Sign Up  /  Login

The Other Canyons Series LbNA #3668

Plant date:May 1, 2003
County:Los Angeles
Planted by:Buzzard
Found by: Kelsung (2)
Last found:Apr 25, 2010
Last edited:May 1, 2003
Distance: Approximately 2 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous if you want to complete the entire series in one day; moderate if done in smaller increments. The park is located in a rugged wilderness area, and you’ll be traveling a little ways off the main trail, sometimes up some steep hills, so persons with limited mobility, small children, and strollers are definitely out. Older children who can hike through the brush should be fine when accompanied by an adult (I don’t have much experience with children, so let me know if I’m wrong here). Be sure to bring water and sunscreen. This area gets hot during the summer, so the best time to look for these boxes is either very early in the morning, or from November to May. SPECIAL NOTE: It has just been reported to me that one letterboxer was unable to search for my Coyote Canyon box because she found a rattlesnake guarding the trail, so I want to emphasize that this is a "rugged wilderness area" in the San Gabriel Mountains and slithery critters such as these are protected here; that said, thousands of people visit this canyon every year, with children and dogs in tow, so don't let the snakes scare you away--just be cautious (many thanks to Denise for the snake warning).

These boxes are located at the Eaton Canyon Nature Area in the city of Altadena (north of Pasadena). For specific directions, go to the park's website at Admission is free and dogs are allowed on a leash. I suggest you stop at the Eaton Canyon Nature Center for a map of the canyon, and to learn about the history of the park and the local San Gabriel Mountains. The nature center map is not created to scale, but it does roughly indicate the locations of the canyons where these letterboxes are hidden. Because the paths to three of these letterboxes travel up dry streambeds, do not attempt this hike during the rain, or at any time there might be rain in the San Gabriel Mountains. Be very careful of the poison oak, which is endemic to Southern California’s mountains (you could fittingly change this park’s name to Poison Oak Canyon). If you don’t know what poison oak looks like, get the Oak Terrace Self-guided Nature Trail pamphlet from the Nature Center, walk to the Oak Terrace trail located near the center, and go to Stop 1.

There are two other known letterboxes in the canyon planted by other letterboxers: the Eaton Canyon Letterbox, now adopted by California Bear, and the Eaton Hummingbird now adopted by me (currently missing). I suggest you pack a lunch, bring water, and spend the day exploring Eaton Canyon and racking up letterbox stamps.

These letterbox clues are given in series order, but can be done in any order.

Walk through the parking lots to the yellow gate at the north end. Walk past the gate and follow the main path past several picnic areas and downhill across a creek bed (dry at the moment, but not most of the year). As you walk up from the creek bed, you’ll come to the main trail marked by a signpost reading “Eaton Canyon Trail” (don’t be confused by an earlier signpost).

For orienting purposes, consider this the “Eaton Canyon Letterboxing Crossroads”; from this point, you have three choices of direction, all of which lead to letterboxes: You can turn left and go west following the main trail to the beautiful Eaton Falls and several other letterboxes. You can turn right to find the Moist Canyon Letterbox. Or you can go straight (north) toward the Meadow Letterbox.

#1 Moist Canyon Letterbox (**Confirmed by me to be in place as of 4/28/07**)

This is the longest of the canyon series hikes. From the “Eaton Canyon Letterboxing Crossroads” position, figure on a 45-minute round-trip hike back to this location.

Turn right at the crossroads and travel east down the path for about 65 steps to the first fork in the trail, and take the right fork down the hill. Travel for about 50 steps to the next fork, and turn left onto the path that parallels the hills. Now always bear left, and walk for 175 paces. The trail will begin to climb up into the hills, and shortly after that you will come upon the brown and yellow sign that marks “Moist Canyon.” ***Update 12/30/04, the recent torrential downpours have washed away the Moist Canyon sign, so as mentioned previously, just follow the trail as it begins to climb up into the hills, and when you step down into a 15-foot wide dry streambed, you're at the entrance to Moist Canyon.*** Follow the streambed north into the canyon toward the mountains. Always stay in the stream bed. Observe the power lines overhead. The trail roughly follows the path of these power lines; you will start with them on your right, pass under them, and then find them on your left. As the trail approaches the mountains, it takes an abrupt turn to the right, away from the power lines for the first time. Continue up the trail away from the power lines until you come upon two large rocks. The letterbox is located six steps to the right of the large rocks, at 145 degrees, underneath a pile of small rocks above the edge of the creek bed.

