Trail Canyon Falls
in the San Gabriel Mountains
The west side of the San Gabriel Mountains offers fewer trails than the rest of the range, but it is home to one terrific waterfall. This four-mile round trip hike on Trail Canyon Trail tackles 700 feet of elevation gain to reach a sublime 30-foot waterfall.
- Trail Canyon Falls is one of the Los Angeles waterfall hikes.
Approach this waterfall via Trail Canyon Trail (a trail so good they named it twice). After 2/3 of a mile walking past cabins along a dirt road, proceed onto a single track trail. Take this trail and follow Golden Creek up a canyon shaded with alders and sycamores.
The trail crosses the stream a few times before climbing the wall of Big Tujunga Canyon. Glimpses of Trail Canyon Falls can be seen ahead. This area was badly burned by the 2009 Station Fire, which likely cleared away vegetation to increase visibility of the waterfall.
You can also enjoy broad views of the canyon and the mountains above. The trail makes its way around the side of the canyon, rising to an elevation close to 2,500 feet. Trail Canyon Trail levels out as it approaches a large granite landing above the falls. This is a great spot to stop for a snack and enjoy the creek. The trail reaches pools in the creek above Trail Canyon Falls and you can walk down the granite to the brink of the waterfall.
Trail Canyon Trail proceeds up the canyon from the waterfall to Tom Lucas Trail Camp. The brink of Trail Canyon Falls is 1.9 miles from the trailhead and offers a reasonable spot to tunr around.
For a closer view of Trail Canyon Falls, backtrack a tenth of a mile along the trail to a footpath that leads down into the canyon. The path descends a steep bank of dirt through brush, and may require agility and shoes with good traction. In fact, this path may completely unsafe due to fire damage and loose, steep terrain, so use discretion.
If you make it down to the canyon floor, you will be greeted with an outstanding view of Trail Canyon Falls. The 30-foot waterfall spills over a smooth wall into a shallow pool. In winter or early spring, when rain water fills the creek, the waterfall is quite impressive.
Considering the effort it will take to get back up the trail, break for a moment and enjoy. An alternative return route is to bushwhack and rock-hop down the creek to get back to the trail.
Dogs are welcome on Trail Canyon Trail. It is free to park at the trailhead (a National Forest Adventure Pass is no longer required). No permit is needed to hike to Trail Canyon Falls in the San Gabriel Mountains, so get out and enjoy!
The 2009 Station fire scorched the areas surrounding Trail Canyon Trail, resulting in a long-term trail closure. Look for signs of natures rebounding renewal.
To get to the trailhead: From the 210 Freeway in Sunland, between Pasadena and the junction of the 5 and 405 Freeways, head north on Sunland Boulevard until it becomes Foothill Boulevard. After another mile, turn left on Mount Gleason Avenue. One and a third miles later, make a right on Big Tujunga Canyon Road. After 3.4 miles, turn left up the hard-to-spot Trail Canyon Road. (a sign for Trail Canyon Trail is visible from the opposite direction). Follow this road for 0.4 miles to a large parking lot where the hike begins (bear right at one intersection along the road to descend into the canyon).
You may discover a closed gate at the bottom of Trail Canyon Road. If so, park at the bottom of Big Tujunga Canyon Road and walk 0.4 miles up to the trailhead.
Trailhead address: 19600 North Trail Canyon Road, Angeles National Forest, Tujunga, CA 91042
Trailhead coordinates: 34.305323, -118.255444 (34° 18′ 19.2″N 118° 15′ 19.3″W)
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I was following up on this posting and seeking out an Adventure Pass. According to the USDA Forest Service this trail is Free and does NOT require the pass. The site mentions recent changes so maybe this has become free after posting.
I was just curious to find out if it’s still difficult to reach the waterfalls per your note on your website. I would love to go hiking to this place but don’t want to hike only to find out I can’t reach the waterfalls? Thank you in advance for your help
NOTE: While the Trail Canyon area of the Angeles National Forest reopened to the public in 2012, there is a large wash-out along the trail and other damaged from the 2009 Station Fire that has made it difficult to reach the waterfall.
Yes, it is very difficult to reach the falls. This will not change, as the trail is not maintained. Half way to the falls, the trail begins switch-backing up the left-hand side of the canyon. This stretch of the trail is impassible, without running the risk of falling into the abyss. It is extremely dangerously narrow, and should you trip, there is nothing to break your fall.
I accessed the falls yesterday through an alternative route: I resorted to traveling off of designated trails. I literally scrambled along the side of the stream, and in some cases in the stream, to the base of the waterfall. It was fairly difficult scrambling and bush-whacking, because there is no clear path there. There are too many thickets. I got scratched all over the place. It was worth it though. The falls were quite a spectacle. There was a moderate amount of water, considerably less than the pictures above. It was still very pretty.
Should you attempt this scrambling/bushwhacking, be very careful about tripping on slabs of rocks along the stream if you get your boots wet in the stream, as I did. I tripped a few times, but I was not quite as careful as I would have been if I had more daylight. Allow at least four hours before the gate closes.
can you please confirm or deny if a adventure pass will be necessary in June. We plan to come with our Cub Scout pack and need the details to prepare all in advance. Parking fee? and or pass necessary ?
According to the national forest, this is now a free trailhead and no adventure pass is required.
Has anyone done the hike recently? Is the fall still visible? Saw a yelp posting from 2 weeks ago and poster said there was no fall.
