Grizzly Flats Trail
- Location: Angeles National Forest north of La Canada. From I-210, take the Angeles Crest Highway (Highway 2) exit and head north for 5.6 miles. At mile marker 30.02, carefully turn into a small turnout on the left side of the highway (coordinates N 34 15.433, W 118 11.800). If you come to a large turnout on the right side of the road, you’ve gone too far. A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking here. Click here to purchase. Alternately the trail can be reached at its north end, the Stonyvale Picnic Area.
- Agency: Angeles National Forest/Los Angeles River Ranger District
- Distance: 7.6 miles (including Dark Canyon)
- Elevation gain: 1,900 feet (including Dark Canyon)
- Suggested time: 4 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, steepness, terrain, distance)
- Best season: November – May
- USGS topo maps: Condor Peak
- Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat; insect repellent
- More information: Trip descriptions here, here, here and here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 8
For a hike that begins only six miles from the 210 Freeway, the hike to Grizzly Flats is pleasantly secluded and offers a wide variety of scenery. Highlights include panoramic views of the Angeles Crest Highway, Strawberry Peak, Condor Peak, Big Tujunga Canyon and Josephine Peak, as well as oak woodlands, streams and more. That said there are a couple of caveats: the trail below Grizzly Flats is steep and often loose, requiring extra caution; the bugs can be annoying; there are several steam crossings that can be treacherous if the water is high and there’s poison oak on the banks of said stream. If you opt to do this hike from Angeles Crest Highway as described here, most of the elevation gain will happen on the return, making it effectively a reverse hike and with much of the terrain being exposed, an early start is optimum.
There are actually several possible ways to do this hike. This post describes it from the easily accessible Angeles Crest Highway starting point, but it can also be done in its entirety in the other direction, starting from the Stonyvale Picnic Area in Big Tujunga Canyon. It also can be done as a point-to-point in either direction and for hikers who want a shorter trip, Grizzly Flats – the approximate halfway point – is a good destination, requiring about the same amount of total elevation gain from either starting point.
Assuming you start from Angeles Crest Highway, look for the obscure Dark Canyon Trail heading uphill from the south end of the parking area. It climbs steeply, quickly gaining a panoramic view of the Angeles Crest Highway. The trail starts leveling out, entering an open field and soon after reaching a four-way junction (0.6 miles) where you get an excellent view of Big Tujunga Canyon and Strawberry Peak.
Head straight on the Grizzly Flats Trail, which begins a 1.2 mile descent on a pleasantly cool north-facing slope. Much of this area is still recovering from Station Fire damage, but the views are nevertheless impressive.
At about 1.8 miles you reach Grizzly Flat, where you will not see any grizzly bears (the last one in the area was shot in 1916) but you can take a break beneath the shade of the pines and oaks before continuing.
The trail becomes more rugged, making a twisting descent in and out of two small tributaries of Big Tujunga Canyon. You leave the wooded area and follow a sharp ridge (hiking poles will be helpful here) that drops steeply, reaching the bottom of the canyon at about 2.8 miles.
Here, head right and follow the streambed, picking up the trail on the opposite side. At about 3 miles, you reach the first of five stream crossings, at the confluence of Big Tujunga Creek and Silver Creek. If the water level is high and you are nervous about crossing the stream, this makes a good turnaround point.
If you decide to continue, the trail resumes on the other side of the creek. You make a total of four more creek crossings, the third of which is probably the most difficult. In most cases, you can walk across the logs or rocks, but hiking poles will likely be helpful, especially if the water level is high.
Almost immediately after the fifth stream crossing, you reach the Stonyvale Picnic Area, the turnaround point for the hike. Several picnic tables make for a nice place to rest before making the challenging ascent back to the Angeles Crest Highway.
Difficulty PG13 Distance 5.1 to 10 miles Dogs allowed Rating: 7-8 San Gabriel Mountains Season: Fall/Early Winter Season: Late Winter/Spring Adventure Angeles National Forest Big Tujunga Canyon Dark Canyon Trail family Fitness Grizzly Flats Grizzly Flats Trail Health hiking nature Outdoor park Recreation San Gabriels southern california sports Stonyvale Picnic Area Sylmar Travel vacation walking wellness