Perched 1400 feet above Eaton Canyon and visible from much of Pasadena, Henninger Flats is home to an impressive display of towering pines and great views of the sprawling metropolis below. Henninger Flats consists of several gently sloping, broad “flats” jutting out from the otherwise steep and often impenetrable San Gabriel Mountains. A natural phenomenon found throughout the Front Range, flats are often home to sun soaked meadows, but Henninger Flats has long been home to an experimental forest run by the Los Angles County Fire Department Forestry division. Trees are cultivated here for conservation projects throughout Southern California and seedlings are available free of charge to the public for conservation needs (visit http://fire.lacounty.gov/forestry/OpsHenninger.asp for more information).
Henninger Flats lies along the Mount Wilson Toll Road, which once served as the primary route to Mount Wilson during the early part of the last century. It provided the means to build the 100 inch Hooker Telescope, which was at the time, and for 31 years after, the worlds largest. Today, the route serves as a fire road and as passage for a multitude of travelers on foot, mountain bikes and horses.
From the parking lot for Eaton Canyon on Veranda Ave, just north of the intersection of Altadena and New York Drives, head into the canyon. Take either the toll road from its head or take the shorter but steeper horse trail branching off to the right from the main trail about a half mile in. The horse trail meets back up with the toll road a little less than a mile later. From here stick to the toll road until towering pines and cool shade welcome you to Henninger Flats. While the hike takes approximately an hour and a half one way it is easy to spend a few hours at the flats. A visitor center with a scale model of the Front Range gives geographic context to your climb and to the vistas you are sure to enjoy, and several camping sights scattered around the main flats offer plenty of opportunity for exploration.
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