I hiked it today 7 – 26 – 2013 no-falls. We haven’t had any rain in like 4 or 5 months. You have to go in winter if you wanna see some big time falls! The trail is washed out in like 7 or 8 places watch your footing on this trail please.
No falls, but there should be water in the creek still, correct?
On May 3, 2014, I hiked to the fall. The first 0.5 miles appear to be treacherous due to fallen trees, crossing streams, etc. After that the trail seem to be more well defined and normal. The only thing is that you need to scramble to get to the canyon floor to enjoy the fall from the bottom. It looked really steep, so I passed andto decided to stay at the top area of the fall – ample fresh and clean water to enjoy.
The hike up to the falls is awesome and worth the trek. The trail will take you all the way to Tom Lucas Camp and Condor Peak. This is no easy stroll in the park and make sure you take the 10 essentials.Check out my video for Trail Canyon Falls and some other videos that I posted of my adventures.
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Trail Canyon Falls
Check out my other videos
Josephine Peak Guide
Strawberry Peak Video
Distance: 3 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 700 ft
Hike Time: 2 hours
Trail Condition: OK, but a few difficult spots
Hike Type: Out and Back
Animals: Dog friendly
Activities : Hiking & Running
I hiked this trail yesterday. The falls are completely dry. Hiking to the falls seemed fairly easy. Getting there is a good bit of uphill though (although never that harsh). I hiked at least twice the distance past the falls until the trail petered off into the brush and was too overgrown. It’s worth hiking past the falls (dry or not) for a while. Never did it seem treacherous. This trail really does have all the beautiful aspects of hiking in Angeles National Forest… desert-like rocky areas, lush green ravines where water flows, shade and tall trees, sunny open mountains, panoramic 360 views, blooming flowers (seemingly year round). It’s a pretty trail, flowing falls or not. I brought a liter of water and hiked for about 4 hours or so (2 hours in, 2 hours out). The trail gets a little hard to spot at points but with just a little looking around you will find it again, it’s hard to miss, for the most part it is always running creek-side. People put up markers and cairns to make it easier. But it could use another round of tidying past the falls. I want to know how far it actually goes!
I went to the falls in early February and the waterfall is present. Not quite to the degree that we see in the pictures above, but still present.
its may of 2016 Anybody been here recently? Is the waterfall accesible? Is there still water flowing??
We went to the Trail Canyon Fall today. Overall trail condition is good. Lots of water due to tremendous amount of rainfall in LA recently. Be sure to bring walking sticks to help you get through many stream crossings. The way down to the waterfall is not easy but I wouldn’t say difficult. My dog and I went down in less than 1 minute. Plenty of people carry small dogs and not to experienced hikers made their way up and down without too much difficulty. However, like all outdoor activity, do be careful on your way up and down to the waterfall
is there a secure and safe parking lot to park our car ? this is my first experience , thank you for your time and understanding
7/23/17 I was there this Sunday and we hiked two miles, but there’s was no waterfall,but somebody told me it’s almost a total of 10 miles round trip is that true? I’m kind of confused here!
The 10-mile distance could be for a hike going farther up Trail Canyon Trail. The waterfall is a couple miles up, but can be dry and hard to see in summer months.
Anyone hike this recently? Still free to park? Any water? Thx!
Lots of water from all the rain! You need to cross streams several times. Didn’t go down to the waterfall, but could see it from the top of the trail towards the end. We just parked at the entrance and it was free.
I’ve done this trail a few times and really enjoy it. I’m wondering if anyone has tried making it to the waterfall walking through the canyon floor? Essentially continuing on the canyon floor instead of taking the switch-backs up the left-hand side of the canyon.
There is a vicious unleashed pit bull at the cabin at the trailhead. Be aware
Did this trail in early May and the falls has good water after a very wet winter. It’s a terrific hike because it’s not too easy yet not too hard. It’s just right. About two hours total if you hike steady and leave time to look at the falls. The only challenge is repelling down to the bottom of the falls, which takes some balance and can be scary if you’re unaccustomed to scrambling down rocky, dirt scree. But it’s doable for most people. Highly recommended in the spring after a good winter.
My husband and I went this trail yesterday for the first time. We were unsure where to park at first because there are no clear parking signs. We just parked along the road. We got there about 9am and there was just a small group and a man with his dog not very busy at first. I am very new to hiking but it was a great challenge for beginners. A bit of crossing water and NO SIGNS AFTER THE PRIVATE PROPERTY We didnt get lost and we miss the waterfall and walked right over it! Walked for another 20 mins thinking our eyes were playing tricks on how big it was but nope! We didnt see it until we backtracked and looked over a cliff to see the waterfall from up top! The extra hike pass the waterfall was a good hike as well but you will get lost if you dont pay very close attention to your surroundings. We talked to a pair and they mentioned that there are two ways to get to the waterfall…up and around then down the sketchy rope (the way we took) or walk along the stream at the bottom.
Around 12ish we walked back from the waterfall and there were so many people coming in which make for a bit more danger because the hike is narrow and high and people brought their dogs….which I dont think should be on the trail after a certain point or off leash. Watch out for too much dog poop because no one picks up after their pets
Bring lots of water, a snack and wear sun protection!
Does hikespeak provide gpx files for their referenced trails?
Not at this time, but this is a feature that might get added in the future.
Do we have to schedule the hike? Is there set hours?