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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