Fish Canyon Falls Trail San Gabriel Mountains National Monument Angeles National Forest Hike

Fish Canyon Falls is beautiful three-tiered waterfall that drops over eighty feet in a canyon in the front range of the San Gabriel Mountains near Azusa. Early spring is the perfect time to visit the dynamic waterfall, when the water flows well and the canyon is green. There is a rock quarry at the bottom of Fish Canyon and for many years Fish Canyon Falls Trail could only be reached via by shuttle on special access days. The trail is now open seven days a week for all to enjoy. To accomplish this, an access trail passes through the rock quarry to reach Fish Canyon Falls Trail. The total distance for the hike to Fish Canyon Falls is 4.8 miles round trip with 650 feet of elevation change. Despite the unusual beginning, Fish Canyon Falls Trail is an excellent hike in the San Gabriel Mountains, leading to one of the range’s most beautiful waterfalls.

Fish Canyon Access Trail: Those who hiked Fish Canyon Falls Trail when the trailhead could only be reached by shuttle will find 0.7 miles of new trail at the start of the hike. Set out from a parking area near the bottom of the quarry and take the Fish Canyon Access Trail up through the active mining area. The wide dirt trail is bordered by high fences to keep you on course. you can get a good look at the machinery chewing up the mountainsides as you go. While this is definitely not the scenery that you would choose for the start of a hike, it is pretty impressive to watch the Azusa Rock Quarry in action. At 0.35 miles from the start, pass under a long conveyor belt with rocks passing overhead. The rocks from this quarry are of a high quality and used for construction. At the half mile point, the trail passes a kiosk, narrows to a singe track, and drops into some brush along Fish Canyon Creek, basically leaving the quarry behind as it passes through a restoration area along Fish Creek.

Fish Canyon Falls Trail: At 0.7 miles from the start, you will reach another trail kiosk at the site of the former trailhead and the boundary of San Gabriel Mountains National Monument (Angeles National Forest). Pass through the fence and cross a metal bridge over Fish Canyon Creek to enter the beautiful part of the canyon and continue onto the real trail.

Fish Canyon Falls Trail wraps around a bend and leaves the sound of the quarry behind. Walk right along the creek for a short stretch before the trail climbs to the left up a few short switchbacks to come to the first of several panels along the trail with information about Fish Canyon (a tenth of a mile from Fish Canyon Falls Bridge). As the trail progresses along the side of the canyon, you will pass patches of beaming wildflowers in the springtime, like sunflowers, wishbone bush, blue dicks, and larkspur.

Fish Canyon Falls Trail
A swallowtail enjoys blue dicks along Fish Canyon Falls Trail

On the right side of the trail, there are steep drops down to Fish Canyon Creek. Hike carefully as the trail makes its way back toward the floor of the canyon. A reflective pool of water has built up in one section of the creek behind a landslide caused by heavy rains in December of 2014. At 0.3 miles from the start of Fish Canyon Falls Trail (and 1 mile from the start of the hike), pass through the ruins of several cabins that were built along the creek. A panel here explains how Fish Canyon once hosted a lot more than hikers:

At one time there were over 100 cabins in Fish Canyon. Many had permanent occupants, while others were sanctuaries for city dwellers. In October 1958, a devastating fire destroyed many of the cabins. The following winter, floods wiped out many more. By 1971, there were only a few cabins left in Fish Canyon. Remnants of some of the cabins are still visible today.

Continue up the trail through beautiful scenery along Fish Canyon Creek. Boulders in the creek create small rapids and pools while sycamores, bays, and alders providing relaxing shade. Enjoy soothing scenes as the trail weaves up the canyon.

