The Eaton Canyon Natural Area is a popular site just outside of Pasadena that's best known for the trail to Eaton Canyon Falls. However, it's also home to a number of other hikes ranging in length, difficulty, and terrain. In addition to the waterfall hike, Eaton Canyon Natural Area includes trails to the famous observatory on Wilson Mountain and to the high-altitude vista of Henninger Flats. The Eaton Canyon Nature Center, which is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, is a great place to stop for information, maps, and hiking recommendations.
The Eaton Canyon Falls hike is so popular that it's been described as one of the wider Los Angeles area's most crowded hikes. The hike is easy, with minimal elevation gain, and short enough to complete in a couple of hours. The waterfall at the end, falling over forty feet into a wide pool of crystal-clear water in a natural rock amphitheater, is a majestic sight, and worth a more social hiking experience. To get there, you'll start on a dusty fire road through familiar desert scenery and eventually enter a canyon with shady grottoes and trickling streams. Sun-dappled shadows play on rocky pools. In the spring, wildflowers are abundant along the trail.
Do beware once you reach the waterfall. There are unofficial paths further into the canyon that are quite dangerous, even for experienced hikers. Every year, hikers who try to go beyond the falls or try to find a route to climb to the top are injured and killed. Respect the park rules and your and your dog's safety and stick to marked trails. If you want more after you reach the waterfall pool at the end of this hike, Eaton Canyon Natural Area does have many other safe options.
For more rugged mountain scenery and a more challenging uphill hike with an elevation gain of over 1300 feet, take the 3.7-mile trail to Henninger Flats. As you ascend, you'll pass in and out of shaded canyons with brushy, boulder-laden creekbeds. At the end of the trail, you'll be able to see out over the surrounding valleys for miles. Rangy pines stand like sentinels at certain points along the way, but prepare to spend most of your time in the full sun for this hike. There's a popular, well-groomed campsite near the trail's end.
Whatever route you take, the Eaton Canyon Natural Area will surround you and your pup with beauty.