Trail Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest

Trail Canyon Falls

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    • Location: Angeles National Forest north of the San Fernando Valley.  From I-210, take the Sunland Blvd. exit.  Head east (turn left if you’re coming from the north; right if from the south) on Sunland Blvd., which becomes Foothill Blvd.  At 0.7 miles, turn left on Oro Vista Avenue.  At 0.9 miles, bear right onto Big Tujunga Canyon Road.  Go 4.4 miles and turn left onto Forest Service Road 3N29 (if you reach Wildwood or Vogel Flats, you’ve come too far).  Go 0.2 miles and turn right at the fork.  Go 0.2 miles and park at the trail head.  The dirt road is in good shape and shouldn’t present a problem, although it is narrow, so be careful.  A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking here. Click here to purchase. Note: If the gate is closed, you will have to park at the bottom of 3N29 and walk up the fire road, adding a total of 0.8 miles round trip and 150 feet of elevation gain. No Adventure Pass is required to park on the shoulder of Big Tujunga Canyon Road, but note posted restrictions.
    • Agency: Angeles National Forest, Los Angeles River Ranger District
    • Distance: 3.6 miles
    • Elevation gain: 850 feet
    • Suggested time: 2 hours
    • Difficulty rating: PG
    • Best season: December – May
    • Dogs: Allowed (Exercise caution on warm days; watch out for poison oak; be careful during stream crossings; expect to see a lot of other dogs, especially on weekends in the spring)
    • Cell phone reception: None
    • Water: None (the creek usually will have enough water for filtration, but unless you are backpacking, it is probably easier just to bring your own supply)
    • Restrooms: None
    • Camping/backpacking: The Tom Lucas Trail Camp is about two miles beyond the waterfall for those who want a longer trip with a backpacking option.
    • Recommended gear: hiking poles; insect repellent; poison oak treatment
    • Recommended guidebook: Day Hiking Los Angeles
    • More information: Trip reports here, here, here, here, here (including Tom Lucas Trail Camp) and here; Yelp page here
    • Rating: 8

Updated March 2018

Located in the southwestern corner of the Angeles National Forest, just a short drive from the edge of the San Fernando Valley suburbs, Trail Canyon Falls is a perennial favorite of L.A. hikers, especially since re-opening following the Station Fire. The 30-foot waterfall is impressive after heavy spring rains and even in dry times, Trail Canyon is an area that feels pleasantly remote, especially considering how close it is to civilization.

Begin either at the information board by the cabins in the parking area or, if the gate at the bottom of 3N29 is closed, by walking up the fire road for 0.4 mile. The trail is well signed. Almost immediately you make the first of eight stream crossings, some of which can be pretty tricky if the water level is high. You pass a few cabins before reaching a junction where the trail becomes a single-track and climbs to a ridge before briefly dropping down to make the second stream crossing.

Head deeper into the canyon, crossing the stream several more times and keeping an eye out for poison oak. Between the sixth and seventh crossings is a picnic table beneath an oak tree. After the eighth crossing you pass another oak tree, a possible site for remote camping (about 1.1 miles from the info board and 1.5 miles from Big Tujunga Canyon Road). The trail then makes its climb up the western wall of Trail Canyon.

You ascend steadily, picking up about 350 feet over the next 0.6 mile, the views getting better and better. After rounding a bend, you get your first view of Trail Canyon Falls. The base of the falls can be reached via a steep use trail. About half way down, a nylon rope helps negotiate the drop, although there are enough handholds that, with caution, the descent can be made without the rope.

At the bottom of the drop, head upstream and climb around a few fallen trees to arrive at the base of the waterfall, which drops about 30 feet over a polished granite ledge into a small pool. After enjoying Trail Canyon Falls, retrace your steps. You can continue a short distance farther along the trail to the top of the waterfall.

As for the name? The “Trail” in Trail Canyon refers to the “trail” of gold flakes seen in the creek by miners in the early 20th century. Like most mining attempts, efforts to get rich in Trail Canyon were not successful.

Trail Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest, CA
Info board at the trail head
Trail Canyon, Angeles National Forest, CA
Junction; start of the single track
Trail Canyon, Angeles National Forest, CA
Goldfield flowers, Trail Canyon
Trail Canyon, Angeles National Forest, CA
Bush poppy, Trail Canyon
Trail Canyon, Angeles National Forest
One of several stream crossings
Trail Canyon, Angeles National Forest, CA
View down the canyon from near the waterfall
Trail Canyon, Angeles National Forest, CA
Ropes helping hikers make the descent to the base of the waterfall
Trail Canyon Falls
Trail Canyon Falls
Text and photography copyright 2018 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.

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