Chantry Flat, Yesterday and Today

Posted on April 29, 2012 – Written by Chris Kasten

Many people today know “Chantry Flats” or “Chantry” as a destination for hiking the beautiful Big Santa Anita Canyon.  Also, it’s gently sloped picnic area is a popular spot for friends and families to gather together amongst the many oak tree shaded terraces with picnic tables and barbecues.

The three-tiered parking area fills quickly on weekends as day hikers, mountain bikers and backpackers take off on the trails that radiate out from here.  Chantry Flat is the beginning of the Gabrielino National Recreation Trail which continues on for over 28 miles to the mouth of the Arroyo Seco in Altadena.  Chantry Flat is also the beginning of the Silver Moccasin Trail route which travels up into the high country of the San Gabriel mountains for over 55 miles, eventually ending at Vincent Gap near Wrightwood, CA.  Adams Pack Station has been operating in this scenic mountain setting for over 75 years.   There’s no end to the possibilities of outdoor exploration that can be pursued out of Chantry Flat!  Whether it’s hiking to Sturtevant Falls, Hermit Falls, Mt. Wilson or out on the Big Santa Anita Loop via the Mt. Zion Trail, there’s something for everyone.

What a lot of people don’t know about this area is that the paved road that takes you to the trailhead was not finished until 1935.  Prior to this date, you would have hiked all the way to Chantry Flat from Sierra Madre, a distance somewhat near four miles!  Also, what is now the picnic area for day-use only, was once a campground that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

Another seldom known fact is that Chantry Flat’s namesake is derived from Charley Chantry, who was born in 1873.  Charlie travelled for years in pursuit of gold, yet never really striking any bonanzas.  In 1905, he moved to Sierra Madre.  One business that he had was the renting of mules to patrons of Carter’s Camp in Little Santa Anita Canyon.  He also ran a pack train which serviced the local mountain resorts and cabins up in the Big Santa Anita Canyon.  It was on one of Charlie’s pack trips when he spied the beautiful sloping flat high above the mountain stream, thinking this would be a good spot to live.  He even started an orchard during the early stages of development of his new piece of paradise.  Unfortunately for Charlie, the Forest Homestead Act of 1906 prevented him from realizing his dream.  No one after this date would be allowed to homestead national forest lands.  Charlie moved on to Bakersfield for a short stint, only to return once, again, to Sierra Madre; this time operating a small store stocked with provisions for people heading into the mountains on the Sturtevant Trail.  Over the years, people hiking up into the mountains would occasionally see Charlie Chantry resting at his beloved little flat which would one day bear his name.  Charlie died in 1936 at the age of 63.  Today, I rather suspect that he’d hardly recognize the place!