Upper Winter Creek – Camp Sturtevant- Mt Zion
Posting at 6:30 am start time due to the parking issue
Usually parking is full by 6:15
Not for beginners
Distance: 10 miles <
Elevation Gain: 2200
Trail: Looped, will be on mostly on a regular trails with a short stretch of pavement in the beginning.
There are a couple spots on the trail with steep drop offs. The trail head is located at Chantry Flat which is also the location of Adams’ Pack Station and the San Gabriel Mountains, the heart of Big Santa Anita Canyon, and one of the most popular and historically-significant spots in the Angeles National Forest. This is thought to be the last pack station of its kind in the United States. The pack string and the old-fashioned crank phone system are their only link to the modern world. There is also a public General Store. Come for your Forest Service Adventure Passes, water, and trail mix before your hike; return for soft drinks and ice cream, or an ice cold beer, on the shady deck.
The Trails Origins
The last stretch of Sturtevant’s second trail and a part he built himself. From Lanaan Canyon (above Santa Anita Ave.) to Winter Creek he simply had to refurbish the old Burlingame wagon road, built to retrieve timber. To continue on to his camp, he had to contend with Zion Ridge. One story he told was that his choice in routing the trail was made simply by following a bear up the rugged south-facing slope, assuming that the bear knew the best way. This would account for the trail’s haphazard quality and the 1,000 ft gain in 1.5 miles, but it sounds absurd. He was also overheard to suggest that his stubborn nature was to blame, that when it was recommended he go around the ridge, he went over. Some think he invented these stories when he realized that the Burlingame brothers’ trail building skills were far superior to his own. There is also a strong possibility that this project was a dipsomaniacal event. From the junction with Lower Winter Creek Trail, about 2500′, the trail climbs to Zion Saddle at just over 3500′. Here there is a 1/4 mile spur trail to the summit of Mt. Zion. The trail down the north side of the ridge is a pleasant 300′ drop in 1 1/2 miles to Sturtevant’s Camp. This lesser-used trail was almost lost until its renovation in the late 1970′s and again in 1985. It is sometimes used by Winter Creek cabin owners when visiting Sturtevant’s but combined with the Gabrielino Trail and Lower Winter Creek it makes a fine 9 1/2 mile loop; 10 miles by Upper Winter Creek. Because of the steep south side of Zion Ridge, the loop is best done counter-clockwise.
A visit to Big Santa Anita Canyon is like a visit to the 19th Century.
Although it is only 20 miles from downtown Los Angeles it seems far removed not only in space but also in time from our hectic existence.
It is an historic place. Gold was discovered in the 1850’s at the lower end of the canyon but never amounted to much, although that resulted in the construction of the first of today’s trails. In 1898 a prospector built the first cabin in the canyon near the gold strike, nicknamed “Hermit’s Cabin” below where the dam of Big Santa Anita Reservoir is today. This cabin no longer exists. At about the same time a trail was built into the canyon for logging, but the Angeles National Forest was established before any logging could occur. Then, in the 1890’s Wilbur M. Sturtevant continued the trail much farther up the canyon where he established Sturtevant’s Camp, still in use today and still accessible only by foot, just as it was over a century ago. The oldest buildings still standing at the camp date to 1898. During the “Great Hiking Era” of the 1890’s through the early 1930’s many other camps and hikers’ hotels were built in the canyon: Joe Clark’s Halfway House; First Water Camp; Roberts’ Camp (there is a commemorative plaque just past the bridge over Winter Creek that show pictures of the old camp); Fern Lodge; Hoegee’s Camp (now a campground); and Muir Lodge, the Sierra Club’s first headquarters in Southern California, just below Sturtevant Falls. All of these camps are only memories today having been washed out in floods, burned down by fires, or just the victims of neglect and decay. Sturtevant’s Camp is the last survivor of that long ago time.
Hikers will see many cabins by the trail and nestled among the oak, bay, and alder trees along the way. These privately owned cabins were constructed individually from the 1890’s through the mid-1920’s. There are 81 still standing today, all that remain of the approximately 350 original cabins. Accessible by foot only, just as they were a hundred years ago, few have any of the modern amenities many of us take for granted, services such as electricity, central heat, or piped-in water for example, or indoor plumbing (although some have been retro-fitted with solar panels and very basic indoor plumbing). There is, however, the original telephone system of sorts that has been in operation for over sixty years: a single line hand crank 6-volt battery operated system that runs between Sturtevant’s Camp and Chantry Flat. It is not part of the modern world wide communications network by any means.
