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Between a rock and a waterfall

An easy-to-hike trail in Monrovia Canyon Park offers cool pleasures for Barbara Shepherd. Times photographer Anne Cusack tags along.

March 09, 2004

When I am on the trail that leads to Monrovia Canyon Falls, I am reminded more of the East Coast than sunny Southern California. The park is a dense woodland, and it certainly doesn't seem like a place you'd find close to an urban area. It's a year-round hike that's equally pretty in all seasons.

I started hiking there less than a year ago. I like it because it's easy -- there's not much of an incline -- and it makes me feel like I am far from South Pasadena, where I live. It's always green and there is a beautiful waterfall that runs year-round. The waterfall has large rocks at its base where you can sit and read and just enjoy it. I often eat lunch there.

It's a riparian hike, so there's a small stream for part of the way that widens and travels over man-made dams. In a couple of places, you have to ford the stream, but it's narrow there and easy to cross.

The route is shady and verdant, with a canopy of coast live oaks, canyon oaks, white alders, big-leaf maples and sycamores. Once a deer came within 10 feet of me and, of course, I see squirrels all the time.

Near the start of the hike, there's a nature center, and rangers are great about sharing history. In the early 1900s it was a resort with a lodge, and the Ben Overturff Trail -- a 7.2-mile loop in the park that doesn't go to the waterfall -- is named for the man who ran the resort. I didn't expect that kind of history in a fairly isolated spot.

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The particulars

Where: The Bill Cull Trail at Monrovia Canyon Park, south of the Angeles National Forest.

What: A 3.4-mile round-trip trail hike starting at the park's Entrance Station that leads to the 50-foot Monrovia Canyon Falls. Two other trailheads that lead to the waterfall from picnic areas inside the park offer 1 1/2-mile and 2-mile routes.

How: Exit the 210 Freeway in Monrovia at Myrtle Avenue and head north for about two miles. Turn right on East Scenic Drive and follow it until it turns into Canyon Boulevard. The park, at 1200 N. Canyon Blvd., is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Mondays. Parking is $2. For information, call (626) 256-8282.

Back story: Volunteer Bill Cull spent so many hours maintaining the trail that it was named after him. After discovering the area during a hunting trip, Monrovia contractor Ben Overturff built a lodge around 1905 with wood hauled in via burro. The resort's popularity declined during the Depression and the resort closed during World War II.

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