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

Dagger Flat from Dillon Divide


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Pacoima Canyon, Angeles National Forest, Sunland, CA
View of Pacoima Canyon on the descent
Oaks in Pacoima Canyon on the way to Dagger Flat and Dutch Louie Flat
Sunlight through the oaks in the bottom of Pacoima Canyon

Dagger Flat from Dillon Divide

  • Location: Western San Gabriel Mountains near the San Fernando Valley.   From I-210 in Sunland, take the Foothill Blvd. (Osborne St. if you’re coming from the west) exit and head northeast (turn right if you’re coming from the east; left if you’re coming from the west.)  Take a quick left on Osborne St. and follow it for a total of 7.2 miles (it becomes Little Tujunga Canyon Road along the way). Park on the right side of the road at a dirt turnout by a metal gate blocking off a fire road. From the 14 Freeway, take the Sand Canyon Road exit. Turn left on Soledad Canyon Road and take the first left on Sand Canyon Road. Follow it 10.5 miles (it becomes Little Tujunga Canyon Road on the way) to Dillon Divide and park on the left side of the road by the metal gate. A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking here. Click here to purchase.
  • Agency: Angeles National Forest, Los Angeles River Ranger District
  • Distance: 6.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 800 feet
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG
  • Best season: October – May
  • USGS topo map: Sunland
  • Recommended gear: insect repellentsun hat
  • Recommended guidebook: Trails of the Angeles
  • More information: Trip description here; description from a Meetup here
  • Rating: 7
Mendenhall Ridge Road, Angeles National Forest
0:00 – Mendenhall Ridge Road (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

From a not very promising start at a dirt turnout on the side of Little Tujunga Canyon Road, this hike quickly becomes one of the more enjoyable ones in the western corner of the San Gabriel Mountains. It explores scenic, secluded Pacoima Canyon, once a popular gold mining spot.

Beginning the descent into Pacoima Canyon, Angeles National Forest, Sunland, CA
0:08 – Bear left at the junction, begin the descent (times are approximate)

Begin by following the Mendenhall Ridge Road (signed 3N32 on the gate, but listed on Google Maps as 4N35) up a slight incline for 0.3 miles. You get excellent views of Pacoima Canyon and Bear Divide on the left. At a Y-junction, take the left fork, which begins a steady descent. The abandoned fire road effectively becomes a single-track, weaving in and out of shade and groves of oaks and sycamores before arriving at the canyon bottom (1.7 miles.)

Oak trees and sunlight, Pacoima Canyon, Angeles National Forest, CA
0:35 – Oaks near the bottom of Pacoima Canyon

Head up canyon, crossing the stream bed a few times. If water levels are high, which is unlikely, navigation may be a little tricky, but you should expect to make pretty easy progress. Virtually all sights and sounds of civilization vanish as you follow the canyon.

Rock cairn, Pacoima Canyon, Angeles National Forest, CA
0:57 – Cairn indicating path to the entrance to the mine

At about 2 miles, keep an eye out for a triangular shaped rock with a small cairn perched atop it. You may also notice that if there has been water running through the canyon, it appears to stop at this point. That is because this is the lower end of a tunnel dug by “Dutch Louie”, an early 20th century prospector known as the “Hermit of the Pacoima.” He died without ever finding his fortune. By descending to the left on a use path, you can reach the mouth of the cave, although exploring inside should only be done with extreme caution.

Mine shaft in Pacoima Canyon, Angeles National Forest, CA
0:58 – Mine shaft

At 2.6 miles, you reach Dutch Louie Flat, a former campground shaded by several stout oaks. Shortly beyond, sharp eyes might pick out a small hole in the base of the rock wall on the left; likely the caved-in upper end of the tunnel.

Dutch Louie Flat, Pacoima Canyon, Angeles National Forest
1:05 – Dutch Louie Flat

Continuing along the stream bed, you reach a junction at 2.9 miles in a meadow known as Dagger Flat, named for a prospector who was stabbed here around the turn of the century. A steep, vaguely marked and largely overgrown trail leads to Santa Clarita Divide Road. This is the turnaround point as described in “Trails of the Angeles”, but it’s worth continuing about 0.4 miles to a spot near a bow in the stream. Here you can sit in the grass and enjoy an excellent view farther up the canyon and perhaps picnic alongside the water. Beyond this spot, the canyon becomes overgrown, making this a good turnaround point for casual day hikers.

Dagger Flat, Pacoima Canyon, Angeles National Forest
1:15 – Dagger Flat

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.

Stream in Pacoima Canyon, Angeles National Forest, CA
1:25 – Recommended turnaround point by the stream
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5 comments

    1. Thank you for reading and for the help with the trail! Many trails are kept in good condition by the grace of volunteers such as yourself. Keep up the good work!

  1. My wife and I just hiked Dagger Flats this past weekend (5/20/16). The trail is indeed wonderfully maintained and we really enjoyed the hike. Sadly there was no water in the bottom but the canyon has a wonderful feel to it. Once you’re walking on the bottom with the canyon walls looming above it almost feels as if you’re going to bump into a prospector or cowboy from 1850. Also, wonderful to have such large trees along the walk to give periodic shade. Thanks!

  2. Since July 26, 2016 Sand canyon Fire, I have not been able to go into Pacoima canyon – Forest Service closed it. Hopefully I will soon be able to return to my trail maintained effort there. I expect the fire did a much more thorough job of removing weeds than I ever did. I miss it much!!!!

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