El Prieto Canyon
- Location: Altadena. From I-210, take the Lincoln Ave. exit and head north for two miles. Turn left on Canyon Crest Road, go a total of 1.2 miles and turn left on Cloverhill. Take the first right on to El Prieto Road and park near the end of the street. From the west, take I-210 to the Arroyo Blvd/Windsor Ave. exit and turn left. Cross the freeway and go right on Woodbury. Go 0.5 miles and turn left on Lincoln and go 1.4 miles to Canyon Crest, then follow Canyon Crest to Cloverhill and El Prieto.
- Agency: Angeles National Forest/Los Angeles River Ranger District
- Distance: 3.3 miles
- Elevation gain: 550 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 1.5 hours
- Best season: Year-round (hot during the summer)
- Recommended gear: sun hat
- USGS topo map: Pasadena
- More information: here (slightly different route described); Every Trail report here
- Rating: 7
This short, but surprisingly varied and scenic hike, visits a secluded canyon that feels quite isolated, despite its proximity to the residential neighborhoods of Altadena. You also get nice views of Brown Mountain (named for Owen and Jason Brown, sons of Civil War abolitionist John Brown) and several other front-range peaks of the Angeles National Forest, and given clear weather, you can also see the Hollywood Hills and Verdugo Mountains.
From the end of El Prieto Road, head past a gate on the pavement. You climb quickly, soon reaching a single-track trail that branches off to the left. Follow it uphill and join another paved road at 0.8 miles. Bear left and continue to the Brown Mountain Truck Trail. You get a nice view down into the canyon, the bottom of which you’ll be exploring later on this route.
At 1.2 miles, look for the Fern Truck Trail branching off to the left. Follow it to the back of a tributary canyon, where you will cross a seasonal stream. At 1.5 miles, head left and downhill on the El Prieto Canyon Trail.
You make a few switchbacks and soon arrive at the bottom of the canyon, beneath the shade of some oaks. The Station Fire damage in this area is obvious, but there’s still a decent amount of shade. Here, you are virtually isolated from any kind of civilization; even the check dams seem to blend in nicely. Stay left as two trails branch off to the right, cross the bottom of the canyon and make a brief ascent.
Take a sharp right turn at a junction (the route ahead rejoins the Brown Mountain Truck Trail), and descend back to the canyon’s bottom. You come to another split; both trails soon meet again at a clearing, where there is a picnic table (2.2 miles). This is a nice place to take a break.
Continuing south down the canyon, you travel through a landscape of oaks, a trickling stream and steep walls, typical of the Arroyo Seco region. At three miles from the start, head uphill (left) at another junction. You pass through a meadow, slip through a fence and end up on El Prieto Road. Complete the loop by heading left and walking back uphill to your starting point.
Note: as you enter the driveway, you may notice a “private property” sign. According to a 2006 court decision, non-motorized traffic is allowed on the land.
Text and photography copyright 2012 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.