Difficulty PG13 Distance 5.1 to 10 miles General information: Dogs allowed Rating: 7-8 San Gabriel Mountains Season: Fall/Early Winter Season: Late Winter/Spring

Grizzly Flats Trail


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Strawberry Peak and Big Tujunga Canyon from the top of the Grizzly Flats Trail
Strawberry Peak and Big Tujunga Canyon from the top of the Grizzly Flats Trail
Woodlands below Grizzly Flats
Woodlands below Grizzly Flats

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
0:00 - Dark Canyon Trailhead on Angeles Crest Highway (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)
0:00 – Dark Canyon Trailhead on Angeles Crest Highway (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

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.

0:17 - View from the top of the Dark Canyon Trail (times are approximate)
0:17 – View from the top of the Dark Canyon Trail (times are approximate)

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.

0:47 - Grizzly Flats
0:47 – Grizzly Flats

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.

1:12 - View of Big Tujunga from the ridge
1:12 – View of Big Tujunga from the ridge

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.

1:20 - Turn right at the streambed at the bottom of the steep descent
1:20 – Turn right at the streambed at the bottom of the steep descent

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.

1:23 - Stream crossing
1:23 – Stream crossing

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.

1:45 - Stonyvale Picnic Area, the turnaround point
1:45 – Stonyvale Picnic Area, the turnaround point

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.

Text and photography copyright 2014 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.

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9 comments

  1. Hi David – we did this today, north to south and back, mostly because we don’t like “reverse” trails. All your advice was well-taken (yes, bugs – he used a head net; I just endured them – they don’t bite). We didn’t find the steep parts to be dangerous coming up into Grizzly Flat from the canyon bottom – no more so than going down to Highway 2. I don’t think I’d rate this a 4-5* for us, simply because it doesn’t go to a peak and isn’t very difficult (in our opinion). We did like the variety in terrain, and we liked going from one side of that set of ridges to the other – to Highway 2. And nice views, to be sure. We had no difficulty with the trail from the Stonyvale Picnic Area – it is marked there – at the very end of the picnic area. Given the drought, crossing the creek wasn’t difficult either – kind of fun, in fact – but, yes, a pole is basically essential. The trail is not that easy to find when it heads into the woods from the streambed, but we had no trouble with it. There was a small cairn in one place, and there’s a yellow plastic tag hanging on a high tree branch (which we saw only on the way down). If you are going from the picnic area, the trail heads out of the streambed after about 20 minutes, and directly 90 deg. to your left – it almost seems like you are going up a ridge in the middle of the streambed. So I would advise to try and stay on the major set of tracks (there are many at that point in the streambed). My question to you is – you saw go straight on the trail after the saddle (this is going south to north), but the “trail” there is an old fire road, right? One of our topos showed a trail straight north, but it would have plunged us right into the canyon, and we doubt that trail is there any more. In other words, one follows the fire road (the most northwestern one) from the saddle to Grizzly Flat. If there is a usable trail, we’d like to know it. Dianne and Bill

    1. Hello, From Stonyvale Picnic Area/Vogel Flats, one crosses the stream five times, then climb up a ridge that traverses through four gullies. The grizzly flat trail comes to a hitching post area. This is where the trail turns into grizzly flat road. The road is not maintained and looks more like a trail in spots. The road meets up to Hoyt Mountain Road or Dark Canyon trail that takes one back to hwy 2. I have not been there in a few months but know that another crew recently took out approximately 20 fallen trees on the road/trail. Hope this helps. Brenda PS Google Earth zoomed in has the trail lined out really well.

    2. Hi Dianne, glad to hear you enjoyed the hike. As for the comment about the fire road/trails/etc., it’s been about two years since I was there so my memory is a little dim, I apologize. I don’t recall seeing any kind of trail heading straight north (as opposed to the fire road), so the topo map (depending on when it is from) may simply list a former trail that is now disused. “Afoot and Afield” describes this saddle (as part of a loop hike descending from Mt. Lukens) and makes no mention of any other trails besides the fire road, so I’m assuming it’s been discontinued for a while.

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