Fish Canyon Falls Trail
Fish Canyon Falls Trail

At 0.7 miles from the start of Fish Canyon Falls Trail (and 1.4 miles from the start of the hike), there is a sharp switchback to the left as the trail climbs higher above the canyon floor. Your legs might get a little tired over this stretch of the trail, but it leads to nice views up and down Fish Canyon. After another half mile, the trail heads downhill and uses a unique flight of wooden steps to pass through a bay laurel and come down closer to Fish Canyon Creek. Enjoy a shaded stroll down by the creek before the final ascent to the waterfall.

With 0.35 miles to go, the trail crosses Fish Canyon Creek and switches to the east side of the canyon to approach Fish Canyon Falls. The waterfall is quite a sight! Water springs from the lip of the canyon into an upper pool, slides down a short drop, and tumbles down the third and longest tier. There is a decent sized pool at the base of the falls and plenty of room to stretch out and enjoy a snack.

Fish Canyon Falls
The trail approaches Fish Canyon Falls

The small elevated pool beneath the upper falls is not accessible to hikers, but could make for an adventurous climb for those with proper gear. Below the larg pool at the base of the third tier, there is actually another short waterfall as the creek takes one last leap before flowing down the canyon. The main three tiers are said to be 80 feet tall, although the total distance from the top of the falls to the base may be closer to 130 feet. Fish Canyon Falls Trail ends at the waterfall, so return the way you came for a 4.8-mile round trip hike with 650 feet of elevation change.

Fish Canyon Falls
Fish Canyon Falls

The former access restrictions for Fish Canyon Falls have been removed and the trail is accessible seven days a week. Fish Canyon Access Trail is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. from April to September and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. from October to March. Bikes are not allowed. Dogs are allowed on leashes on Saturdays and Sundays. There is poison oak along the trail, so long pants are recommended. It is particularly important to stay on trail and not trespass while hiking to Fish Canyon Falls. No fee or permit is required to hike to Fish Canyon Falls, so get out and enjoy!

To get to the quarry and trailhead: Make your way to the intersection of the 210 and 605 freeways in Azusa (east of Pasadena). Exit to Huntington Drive and head east. After a few blocks, make a left on Encanto Parkway. The quarry is about one mile up the road (which becomes Fish Canyon Road). Inside the rock quarry, bear right at a split to reach a large parking area at the trailhead.

Trailhead address: 3901 Fish Canyon Road, Azusa, CA 91702
Trailhead coordinates: 34.15676, -117.92368 (34° 09′ 24.33″N 117° 55′ 25.24″W)

Use the map below to view the trail and get directions:

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These photos were taken in March of 2009 and February of 2015. Click to enlarge.
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24 Comments on Fish Canyon Falls in the San Gabriel Mountains

  1. Tjis is a great hike! who’s coming on Saturday?


  3. tookta says:

    Fish Canyon Falls is one fun trail. Now, is a good time to be up there. It is such a beautiful waterfall today.

  4. luu_agnes says:

    To Whom It May Concern,

    Just wonder how often the shuttle runs, from when to when ?

    Thanks !


    • hikespeak says:

      The shuttle will be running tomorrow and drives back and forth uninterrupted throughout the day for hikers.

      • peter calfo says:

        this is a very dangerous hike you have to be well experienced. i stopped right when i got to a really steep, wide trail after a chain fence.

  5. Patrick says:

    BE AWARE: The shuttle only runs on SATURDAYS.

    Otherwise, you’ll have to hike a rigorous 4.5 miles from the parking lot just before the quarry to the falls. According to the copies of the trail map with directions conveniently available for hikers at the start of the trail, the hike is broken up into four stages.

    STAGE ONE: Trailhead parking lot to top of Diamond Head (1.1 miles, 860′ elevation gain, 30-40 mins).
    STAGE TWO: Diamond Head to Angeles National Forest boundary (0.8 miles, 520′ elevation gain, 25-35 mins).
    STAGE THREE: Angeles National Forest boundary to the main Fish Canyon Trail (1.1 miles, 1,100′ elevation loss, 30-40 mins).
    STAGE FOUR: Fish Canyon Trail to Fish Canyon Falls (1.5 miles, 400′ elevation gain, 40-50 mins).

