Chantry Flat is a designated "Recreation Area" within the Angeles National Forest, about three miles (5 km) into Big Santa Anita Canyon, and is closely associated with the towns of Arcadia and Sierra Madre, CA. The flat itself houses a large public picnic area, and is the starting point for several historic trails of the San Gabriel Mountains, including the 28.5-mile (45.9 km) Gabrielino Trail. The US Forest Service estimates the road to Chantry as the third busiest entry into the Angeles, next to CA State Highways 2 and 39.
Chantry Flat is home to the last pack station in Southern California. It is also the trailhead to Sturtevant's Camp, the oldest resort in the San Gabriels and one of a handful that still exist. The Chantry Flat/Big Santa Anita Canyon area boasts the last magneto-type crank phone system in the United States. The entire watershed is a living museum to the "Great Hiking Era".
The story indirectly begins in 1905 with the arrival of Iowa-born Charley Chantry to Sierra Madre, CA. He prospected his way here from the Black Hills of the Dakotas by way of the San Gabriel back country. He erected a sturdy tent cabin in Little Santa Anita Canyon from which he rented riding donkeys to kids staying at nearby Carter's Camp. Soon his stock was packing into any and all of the mountain resorts from his Mount Wilson Stables.
While packing to Sturtevant's Camp, Charley passed through an oak-studded bench 600' above Big Santa Anita Canyon's bottom at the San Olene Gap. With a reliable spring in adjoining San Olene Canyon (a corruption of the original Santa Oline) and the relatively flat land of an ancient slide, Chantry imagined this to be an ideal site for a small ranch. The details of his official occupation of the "flat" are unclear, even from reading John Robinson's The San Gabriels. The 1977 printing  suggests that his plans for a home and orchard were thwarted by enactment of the Forest Homestead Act (1906) which forbade such development. The 1991 copy  reports that he was granted a permit for 20 acres (81,000 m2) in 1907, that he failed to act on his plans and that he allowed the permit to lapse, returning control to the Forest Service. Glen Owens, author of The Heritage of the Big Santa Anita  believes the latter to be true and substantiates his claim with the witness of a Forest Service agricultural permit in Charley's name. Whatever happened when and whether he was permitted, Charley and his dog, Patch, did occasionally occupy a tent here, grazed his stock here, and spent enough time here to have his name permanently attached to the area now known as Chantry Flat (formerly Poison Oak Flat).
Charley died in 1936, one year after Los Angeles County paved a road to his old stomping grounds from the top of Santa Anita Ave. The road in was originally planned as a highway to join the Angeles Crest Highway (state hwy 2) at Shortcut Canyon. The Forest Service never allowed it. It would have been a largely unwelcome introduction of modern civilization and would have obliterated the charm and beauty of both the Big Santa Anita and the West Fork of the San Gabriel River. Los Angeles county was permitted, however, to build a road into Winter Creek. They stopped short with a less intrusive terminus at Chantry Flat. The Civilian Conservation Corps built a campground here which was later remodeled by the Forest Service in 1958 and designated a picnic area. Also in 1958, the USFS built the existing firehouse with barracks and information center, the two 3-bedroom houses to house employees, and installed a water system (315,000 US gallons (1,190,000 l) capacity) drawn from a lateral well (the lateral well was later replaced by the vertical well currently in use.
The Picnic Area
The picnic grounds of Chantry Flat, known to locals as The Picnic Grove, are authorized for day use only. Full renovation was completed in August 2006. The site offers 35 tables, each with a charcoal BBQ; most are wheelchair accessible. Water spigots are installed throughout, and there are two flush toilet restrooms.
East end of Gabrielino Trail
Adams' Pack Station is a permitted outfitter and general store that has operated at Chantry Flat since 1936. One can purchase a Forest Adventure Pass there, and they also offer food and other gear as well as additional parking for visitors. The Pack Station General Store is open to the public on weekends and holidays until 5:00 PM.
The road to Chantry Flat is open daily from 6:00AM to 8:00PM. Car parking at Chantry Flats, and many places in the Angeles National Forest, are required to have a National Forest Adventure Pass. National Forest Adventure Pass may be obtained online or from Forest visitor centers and local sporting good merchants. Currently it is $5.00 a day or for a yearly pass, $30. The Parking lot fills quickly in the morning on the weekends.
From the Foothill Freeway (I-210) take the Santa Anita Avenue exit north. Follow Santa Anita Ave. through the residential neighborhood until it ends at the foot of the mountains. Pass the yellow pipe gate and continue 3 miles (4.8 km) into the mountains to the end of Santa Anita Canyon Road.
- 2005 quote from Angeles National Forest Supervisor Jody Noiron - given to the creator of this article
- The San Gabriels by John Robinson - 1977 printing, Golden West Books, San Marino, California
- The San Gabriels by John Robinson - 1991 printing, Big Santa Anita Historical Society
- Heritage of the Big Santa Anita by Glen Owens - 1981 & 2007, Big Santa Anita Historical Society
- Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine article, We Are Agin "Progress" Up in Our Canyon, September 4, 1932
- Kevin Hunt - Water Inspector, USFS, ANF