***Update as of 4/28/07, the Moist Canyon sign has been restored, but the canyon has been much changed by erosion. To find the letterbox, follow the canyon till it nears the foothills and turns abruptly east around a large oak tree. From the oak, count off approximately 100 steps east up the trail, and look for a small pile of rocks directly above the right side of the streambed. ***

#2 Meadow Letterbox
***Confirmed washed away by the winter rains as of 2/4/05. I'll replace ASAP and let everyone know.***
Travel down the Moist Canyon trail and return to the Eaton Canyon Letterboxing Crossroads. Now head on the north trail directly towards the mountains. Head north on this path about 100 feet until the trail ends at a “T” in the road. Turn left at the “T” and walk another 100 feet to a fork in the trail. At the fork, turn right, and at a compass heading of 40 degrees (northeast) follow the trail directly towards the mountains. There are a couple of rough paths that branch off from this trail, but stay on the trail that travels northeast, directly into the canyon in front of you. Follow this path through the meadow, enjoying the wildflowers, for about 500 feet until you enter a grove of oak trees marking the entrance to a small canyon. Shortly after entering the oak grove, you’ll see a rusty-yellow square to your left (horse tie-up, object from space??). Continue on the trail that travels to the right of the yellow square until you reach a boulder that completely obliterates the trail. (There are a number of small rocks on the trail, and at least one large boulder off the trail, but the boulder you're looking for is right in the middle of the trail, a good 2.5 feet across in size.) You’d have to step over the boulder to continue; instead, step on top of it. Turn around and look south back down the trail from whence you came. Facing you to your left, you’ll see a tree with a hollowed-out trunk. Walk to the other side of this tree, and stand with your back to the trunk on the opposite side of the hollow. You’ll be looking at another tree, due south, about 60 feet in front of you, that is ringed with poison oak. Walk forward from the tree against your back towards the poison oak-ringed tree facing you until you are equidistant between the two trees. Tread carefully—you are on a steep hill, walking in tall grass, and there are large stands of poison oak to the right and left of you. When you have reached the point equidistant between the two trees look east up the hill at a compass heading of 110 degrees, to see two other trees. Climb up to the first of these trees and look underneath a small, broken-off branch at the base of its trunk to find the letterbox. Be careful making your way back down the steep hill.

#3 Coyote Canyon Letterbox ***This letterbox is missing as of 4/28/04. ***
After finding the Meadow Letterbox, walk back down the Meadow trail and rejoin the main trail at the Eaton Canyon Trail signpost. Now turn west and follow the Eaton Canyon Trail until you reach the sign marking the entrance to Coyote Canyon. Turn right and follow the streambed northeast up Coyote Canyon. Stay in the streambed. Streambeds change; at the time I planted the letterbox, I had to leave the streambed at one point to scramble around an an uprooted tree, but I was quickly able to rejoin the streambed beyond. Continue walking in the streambed until it takes an abrupt turn to the left, just past three large rocks, as the trail meets the foothills; now, for the first time, the trail will be heading in a northwesterly direction. You're very close now. At this point, look for the first large tree on the left. You'll know this tree because its bared root system forms the side of the path on which you're walking. Carefully scramble six feet up the steep incline to the left of the tree to reach its trunk, and you’ll find that the tree trunk has a large hollow in the back, which is not visible from the trail. The letterbox is hidden in the hollow, underneath a rock and some leaves.

#4 Walnut Canyon Letterbox ***I believe this letterbox to still be in place as of 4/28/07.***

After finding the Coyote Canyon Letterbox, walk back down the canyon streambed until you reach the main Eaton Canyon Trail, then continue west until you reach the sign marking the entrance to Walnut Canyon (as of 7/2/04, this sign is missing, but the trail is still marked by a brown and yellow equestrian trail sign). Turn right at the sign and walk just 20 paces up the canyon along a very well-traveled, well-marked equestrian trail that moves steeply up the hill to join the Mount Wilson Toll Road above. Stop here, because you are not going to continue on this trail—at this point you are stepping off to the right of the trail into the not well-traveled, not well-marked streambed beside the trail, which moves up the canyon through a lot of brush. Stay in the streambed and the trail will shortly open up, and you'll find yourself in a small gully with a right wall of poison oak, and a left wall of beautiful native California Walnut trees. Continue walking northeast. At one point in the streambed you’ll have to walk underneath a tree trunk “limbo-style.” Shortly after you dance the limbo, the streambed takes an abrupt turn to the left (sound familiar?). At this point, stop and look to the left of the trail where you will see a eucalyptus tree; now look to the right of the trail to see a walnut tree (you can tell this is a walnut tree by observing the broken walnut shells on the ground around it). Take a closer look at the walnut tree and you’ll see a large, flat piece of rusted metal entwined in its roots—perhaps left over from the family that homesteaded this canyon early in the last century. Scramble up the hill to the right of the walnut tree and behind the piece of rusted metal you’ll find the rock that conceals the letterbox.