Los Angeles Hikes

Hike to The Dawn Mine and Millard Canyon Waterfall

In a deep and dreary Millard canyon floor sits an old reminder of the gold rush. Long forgotten tunnels and caves In the early 1850’s prospectors looking to get rich in California built mines that began to dot the mountains of the San Gabriels. Dawn Mine is no exception to that spur of activity that drew it to the region, where it sits today. Now urban explorers and hiking enthusiasts are drawn here. Hundreds and hundreds of feet of caverns cut through the canyon walls waiting to be explored. The dangers are low ceilings in some places and a musky, flooded floor of the mines. Bring a flashlight or your phone, just don’t drop it.

Important Points & Directions in bold

Key Stats:

Time: 3-4 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 6 miles

Elevation Gain: 1400 ft

Hike Configuration: Out and Back

Fees?: Adventure Pass Required (5 dollar day use, or 30 year, can be found at Big 5)

Dogs Allowed? Yes (but not recommended on this trail)

Follow the canyons to the mine, the mine is located at the end of the GPX route.

Trail Report:

A little back story: When we heard about this place through a friend of a friend, it sounded a little too good to be real. An abandoned mine within LA city limits? “Please don’t be pulling our leg”, we said. Although he couldn’t recall the exact name of the mine and only knew it to be within Pasadena, we were in doubt we would even find it. Boy were we wrong, the internet is a great place. When we googled “Pasadena mine”, a blog titled “Dawn Mine Trail” came up. That’s when I knew I found it. Easy enough to find on the Internet, but not in person, and when we searched out for it the first time, we got lost and had to turn back.

This is a write-up for the second (successful) attempt.

Parking and Trail head Info:

We pulled into the parking lot located: 34.216369,-118.146260 (you can paste this into google maps) and proceeded to display our Adventure Pass.

Instagram post photo 5-10

Ignoring the metal gate, we turned towards a sign pointing to the Millard Creek Campground. A primitive 4-tent campground that lies right next to the flowing Millard Creek.

Hiked past that and followed the creek along the trail, the creek makes a right into the canyon, where you can see the creek flowing over some human architecture. This part of the trail is nicely lined with boulders, visible markers and he nice riparian canopy that shaded us as we walked. The sounds of the creek were pleasant, and and quite calming.

Instagram post photo 5-10-4

Not soon after, 25 minutes into the hike the sounds of the creek were covered up by a screaming familia who were enjoying the Millard Waterfall.

Instagram post photo 5-10-2

Millard Canyon Falls

We stopped by the Millard falls for a quick second. Note once you get to the falls, you will have passed the trail to the mine. It’s an old trail that has been overrun by many landslides. Look for a white metal post about 300 feet before the falls to the left as you’re heading back that signals the start of the trail.

Instagram post photo 5-10-3

Unfortunately as you can see, the start of the trail has been washed out by previous rains, so it’s a steep but short uphill trek next to some oak trees. We grabbed the occasional root that helped us climb to the trail along the ridge. The trail along the ridge was well defined, a luxury on the different terrain you will find hiking through this canyon. In other words, the trail gets lost in some places, but as long as you follow the path of the canyon, you should not get lost.

How we got lost the first time, and how it can guide you:

After passing over the waterfall and hiking into the canyon for 15 minutes, the trail gets a little uneasy and you would think to go strait up the canyon, to another set of falls at 70 feet. If you see these waterfalls, do not head in the direction of them, head to the right of them into the canyon that intersects Saucer Canyon (waterfalls).  In short, do not try to climb the canyon walls to get above the falls, This is the wrong path.

If you see this graffiti make an immediate right and head in that direction.

Instagram post photo 5-10-5

After passing through the tributary that connect the two creek flows we continued to hike through the decaying woods and brush. The trail disappeared in and out for a bit, but there was a general path ( within the canyon) that we took. If was not easy to get lost at this point as we followed the creek once again.

Although not needed, some graffiti arrows can be found many times along the path that point you in the direction of the mine. If you come here, don’t spread the graffiti, it ruins the scene.

Instagram post photo 5-10-8

Graffiti Arrow

1 hour into the hike some cable from the mine can be seen, you are getting close. Human architecture appears.

Instagram post photo 5-10-7

Some wreckage from the old mine begins to appear at some boulder crossings. Navigate yourself trough some large boulders, or take an easier path through the left of the canyon.

Instagram post photo 5-10-9

Rusted pipe found at boulder crossings.

The creek disappears for a bit as it flows underground the boulders. Continue to follow the boulders to a very lush, dark part of Millard Canyon. Trees overhang as the shade and the darkness overtook the scene. You are close.

Instagram post photo 5-10-12Take the faint trails to an old cable machine that used to run the ore out of the mine. Instagram post photo 5-10-10

As we approached the old cable machine we realized the mine can be entered behind a huge boulder blocking the way.

Instagram post photo 5-10-14

Notice the arrow.

Around the bend of the canyon a shorter square shaped mine can be found.

Instagram post photo 5-10-13

Instagram post photo 5-10-16

Explorin the mines.

Because this is an out-and-back hike, spend as much time exploring the old mines as you wish then head back the same way you came. Enjoy the hike, and explore the mines at your own risk.


    • David Foster on 09/23/2016 at 11:36


    Really good blog about this wonderful hike, and great pictures. The only problem is that your directions for where to start hiking are not great…this is why you got lost the first time. Don’t drive down to Millard Campground to start, instead go up Chaney Trail as far as you can and park near the end where the gate is. Then walk another .5 mile up the road and you’ll see the trail head off to the left. It’s described well here:


      • dventura on 11/25/2016 at 01:53
      • Author


      Thank you, that’s actually a really great idea. Look forward to completing the hike this way soon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.