    We had to bail out early as we did not expect any of this, but the trail looked like a great hike and fun time.

  6. Corey says:

    I’m one of those types who when told something is strenous and possibly dangerous I just have to prove something. I’m an intermediate hiker – really don’t know what would qualify that but I’m just guessing. That hike kicked my %}^*#!! And I got all the way to a dried up waterfall, not even a trinkle and the creek was dry.

    But I did it!! Where’s my envy me shirt? Now let’s hope that all that poison oak I brushed will get me.. The trail is not maintained.. Not dangerous if you be careful, but is STEEP – beautiful panoramic views of SGV.

  7. Noe says:

    Does anyone know if the trail will be open soon? Or if there is a work around for the whole vulcan thing

    • Tom says:

      it’s open despite going up there on a saturday morning at 7:30am may seem to be closed as there were just 1 other car at the new big empty parking lot (i’ve heard the shuttle and the other path of this hike is closed? not sure). the walk to the actual trail from the ‘new’ parking lot is about 0.5 miles and then the fun starts. as someone pointed, trail isn’t maintained which is what i personally liked about this hike. and there are definitely some steep part of this trail that is not well suited for some, but again i find it refreshing when all my other hikes are more plain and level. the water fall is dried up at this time of year of course, but the best part is the trail itself as there are part of path that makes you want to go to the amazon. for the waterfall itself, i’d suggest go during fall/winter/spring.

  8. Alice Weiss says:

    Are Wednesdays open for hiking to the falls.? Thanks for any info.—Alice

  9. Mark says:

    The trail has been closed. This is the message on the Vulcan website (This company should have no hand in control of the access point). > Fish Canyon Access Trail is temporarily closed due to a recent rock slide on a portion of the Angeles National Forest’s Fish Canyon Falls trail. The Los Angeles County Fire Department and the Angeles National Forest Service have advised that the trail access and the trail remain closed until the trail can be evaluated by Angeles National Forest Service.”

    I looked at the ANF website and nothing is listed in their alerts. It is the hiking public that maintains these trails and will clear the obstacle much quicker than the forest service which is pretty much worthless.

  10. Roger & Irina says:

    We had a beautiful morning hike all the way to the falls today. The walk past the quarry is not too bad, and once you enter the forest area, you are transported to some excellent pristine scenic views. We saw a fair number of other hikers, but not an overwhelming crowd. The falls were robust, and the tiered pools below them magnificent. Highly recommend!

  11. HyltonHiker says:

    Great Pics of this hike would love to visit it some time but there is one problem- that stupid eyesore rock quarry at the begining of the hike other than that a nice lush wildflower filled area

  12. adam says:

    Do you need any sort of parking day permit for this location or a explore California pass ?

  13. […] information: Trip descriptions here, here and here; Yelp page here; Video of the waterfall (April 2011) here; description of the difficult […]

  14. LB says:

    great photos! Accurate mention of “steep drops” and narrow switchbacks. Elevation change was a bit challenging for a few new hikers. Beautiful waterfalls.

  15. LB says:

    Recommend mentioning there are NO bathroom facilities for hikers to use at the trailhead or on the trail. Only nearby bathrooms are on Encanto near the Duarte Historical Museum.

  16. Kari Myers says:

    Memorial Day weekend hike was great. There is water in the creek and falls and wildflowers everywhere. Wear pants as it seems that this is where the most poison ivy/oak is I’ve seen in the area.

  17. Andy Langdon says:

    My friend and I hiked during the summertime. The waterfall was dry, but we still had a wonderfully peaceful/relaxing time hanging out in the pool at the base of the waterfall :) The hike itself was really enjoyable!

  18. Katy says:

    We hiked it this afternoon. Unfortunately, the waterfall and the pool below the fall were completely dry. We enjoyed the hike. Just have to come back after some rain next time.

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