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. A rock quarry occupies the bottom of Fish Canyon and for many years Fish Canyon Falls Trail could only be reached 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 up to 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. 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, walk 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. The quarry is basically behind you now as the trail slips 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.
On the right side of the trail, you’ll find 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.
At 0.7 miles from the start of Fish Canyon Falls Trail (and 1.4 miles from the trailhead), a sharp switchback to the left takes the trail 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. At the base of the falls, you’ll find a decent sized pool and plenty of room to stretch out and enjoy a snack.
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.
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)
You may also view a regional map of surrounding Los Angeles trails and campgrounds.
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