Rubio Canyon to Moss Grotto & Ribbon Rock Falls
- Location: Altadena, on the corner of Pleasantrdge Drive and Rubio Vista Drive. From I-210, take the Lake Avenue exit and head north (turn right if you’re coming from the east, left if from the west) and go 3 miles. Turn right on Dolores, go 0.3 miles and merge onto Maiden Lane. In 0.1 miles, bear right on Rubio Canyon Road. Go 0.3 miles and turn left on Rubio Crest Drive. Go 0.1 miles and turn right on Rubio Vista Drive. Park on the corner of Rubio Vista and Pleasantridge, and look for the trail leading into the forest, next to the private residence.
- Agency: Angeles National Forest, Los Angeles River Ranger District
- Distance: 1.2 miles
- Elevation gain: 450 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 1 hour
- Best season: November – May
- USGS topo map: Mt. Wilson
- Recommended gear: hiking poles; insect repellent
- Recommended guidebook: Trails of the Angeles
- More information: here; Everytrail report here; waterfall video here
- Rating: 7
This short, but varied – and surprisingly challenging – hike has a little bit of everything: mountains, canyons, forest, city views and history, leading up to a modest-sized pair of waterfalls, among the most easily accessible in the L.A. area. Unlike nearby Sturtevant Falls, no parking pass is required to visit Rubio Canyon; just make sure you’re respectful of the neighborhood residents whose homes border the trail head. Be prepared, too, to use your hands as much as your feet, and keep an eye out for some key navigational markers.
From the corner of Rubio Vista and Pleasantridge, follow the single track heading into the canyon on the left side of the house. The first 0.4 miles is easy going; there are a few tricky spots where you may have to climb some rocks but nothing too arduous. The trail hugs the west rim of the canyon, taking in nice views of the mountains above and of the L.A. basin to the south.
At about 0.4 miles, the canyon narrows and you can see the foundations of the old Rubio Pavilion, a terminus of the historic Mt. Lowe Railroad. Carefully walk through the ruins and pick up the trail, keeping the thick copper pipes on your left until you cross under them. At a fork, head right and downhill, soon reaching the creek bed.
Here, you turn left and head uphill, climbing over some rocks and following a semblance of a trail, generally staying on the east (right) side of the canyon. At 0.6 miles, you make a definite climb out of the canyon, soon reaching a split. To the left, you will see your destination: Ribbon Rock Falls (bottom) and Moss Grotto Falls (top). A little bushwhacking will get you to the bottom of Ribbon Rock Falls, where you can sit by a small pool and enjoy the scenery. Even though the falls usually only get going with a lot of rain, it’s still a nice place to escape from suburbia.
There are several other waterfalls higher up in the canyon, but they are best left to those with mountaineering and rock climbing experience. For most hikers, the waterfall is a good turnaround point.
Text and photography copyright 2013 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.