Visiting Sturtevant Falls is one of the most popular day hikes in the Los Angeles area, and it's easy to see why. It's a fairly accessible hike, the payoff is a waterfall that flows year round, and you reach it by following a historic trail that dates back to the 1850s and the California Gold Rush.
The trail begins along a paved forest road with a steep descent into the Big Santa Anita Canyon. Wildflowers and sun-loving agaves hug the sides of the hill. After about 0.6 miles the path crosses Winter Creek, and the pavement gives way to a well-used path. Soon after, the trail crosses a bridge and continues straight onto Sturtevant Trail. From this point the canyon becomes dense with historic cabins, the oldest dating from the 1890s, long before the area was designated as national forest. The cabins are privately owned, but the Forest Service prohibits owners from renting them out. For those eager to stay in the area, there is lodging further up the trail, past Sturtevant Falls, at Sturtevant's Camp. Once nearly 350 cabins lined the canyon, but now only 81 remain.
The Big Santa Anita Creek flows year-round through the canyon. A series of dams have been built along the creek, creating pools frequented by ducks and other waterfowl. In spring, wildflowers dot the sides of the trail. After hiking along (and occasionally crossing) the creek for 1.2 miles, Sturtevant Falls comes into view, tumbling into a significant pool at its base. You will undoubtedly have to share the view with fellow nature-lovers, but there's plenty of room to spread out, and a weekday trip will guarantee a smaller crowd.
Many trails depart from the Chantry Flats Day Use Area, which has some parking, but not nearly enough to accommodate the weekend crowds. Adams Pack Station has a private lot that may have some space. Otherwise, parking along the road is the only option, and even that may not be possible. Both the Chantry Flats and street parking require a California Adventure Pass. These are sold around town and at the Pack Station, which is closed on Monday.
Swimming holes and cliff jumping can be extremely dangerous and unpredictable outdoor activities that pose significant risks regarding personal safety. Changing water levels, unseen rocks, and river bottoms that have shifted with currents and seasonal weather can turn a well-known jumping area into a serious hazard. Prior to engaging in these activities, extensively scout the current conditions, and understand the risks involved with serious injury and the logistical challenges of evacuation from the water so you can make safe decisions.
The Forest Service and other local management agencies are considering closing access to many of these sensitive locations due to excessive trampling of plants, large amounts of garbage, cans and glass bottles, human waste, and toilet paper left behind. They simply do not have the staff or the funding to attend to these issues. If you want to continue enjoying these areas, pack out all garbage and toilet paper and dispose of it properly, use vault toilets and other restroom facilities when provided, and stay on established paths. Using these areas responsibly will increase the chance that people can continue to enjoy them.