If you can just get off of those L.A. freeways (and you can!) a great place to gulp some fresh air and take in some flowy eye candy is Eaton Canyon Falls just outside Pasadena, at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. Don’t expect a ton of solitude; the 184-acre preserve is a very popular place, and for good reason. In summer, you can splash in a waist-deep pool at the base of the 40-foot, single-drop cascade.
At this time of year, though, you’ll probably just want to park yourself and your dog on a boulder, watch, listen and let yourself relax and be mesmerized. The waterfall is accessed via an easy-to-moderate, 3.5 round-trip trail. You’ll share it with equestrians, so be sure to collar your (leashed) dog and step aside when you hear a horse approach.
Begin your hike at the Eaton Canyon Natural Area Park and Nature Center, where easy paths draw lots of dog-walkers and pram-pushers. The first mile or so of the path to the falls is wide, flat and easy (if unshaded), but the next half-mile or is rugged single-track climbing 375 feet up a shaded canyon. There are several junctions with other trails, so be sure to watch the signage. Bring water for yourself and your dog. And watch for wildflowers: They’ll be popping up starting in February!
Oh, and we should mention that it’s free; no permit or fee required.