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Tucked away obscurely in two shady canyons behind the San Gabriel Valley community of Monrovia is one of the most beautiful parks in the Los Angeles area: Monrovia Canyon Park. Adding spice to the rich profusion of the riparian vegetation in both canyons is 40-foot-high Monrovia Canyon Falls, which should run with frothy exuberance for the next few weeks -- or longer if we get more rainfall.

To get to the park from San Diego, drive north on Interstates 5 and 605 to Interstate 210 west. Follow I-210 west for 2 miles and exit at Myrtle Avenue in Monrovia. Drive north on Myrtle for 1.9 miles to its end at Scenic Drive. Turn right and follow Scenic Drive on a meandering eastward course for three blocks, then keep straight as Canyon Boulevard joins from the right. Proceed uphill on Canyon Boulevard, which crookedly ascends alongside the Sawpit Canyon wash to the park entrance. A small day-use parking fee is levied here. The park is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except for Tuesdays. For the hike to the falls, drive an additional 0.5 mile to the road's end, where you'll find picnic tables and a nature center.

To reach the falls, simply start walking up Monrovia Canyon to the north on a trail that mostly sticks close to the canyon's sparkling-clear stream. Sometimes the trail gets narrow, eroded, and slippery enough to cause some difficulty with footing -- a cautionary note for those with small kids. Alder, oak, and bay laurel trees cluster in the canyon bottom so densely that hardly any sunlight is admitted, even at midday. The leaves of the bay laurel trees exude a certain pungent scent that we never get to experience in San Diego's canyons. After 0.8 mile the sound of splashing water heralds your arrival at the falls, where the Monrovia Canyon stream cascades down two distinct declivities on a water-worn cliff face.

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