dogs Allowed: Yes On a Leash

Rating on All Trails: 4.5

Best Time to Visit: April – June 

 

Millard Falls is a very short hike located in Altadena, Pasadena’s neighboring city. The trail begins at Millard Campground and makes its way along the creek until you get to the 50 foot falls. 

 

Almost the entirety of the trail is located under the forest canopy and requires multiple creek crossings. White alders and Western Sycamores crowd the narrow canyon and make you feel like you’ve genuinely left the city far behind. It’s the perfect hike for beginners. 

 

Like most waterfall hikes in the San Gabriel’s, the creek contains a decent amount of water year round, but the falls reduce to a trickle when summer begins. 

 

Fun fact: Millard Falls used to be known as Church Canyon because the early settlers used the lumber from this canyon to build the Plaza Church in Los Angeles. It was later named after Henry W. Millard who resided in the canyon in 1862. 

 

Dawn Mine

dawn mine

Total Distance: 6 miles

Type: Out & Back

Elevation Gain: 1600 ft

Restrooms Available: No

Parking Lot Available: Yes

Dogs Allowed: Yes On a Leash

Rating on All Trails: 4.6

Best Time to Visit: All Year

 

The Dawn Mine Trail is a moderately difficult rated trail located in Altadena. The mine was founded in 1895 by a man named Bradford Peck who worked on it for 7 years before closing it down to a lack of success. 

 

The trail begins by leading you down into Millard Canyon above Millard Falls and through the canyon floor until you reach the Dawn Mine. 

 

Bonus Tip: If you can’t find parking at the trailhead, you can begin the hike from the same parking lot intended for Millard Falls, and walk up the same road you came down on or, if you prefer a short faster route, you can hike up a single track that ends at the Dawn Mine trailhead. 

 

Since the trail follows the creek for the majority of the hike be prepared for a few creek crossings. There is lots of vegetation inside the woodsy canyon and therefore a good amount of shade.  

 

Unfortunately, the mine has been closed to the public for a few years now, but you can still peek inside or checkout the super cool water pump that was used for the mine. 

 

If you hop back onto the single track after exploring the Dawn Mine, you’ll very shortly run into an exploratory dig on the left side of the trail which you can actually venture inside of and explore. It’s only about 50 feet long but totally worth the time! 

 

Brown Mountain Dam Falls

Brown Mountain Dam Waterfall

Total Distance: 2 miles

Type: Out & Back

Elevation Gain: 651 ft

Restrooms Available: No

Parking Lot Available: Yes

Dogs Allowed: Yes On a Leash

Rating on All Trails: 4.6

Best Time to Visit: April – June 

 

The 80 foot waterfall at Brown Mountain Dam may be man made, but it’s nothing short of exceptional. There are various trails you can hike to get to the falls, ranging from 2 – 8.4 miles. 

 

If you’re trying to avoid an 8 mile hike, I found a 2 mile shortcut which begins off of the 2 hwy. It’s very steep and slippery in a few sections, but nothing too crazy. Either way I don’t recommend this route for small children. 

 

The first half of the trail quickly descends onto the canyon floor where you’ll be surrounded by tons of greenery and the beautiful Arroyo Seco creek. The ruins at the Paul Little Picnic area give off an eerie vibe. 

 

If you hike in the evening, the sun rays shine through the white alders and illuminate the creek water. It’s paradise. 

 

The waterfall forms a shallow pool at its base, and the moss on the dam provides a feeling of nature taking control of man’s creation. 

 

You’ll be surprised at how fast the setting changes on this short 2 mile hike. I highly recommend it. 

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Hello, There!

We’re Monica and Phillip. Just like you, we share a passion for the outdoors and our beautiful state of California. After many years of exploring amazing and hidden places, we thought we’d share them with you! We hope this blog shows you tons of new CA adventures!