Fish Canyon Falls is an eighty-foot tall three-tiered beauty in the San Gabriel Mountains near Azusa. Spring is the perfect time to visit the dynamic waterfall, but access is limited because there is a rock quarry blocking the trailhead. The creation of the quarry resulted in decades of disputed access to what was once one of the most popular destinations to the range. The quarry chewed up the first mile of the trail, reducing the trek to Fish Canyon Falls to four miles round trip with 400 feet of elevation gain. Even in it’s abbreviated form, this still deserves to be one of the most highly regarded hikes in the San Gabriel Mountains.
Since the quarry operators will not allow you to just stroll through their active work zone, there are only certain days when the quarry opens the trailhead to hikers. Typically, hiking to Fish Canyon Falls is permitted two Saturdays per month throughout the spring. The calendar of these dates is available on the quarry website.
After checking in at the quarry parking lot, a shuttle will drive you to the trailhead. From there, hike straight up the canyon to the falls. The trail takes the left bank of the canyon and climbs above the creek past seasonal wildflowers like sunflowers, wishbone bush, blue dicks, and wallflowers. The trail dips back to the creek where sycamores, bays, and alders provide relaxing shade. Boulders in the creek create small rapids and pools that make the creek that much more soothing.
Fish Canyon Trail
The trail climbs gradually up the canyon through sun and shade. After a creek crossing, the trail switches to the right bank and approaches Fish Canyon Falls. It is quite a sight! Water tumbles from the lip of the canyon to an upper pool, then pours down a short falls before streaming 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. The pool beneath the upper falls is not accessible to hikers, but could make for an adventurous climb for those with proper gear.
Fish Canyon Falls
The trail ends at the falls, so return the way you came. An alternative to the trail is rock-hoping down the creek. You will not find a path, but most of the creek can be crossed easily enough. With a little bushwhacking you can add some variation to the hike. Along with extra fun and exercise, you will also enjoy enjoy added shade along the babbling creek.
Sunflowers along the trail
The parks department built a trail over Van Tassel Ridge to circumvent the quarry to access Fish Canyon. By all accounts this path adds a brutal couple of miles and some serious elevation gain to this otherwise pleasant trek. The trail is also reported to be steep, narrow, and dangerous. The best way to Fish Canyon Falls is through the quarry, so circle a day on their access calendar and plan a visit. There is no fee or permit required to visit Fish Canyon Falls (which should not be confused with the Fish Canyon Narrows on the west side of the Angeles National Forest), 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.
Trailhead address: 3901 Fish Canyon Road, Azusa, CA 91702
Trailhead coordinates: 34.156722, -117.92507 (34° 09′ 24.19″N 117° 55′ 30.25″W)
Use the map below to create your own directions:
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