Fish Canyon Falls

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Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest, CA
Fish Canyon Falls, April 2015
Fish Creek, Angeles National Forest, CA
Fish Creek (May 2009)

Fish Canyon Falls

  • Location: North of Azusa in the Angeles National Forest.  Take the 605 freeway to its northern terminus at Huntington Drive.  Go right on Huntington Drive for about .6 miles and then take a left on Encanto Parkway.  Drive to the end of Encanto Parkway, and park in the lot at the quarry.
  • Agency: City of Duarte
  • Distance: 5.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 700 feet
  • Suggested time: 2.5 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG
  • Best season: October to June. Trail and parking lot are open from 7am to 5pm (Oct – Mar); 7am to 7pm (Apr – Sep.) Dogs are allowed on weekends only.
  • USGS topo map: “Azusa”
  • More information: Trip descriptions here, here and here; Yelp page here; Video of the waterfall (April 2011) here; description of the difficult version of the hike here
  • Rating: 7
The story of Fish Canyon Falls is legendary among L.A. area hikers. In the early 20th century, Fish Canyon was a popular destination for day trippers and vacationers, with several cabins along the creek. Access was blocked when Vulcan Materials expanded their quarry across the entrance to the canyon. A bypass trail built in the late 1990s allowed hikers to visit the waterfall but at the price of a brutal 9-mile round trip with over 3,000 feet of elevation gain. For several years, Vulcan Materials opened the quarry on Saturday mornings, shuttling hikers to the original trail head in vans, allowing visitors to see the waterfall with a much more reasonable 4-mile hike. In June of 2014, the new access trail to Fish Canyon Falls opened, allowing hikers to visit the 90-foot waterfall any day of the week without relying on the shuttles.

From the parking lot, follow the signed trail through the quarry. If you find this first half-mile uninspiring, consider how much easier it is than climbing 1,500 feet up the Van Tassel Ridge and dropping down the other side and having to ascend it again on the way back. At the north end of the quarry, you cross Fish Creek on a metal footbridge and enter one of the most attractive canyons of the San Gabriel Mountains front country.

The trail winds its way up canyon, following the stream, passing under alders and oaks. A few interpretive plaques describe the history of the canyon, including photos from cabins that used to serve as vacation homes. You pass the lower end of the bypass trail, now overgrown. The trail, both exposed and shaded, climbs the west side of the canyon, at times cutting very close to the edge of the cliff. In the shaded areas, keep an eye out for poison oak as well.

At about 2 miles from the start, the trail drops sharply, spiraling around the side of a few trees, which can be used for balance; wooden steps embedded in the ground help too. Shortly after, the trail crosses the stream and proceeds along the east side of the canyon. After one more climb, the large lower tier of the waterfall comes into view and then the entire thing is before you. A scramble down a rocky slope brings you right to the base of the waterfall.

Text and photography copyright 2015 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

One comment

  1. The whole family (ages 4 to 51) did this hike on 4/6/2015. We got a late start, 2:30 PM, and were back at the car at 6 PM. That gave us a nice half hour or so at the Falls. Although the creek was never hard to cross, the Falls had a very good amount of water. It was interesting to watch the quarry in action at the start. Great hike!

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