Los Angeles Hikes

Hiking Brown Mountain Dam Waterfall in Pasadena

Hike to the Brown Mountain Dam which sits in the middle of the Arroyo Seco River. About three miles upstream from the river is where this dam is located and the massive waterfall it creates. This structure was built in the 1940’s as part of a US Forest Watershed Project, but it’s unfortunate that the result has been a massive build up of sediment at the top which blocks wildlife and degrades habitat below the dam.

Actions Against the Dam: Since the 80’s, there has been massive uproar from conservationists to remove the dam because it blocks the migratory passage of trout and other animals. If the US forest service had the funds, you can believe they would remove it. This dam could be removed within the next decade or so.

Hike Stats:

Dogs Allowed?: Yes, On Leash

Step-by-Step Directions (use links):

After Parking, walk south along Angeles Crest Highway for 0.1 miles to the trailhead.

Walk down the paved road along power lines until seeing Gould Mesa Camp Site.

Once at Gould Mesa Camp, turn left onto Gabrielino Trail (heading away from the camp.)

Hike Gabrielino Trail following the Arroyo Seco upstream until seeing the Dam

Parking Info:

This hike can be started from 2 locations. This blog is about starting the hike off the Angeles Crest Hwy.

Park here at: 5827 Angeles Crest Highway

The second option is to start the hike near JPL laboratories.

For second option park at: 891 Ventura Street Altadena CA. From Parking here you will hike the Gabrielino Trail the entire way to the dam.

Hike Report:

This report is about starting the hike off the Angeles Crest Hwy.

There is a connecting road to the Angeles Crest Highway where the hike begins.

After we parked off the crest highway, we walked about 0.1 miles south to the start of the paved road, you’ll see a trailhead sign that looks like this:

Ignore all dirt trails leading away from the paved road. In minutes the sights of a huge electrical power grid will come into view.

We talked a little bit about what this could be used for, at first thought it could be used to power JPL just below the hill, but this could also used to power parts of Pasadena. But after considering it, we scrapped the idea and continued on.

The next destination to lookout for is the Gould Mesa Trail camp at the bottom of the hill, this sign will confirm that you are going the right direction.

This part of the hike is all downhill. Quickly the paved road turns to dirt.

Descend the final stretch until seeing the camp from above.

The camp through the trees.

Once you’ve hiked to the bottom where the camp is, take a left and take the Gabrielino Trail.

*This is the last direction, hike the Gabreilino trail all the way to the dam. The rest of the blog talks about notables.*

In various places throughout this trail, there are ruins of stairs and foundations along the trail. These are great photo-ops. Enjoy the shade in this part of the hike and continue on this trail.

From here there is only a mile to Paul Little Picnic Area, which is very close to Brown Mountain Dam.

Once in a while, a river crossing will come. All of the crossings on this hike are shallow and many logs have been placed by locals to get to the other side. Enjoy the bridges along the way which also cross over the Arroyo Seco.

After crossing the Arroyo Seco

The first of two picnic sites will appear after passing the campsite for a mile. Nino picnic area will appear to your left, take a break here or continue on.

Nino Picnic site.

Pass the picnic site and cross a bridge over the Arroyo Seco.

From here, the trail weaves in and out of shade, high bushes, yuccas and other local vegetation. And within the next half hour, the next landmark will appear. The Paul Little Picnic Site.

The Paul Little Picnic Site was once a ranch owned by Paul Little, but then converted into a picnic area by the Forest Service in order to preserve it. There are extensive stone ruins and stairs to explore. Take a minute to check this area out.

After the Paul Little Site, Brown Mountain Dam is very close. Less than half a mile from Paul Little one will see the canyon walls narrowing, rising above the trail. And through the trees, the waterfall appears.

Brown Mountain Dam

Take some time to soak in the area, and when you’re ready take the same path back.

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