At the end of Canyon Boulevard in Monrovia, California, nestled in the foothills of this All-American City sits Monrovia Canyon Park. This woodland park has long been a favorite of mine. Since my parents moved to Monrovia over my sophomore year in high school, I have enjoyed many visits to Canyon Park. In fact, there I celebrated my sixteenth birthday with a picnic and a hike with a few of my close friends. Years later, after growing up and becoming a Cub Scout leader, I would still visit the canyon to hike the waterfall trail with our Cub Scout pack. With its stream crossings, waterfall at the end, and possibility of seeing a bear or two, it became a favorite with our Scouts as well. It really is a perfect spot for easy nature walks.
I took the kids to Monrovia Canyon this past week as a morning outing just to get them out of the house. The already lowered morale thanks to the safer-at-home restrictions of the past three months tends to sink even lower when we allow the kids to be sedentary, so I was determined to head outside for an adventure. We attempted a visit last Monday morning, but found that you needed to have a reservation to enter the park as part of their Covid19 safety measures. It wasn’t a huge problem, as there were reservations available for the afternoon as well as later in the week. So we made our reservation for the following morning.
The morning of our visit was perfect for some forest exploration. The cover of clouds lent a coolness to the morning typical of California’s “June gloom,” and is welcome over also typical hot, dry days. After some argument over which trail to start with, we decided on the trail to Monrovia Canyon Falls, starting at the upper parking lot by the nature center. This proved to be a bit of a disappointment as we found that the trail to the falls was now one-way due to social distancing measures. So we followed the ranger’s instructions and headed down to the trail closer to the middle parking area and hit the falls trail. This effort was only to be disappointed a half-mile or so later as we got to within about 100 yards from where we started only to find that the trail to the falls was indeed closed.
Not to be deterred, we headed back to the middle parking area and hit the Bill Cull Trail back to the ranger station. This easy trail is a one mile loop trail that is beautifully green and mostly shaded. We saw an abundance of wildflowers, and the trail offered some nice views of the valley below.
There are a few other trails to be explored at Monrovia Canyon. We didn’t hike them all on this particular trip, but we have done them on other visits.
Cunningham Overlook Trail- 1.3 miles out and back- This trail is a well-maintained trail that offers some nice views at the overlook. There is a picnic bench at the top that’s perfect for lunch or a trail snack. The trail itself isn’t very shaded, and has a few switchbacks that give a bit of elevation gain, but it’s nothing like Henninger Flats over Altadena. Unfortunately at time of writing, the trail is closed because of social distancing, but it is a fun trail especially on a cooler morning. This trail begins by the Bill Cull Trailhead by the ranger station; there is a sign to mark the trail.
Ben Overturff Trail- 6.5 mile loop- This trail seemed to have the most traffic on the morning the kids and I went, thanks to the waterfall being closed. They weren’t too keen on hiking six miles that morning, so we didn’t go. However, I hiked this trail years ago on a school field trip I was assisting with. I thought it was a fun hike, and is probably my favorite one at Monrovia Canyon. The closest parking area to the trailhead is the lower lot by the ranger station. Head in the direction of the Boy Scout Camp, Camp Trask. The beginning of the trail is about a mile or so down the Sawpit Fire Road. The trail is nice and well-shaded most of the way. Bug spray is a must; in fact, I’ve gone on this hike for the purpose of catching bugs. The most memorable moment I’ve had on this trail was finding a rattlesnake and freaking out over it. Bears also come out from time to time. One day I’ll drag the kids on this hike, because it really is a fun one with some rich Monrovia history they’d enjoy.
So if you’re in the Pasadena area and need an easy nature outing, I recommend a visit to Monrovia Canyon Park. There are some nice hikes for all ages and abilities, and who knows, you may even get to see a bear or two. We did. Happy trails!
For reservations, please visit the City of Monrovia. Please note that it is $5 to park on weekdays, paid at the entrance kiosk. Currently, the park is closed on weekends.