This short hike travels up a narrow history-filled canyon to a charming double waterfall. At the turn of the previous century, the canyon was home to Rubio Pavilion, at the base of the Mount Lowe Incline Tramway, which escorted visitors to an immensely popular resort atop the ridge to the west. A hundred years later, only the foundation remains and nature has rebounded to provide a rustic hiking alley. It is 1.3 miles round trip with 350 feet of elevation gain to reach a duo of stacked cascades within a narrow section of the canyon.
Beginning from the trailhead along Rubio Vista Road in Altadena, hike north up the west side of the canyon. Because this trail starts outside Angeles National Forest, an Adventure Pass is not required.
The single track traces the west side of the canyon along the route of the long-removed trolly line into the canyon. The unmaintained trail is in great shape, offering brisk hiking over the first half mile to the Rubio Pavilion site. The pavilion was operational from 1893 to 1936 as the starting station for the steep tram ride up to Mount Lowe. The pavilion was crushed by a storm-driven boulder, but sections of the foundation are still visible from the trail.
Just past the foundation, the trail turns left, climbing out of the canyon and up the ridge to Mount Lowe along the path of the old tram line. When this happens, continue straight up the creek on a rapidly diminishing trail.
A tenth of a mile of off-trail rock hopping brings you up the creek to a double waterfall. The bottom half is named Ribbon Rock Falls and the top is Moss Grotto Falls. The pair is well suited for each other.
When you are finished, hike south back to the trailhead or consider a few extensions. From the base of Ribbon Rock Falls, a narrow track continues to the east farther up Rubio Canyon toward Grand Chasm Falls. This trail is covered well on Dan’s Hiking Page. Another way to explore more of this area is to venture up Incline Trail on the west side of the canyon. This steep track following the old tram route up to Echo Mountain, climbing 1,100 feet over approximately 1.5 miles. Given the pitch of the trail, it is a better descent route. Hike up Sam Merrill Trail to Echo Mountain, then hike down Incline Trail to Rubio Canyon. From the bottom of Rubio Canyon Trail, continue down Rubio Canyon Drive and across a section of Altadena Crest Trail to return to the Echo Mountain trailhead for a six-mile hike. This loop is shown in the map below.
The short hike to Moss Grotto Falls and Ribbon Rock Falls is a pleasant excursion in rustic Rubio Canyon. Dogs are permitted, but the trail is not suitable for mountain bikes. No fee or permit is required, so get out and enjoy.
To get to the trailhead: From the 210 Freeway in Pasadena, take exit 26 and head north on Lake Ave. Drive three miles to Dolores Drive and turn right. Make the fourth right (after 0.4 miles) on Rubio Canyon Road. After 1/4 mile, turn left to stay on Rubio Canyon Road, and then make a quick right on Rubio Vista Drive. Less than a quarter mile up, find the trailhead on the right side of the road between houses numbered 1351 and 1342.
Trailhead address: 1351 Pleasantridge Drive, Altadena, CA 91001
Trailhead coordinates: 34.203025, -118.122883 (34° 12′ 10.88″N 118° 07′ 22.37″W)
(Rubio Canyon Trail is in blue, Sam Merrill Trail is in red, Incline Trail is in teal, and Altadena Crest Trail is in gray)
View Rubio Canyon in a larger map
Or view a regional map of surrounding Los Angeles trails and campgrounds.
|Echo Mountain via Sam Merrill Trail |
This 5.8-mile hike visits a historic railway and ruins from a century old resort overlooking Pasadena.
|Mount Lowe Road & Sunset Ridge Trail to Cape of Good Hope |
This pair of trails can be combined for a 5.2-mile round trip hike to a historic viewpoint called Cape of Good Hope. Follow the old route of Mount Lowe Railway to the ruins on Echo Mountain to extend the hike by two miles round trip or bring the distance up to 11.85 miles by visiting Echo Mountain, Inspiration Point, Mount Lowe Trail Camp, and other landmarks.
|Castle Canyon Trail to Inspiration Point (and beyond) |
This 2-mile long trail ascends from the ruins on Echo Mountain to a historic viewpoint that still offers hike-worthy panoramas. Form a loop back to Echo Mountain to visit Mount Lowe Trail Camp, Cape of Good Hope, and other landmarks on Mount Lowe Railway.
|Inspiration Point & Mount Lowe Trail Camp |
This 7.25-mile round trip hike descends Mount Lowe Road into the San Gabriel Mountains to a historic scenic overlook and a trail camp built on interesting ruins.
|Henninger Flats via Mount Wilson Toll Road |
This 6-mile round trip hike ascends 1,325 feet to a trail camp, tree nursery, lookout tower, and visitor center on a landing in the San Gabriel Mountains operated by the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The hike can easily be extended to 8.7 miles by exploring a loop above Henninger Flats.
|Eaton Canyon Falls |
This 3.5-mile hike goes up Eaton Wash to a narrow stretch of Eaton Canyon containing a pleasant 40-foot waterfall.
|Millard Falls |
This one mile hike visits a 50-foot waterfall up one of the most scenic canyons in the range.
|Dawn Mine |
This 6-mile hike from Millard Campground leads past Millard Falls to an old gold mine.
|San Gabriel Peak from Mount Lowe Road |
This 6,161 foot peak is also reachable via a 3.2-mile round trip hike from Eaton Saddle.
|More trails in the Los Angeles |
Explore other destinations in the Santa Monica Mountains, San Gabriel Mountains, and elsewhere.
|Monrovia Falls |
This 1.6-mile to 3-mile hike in Monrovia Canyon Park follows an enchanting canyon up to the base of the 30-foot waterfall.
|Sturtevant Falls |
This 3.25-mile hike visits a 60-foot waterfall and a lush cottage-lined canyon.
|Fish Canyon Falls |
This 4.8-mile round trip hike leaves from an active rock quarry and progresses up a beautiful canyon to a mesmerizing multi-tiered waterfall.
|Trail Canyon Falls |
This 4-mile hike ascends a mountain-framed canyon to a 30-foot beauty on the east side of the San Gabriel Mountains.
|Cooper Canyon Falls |
This 3-mile hike leaves from Buckhorn Campground and visits a short waterfall in an enchanting glen of tall pines.
|Hermit Falls |
This 2.5-mile heads down canyon away from Sturtevant Falls toward a 30-foot waterfall. The lush canyon and the babbling creek are quite calming.
|Switzer Falls |
This 4.5-mile hike starts from the Switzer Picnic Area and descends Bear Valley to a spot below the 50-foot waterfall.
|Santa Ynez Falls |
This 2.5-mile follows a shaded creek to a gorge containing a short waterfall.