A relatively easy, under-4 mile hike up a canyon in the lower San Gabriels to a 40-foot waterfall. This popular trail can get crowded on the weekends, but is still worth a visit – especially in the spring when wildflowers take over the lower portions of the canyon floor. Suitable for adventurous beginners, this trail has several stream crossings, and optional, moderate trails on fire roads and single tracks through some of the eastern nature preserve outside the canyon. A must-see for waterfall lovers, even if you have to fight for a good view.
Eaton Canyon is one of those must-see hiking areas of L.A., both because the waterfall is actually impressive by San Gabriel standards, and that it’s so darn close to the city that you really don’t have any excuses not to go. The trail is easy to follow, and as long as you can hop across some boulders in a river (or have some hiking sandals to wade through), you’ll be just fine getting through the hike.
If you’re lucky enough to hike this area during the springtime, you may also get to see some great blooms near the trailhead.
The lower stretches of this trail are pretty level, and wind through some brush and chaparral on the way to Eaton Canyon Creek.
After that, it’s easy fire road hiking as the route follows just above the banks of the wide, rocky wash of the actual creek. Here, the trail gets a bit more verdant, and you may be able to spot a few more wildflower blooms along the way.
At about 0.6 miles, veer left on the Eaton Canyon Trail, heading toward the sign marked WATERFALL. It’s pretty clear. At just about the 1.2 mile mark, you’ll reach another junction, in sight of a concrete bridge. Here, head left again and follow the trail as it descends from the wider track and dips beneath the bridge.
From here on out, the trail is single-track, rocky, and prone to crossing the creek … a LOT. So get your balance ready, or make sure that extra pair of socks is secure in your pack, then continue on. At about the 1.8 mile mark, you’ll make a sharp bend in the canyon, turning west, and get your first view of the falls. From there, it’s just two more rocky crossings …
… and then you’re there!
Hopefully, you’ll be able to get a little bit of peace and quiet to yourself … but even if it’s crowded, you’ll be able to enjoy the sight and sounds of falling water and the feeling of cool mist. They’re naturally relaxing, and if it’s hot, you can even take a dip in a small pool at the base of the falls.
Return the way you came. Stop by the excellent Nature Center either before or after your trip. The center has an impressive display of local flora and fauna, has frequent docent-led programs, and a beautiful native plant garden.
If you want to extend this trip, hang a left at the trail junction just past the bridge, and head up the steep incline of the old Mount Wilson Toll Road toward Henninger Flats. You’ll get tremendous views of the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, and reach a fun little museum in a historic tree nursery.
There is a route beyond the first fall deeper into the canyon. This route is not an official trail and should only be attempted by those with extensive experience in climbing and canyoneering. Every year, hikers are injured and killed in the upper reaches of the canyon because they underestimate the difficulty. Don’t think just because a trail is within sight of a city that it’s not dangerous. I have not done this route, nor will I likely ever, and I do not recommend you attempt it. If you do, you are literally risking your life.
Very good. Trails are heavily traveled and easily spotted. The major junction with the trail that heads toward the waterfall is clearly marked, and the official Eaton Canyon Trail has signs, but there are several use trails that spur off the main path that are unmarked. Stick to the main path for this hike, or explore the surrounding meadows and natural areas.
Henninger Flats is located in the San Gabriel Mountains just to the northeast of Eaton Canyon and is accessible by a moderate fire road trail.
From the 210, take the Sierra Madre Blvd / Altadena Dr exit and head north. The park's entrance will be on your right in 1.7 miles. Transit accessible by Metro bus 267/264, which departs from the Sierra Madre Villa Station on the Gold Line.
With recent wildfire damage and ongoing waves of COVID-19 infections and restrictions, National Forest, National Park, and other public land closures, restrictions, or social distancing guidelines may be in-effect.
If infection rates are on the rise, please do your best to remain local for your hikes. If you do travel, please be mindful of small gateway communities and avoid as much interaction as you can. Also remember to be extra prepared with supplies so you don't have to stop somewhere outside your local community for gas, food, or anything else.
Please be sure to contact the local land management agency BEFORE you head out, as these conditions are likely to change without enough notice for us to fully stay on top of them. Thanks, and stay safe!
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