The young San Gabriel Mountains provide a jagged, rapidly changing backdrop to a day’s visit at the Eaton Canyon Nature Center. Characterized by its deep canyons and razor sharp ridges, these new mountains delight those with an eye for geology, as undulating layers of gneiss are set off by speckled granite and milky, translucent quartz.
Situated on the San Gabriel Fault, once a main part of the San Andreas Fault, the two steep ridges to the north and south rise out of a series of rugged canyons. Spanish settlers originally named them “El Precipio” because of the sheer gorges, which were once created by earthquakes and have since been carved by the west and east forks of the San Gabriel River. Within this dry, steep landscape, coyotes, an array of lizards, opossum, mule deer and more dwell among the white alder and pointed agave.
A heightened experience at the nature center and surrounding area occurs during the winter months. In the summertime, heavy crowds and hotter temperatures reduce your chances of viewing wildlife, and many of the most beautiful wildflowers are not in bloom. Be sure to visit the nature center to pick up a map that outlines several hiking and nature trails nearby, or sign up for a family-friendly docent-guided tour. Many choose to take on the short hike to Eaton Canyon Falls from the Nature Center.