The question I am most often asked on the topic of kosher road trips is: what’s a good hike nearby? My first inclination when the winter months come is to get out to the desert, but that isn’t a short drive away. There is, however, the Angeles National Forest, and that’s quite close. Part of it is close, that is. The Angeles National Forest is huge and sprawling, and apparently has lots of waterfalls. By taking the 110 to the 210, we found a stunning little gem called Monrovia Canyon Falls about 40 minutes away.

We drove out one Sunday morning in an attempt to get in a hike before an afternoon birthday party. Wending our way through the neighborhood streets in Monrovia, we wondered what we were in store for. We drove up the hill of the forest service park and stopped near the nature center. From that vantage point we could look at the towns in the valley below, cast in a soft morning gray, like the distant landscape of a Thomas Cole painting.

Depending upon where you park, the hike to the falls can go from two miles round trip down to a mile and a half if you start by the nature center as we did. Right from the entrance gate I knew I was going to like this park, and I couldn’t get over the fact that such a green forest-y place was so close to home. There were a lot of pine trees around, and when added to chilly sweater weather and the earthy smell of fallen leaves, it was simply dazzling.

Something I’ve noticed when hiking trails in the woods: people say ‘hi.’ On this particular occasion, people even said, ‘good morning.’ This can be a little surprising at first, as this certainly isn’t the standard in the city. There seems to be a hiking etiquette, a recognition that we all have something in common if we are walking along these trails: we must really like it.

This hike is just one beautiful scene after the next as it follows alongside a small creek on its way to the small waterfall. It is a fairly easy walk, with opportunities to branch off and explore here and there and the chance to cross the creek a few times via some well-placed stepping-stones.

We enjoyed lunch in a serene picnic area and then headed back down the hill and through “Old Town Monrovia,” where we stopped for a bit to check out some of the small shops and old fashioned storefronts.

I look forward to returning to Monrovia, hiking to the falls, and exploring the town some more. It was unusually appealing… especially considering how close it is.

Notes:

Bring a sweater, water, (and lunch if you like)

Monrovia Canyon Falls, Monrovia Canyon Park Nature Center, tel: (626) 256-8282, www.fs.fed.us/r5/angeles. $5 parking fee in the park.

Old Town Monrovia is located on Myrtle Ave, which is the street to exit off the 210.