Visitors to the canyon sometimes see pack animals being led along the trail. The Pack Station at Chantry Flat has been in business since the 1930’s, hauling supplies in to the Camps and the cabins by horse and mule train. This is the second pack station; the original one being in Sierra Madre, but when the road to Chantry Flat was constructed in the 1930’s that station was discontinued. Without a road in the upper canyon there is no other way to bring in or haul out large or bulky items.
This is a truly unique place, a survivor of a bygone Pioneer era. It offers an escape from the hectic present and a refreshing retreat to a green and peaceful streamed woodland.
From the 210 Freeway, or any east-west thoroughfare such as Sierra Madre Bl. or Foothill Bl., go north on Santa Anita Ave. Follow Santa Anita Ave. all the way into the mountains. We’ll meet at road’s end, three miles from the entrance gate. An Adventure Pass is required to park here and can be purchased for $5/day or $30/year at many Sporting Goods Stores and National Forest Stations throughout the southland.
The early start is because this lot fills up quickly by as it is a popular hiking location. Carpooling is highly recommended and should be arranged via the comment section below.
The Fine Print
PLEASE – Know your limits and abilities. Bring snacks and drink plenty of liquids when hiking. Check weather conditions and dress accordingly and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Watching out for poison oak, snakes, ticks, uneven footing, spectacular views, beautiful fauna all while interacting with awesome (usually) fellow hikers can be extremely hazardous, rewarding and fun.
The Farzan Rule: Posted hike times are the time the hike starts or we leave from a posted shuttle location. I’m aware other Meetup groups offer a grace period for late arrivals; we don’t. It’s your responsibility to know the location of the meeting spot and be there and ready to participate at the posted time. If you have any concerns about the directions feel free to contact the organizer of the event, preferably in advance of the event and not at the start time. I’m of the opinion that it’s not fair to delay an event when the majority of attendees have arrived on-time. (so named after a conversation I had with a certain un-named member)
RSVP’s: If you RSVP for an event be responsible and update your RSVP if your plans change. If your plans change at the last second and you’re not able to update your RSVP also let us know. In my opinion a no-show is someone who has no regard for following the guidelines we request from our members and will risk being removed from future events that have a limit.
VHC HIKE RATING SCALE
Rating a hike is subjective, meaning the difficulty of a hike will be in direct relation to how often you hike and the type of hike you prefer. Keep in mind that any hike can have the following: un-even hiking surfaces, various obstructions, water and/or water crossings or bouldering and/or rock hopping. A great hike will have all of these!
1 – A long walk
2 – 4 mile hike w/little elevation gain
3 – 5 mile hike w/up to 1000 ft. elevation gain
4 – 5+ mile hike w/up to 1500 ft. elevation gain (heart rate increases at times)
5 – 7+ mile hike w/over 1500 ft. elevation gain (heart rate increasing even more at times)
6 – 7+ mile hike w/over 2000 ft. elevation gain (at times you might be trying to remember how to perform CPR)
7 – 5+ mile hike w/over 2000 ft. elevation gain (at times you might be muttering expletives to yourself)
8 – 10+ mile hike w/over 3500 ft. elevation gain (at times you might be angry with the hike leader)
9 – 10+ mile hike w/over 5000 ft. elevation gain (at times you might be thinking of reporting the hike leader to the authorities)
10 – Use your imagination
Class 3 Scrambling: Scrambling or un-roped climbing. You must use your hands at times to hold the terrain or find your route. This may be caused by a combination of boulders, steepness and extreme terrain. Some Class 3 routes have ropes in place for assistance.
DISCLAIMER / RELEASE OF LIABILITY
IMPORTANT, PLEASE READ BELOW IN ITS ENTIRETY:
I am a volunteer (i.e. not liable for the group). Safety is a priority for everyone in the group. Think of this as hiking with a group of friends.
Outdoor sports and other events we plan can be inherently dangerous and accidents may happen. By participating in any posted event, you’re taking responsibility for your own safety and well-being. The Valencia Hiking Crew Meetup Group and its organizers are not trained leaders and we do not confirm the qualifications of any of its members to lead or participate in trips. All participants take full responsibility for their own actions. If you choose to sign up for any Valencia Hiking Crew Meetup events, you are releasing the Valencia Hiking Crew Meetup Group and it’s organizers from all liability in case of possible injuries as stated in paragraph 6.2 of the Meetup “Terms of Service” located on the bottom of the Meetup website. Your personal safety depends on your own judgment and experience.