Mount Zion Loop

The first real hike I ever did was at this spot in the San Gabriel Mountains.  I wasn’t even sure this was the same place until this day.  This is a popular hike with extraordinary canyon and creekside scenery.  Aside from a few loud and clueless visitors and all the trash along the trail, I had a great time.

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7   The weather report called for a sunny day.  At seven am Chantry Flat was enveloped in a heavy mist.  From the parking lot I started down a steep paved road.  I hiked the loop in a counter-clockwise direction, heading for Sturtevant Falls.  There are several cabins by the side of the trail.  These little cabins are privately owned.  What an amazing setting for a weekend cabin.

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The creek near the start of the trail.  Photo 2 – Tree roots stretch for the water.

8     10     9   Photo 3 – The lower trails are also covered with ivy.  While an invasive plant you have to give the Devil its due – the ivy makes the area seem very lush.

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Soon I came to a four way junction.  Straight ahead leads to the Sturtevant Falls.

13     12  Canopy of Shadows

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16   Walking up to the falls.  When I was here all those years ago the falls were a zoo, with people splashing around, yelling, etc.  Today I had the place all to myself for as long as I wanted.  I sat there deeply breathing the fresh air, listening to the falls white noise and basking in my solitude – Heaven.

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Sturtevant Falls

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22   Photo 1 – Looking up the steep hill next to the falls.  The signs posted here say “No Shortcutting”, as at the top of the hill is another trail.  Photo 2 – Now back at the four way junction, I opted for Lower Falls Trail.  The trails in this area are very well marked.  Photo 3 – I heard Lower Falls Trail is not for the faint of heart due to the steep drop offs.  I have to admit there were sections that made me nervous.  Don’t stop, don’t hesitate, just keep moving forward.  Photo 4 – I passed above the shortcut down to the falls that I was looking up a few minutes before.  Photo 5 – The falls can be seen (sort of) through the trees.

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27   The trail took me right over the top of the waterfall.  Photo 5 – Onward now, I scrambled over the big rock in the trail.

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There are countless falls ahead, big and small.

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Photo 1 – Screaming Blue Face  Photos 2 and 3 – Interesting pod plants on the trail

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Something unique to this trail, in my experience, are all the outhouses and, shown here, emergency call boxes.  The call boxes are part of a primitive phone system one can see running throughout the canyon (just a single wire draped up on tree limbs).  The map I was using marked the location of the call boxes and outhouses, making for easy navigation.

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There were a couple of big boulders that almost looked like carved heads.

36     37   Last photo – Space Rock

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I came to another little waterfall with a small cave at the top.  I wondered how many people have been injured trying to get inside this cave.  To the right is a different cave, an ivy covered cave.  Photos 3 and 4 were taken from inside the ivy cave.

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I pass Cascade picnic area.

44     45   A newt on the ground and a squirrel in the trees.

VIDEO: A wild beast splashes through the water.

47   I ate lunch at Spruce Grove Camp.

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A scene from yesteryear.  A mule train arrived for a nearby cabin.  This is how people get their supplies in this area.

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Photo 1 – Sturtevant Camp  Photo 3 – I mistakenly thought the cliffside hiking was done after Upper Falls Trail but there was quite a bit more over the course of the hike.  Not easy when you have to hop over downed trees.  Photo 4 – The loop rises out of the canyon and continues on Mount Zion Trail.  Look for the sign that marks the turn-off to the summit.

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Views from Mount Zion on a cloudy day

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61   Plants and Fungus

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64   I trekked on to another camp – Hoegees.  Photo 4 shows a stone chimney at Hoegees Camp.  Photo 5 – Looking up through the chimney

66     67     68   Photo 1 – Another cabin, this one along another connecting trail, Lower Winter Creek Trail.  Photos 2 and 3 – A mine shaft on Lower Winter Creek Trail.  The inside is a tight squeeze.  You’d have to crawl on hands and knees to get very far.

VIDEO: Birdie bath time!

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72   I had one last destination – down First Water Trail, 1 1/2 miles to Hermit Falls.  As far as peace, quiet and solitude are concerned, this is where my luck ran out.  After watching several videos on YouTube showing teenagers yelling and jumping off the falls, I was disappointed to experience this up close.  Lots of noise and lots of garbage left behind.

73     74   The trail seemed to end here at what I assume are the top of Hermit Falls. These two photos look back up the trail and away from the big falls.  You can see a smaller waterfall here as well.

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Now looking toward where the falls drop over the side.  Photo 2 – The water runs between the boulders and over the edge.

77     78     79   I could hear people below but couldn’t find a clear path ahead.  There was a super steep path to the right, shown in photo 1, that looked very dangerous.  I passed.  I thought I might my way around the rocks next to the falls but that was too gnarly as well.  I headed back.

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As I climbed out of the canyon on the short paved section I began on, I noticed the promised sunny day had finally materialized.

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Can’t wait to come back here again.  Amazing area.

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