Difficulty PG Distance 2.1 to 5 miles General information: Dogs allowed General information: Waterfall hikes Rating: 7-8 San Gabriel Mountains Season: Fall/Early Winter Season: Late Winter/Spring

Trail Canyon Falls


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Trail Canyon Falls
Trail Canyon Falls
Stream crossing in Trail Canyon
Stream crossing in Trail Canyon

Trail Canyon Falls

  • 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.
  • Agency: Angeles National Forest, Los Angeles River Ranger District
  • Distance: 2.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 700 feet
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG
  • Best season: December – May
  • USGS topo map: Sunland
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; insect repellent
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
  • More information: Trip reports here and here; Yelp page here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 7

Recently re-opened following its post-Station Fire closure, Trail Canyon Falls is a nice alternative to crowded Switzer Falls and even more crowded Sturtevant Falls.  Although it only really comes to life following spring rains (it’s barely a trickle as of this writing), the hike is an enjoyable excursion, providing a convenient escape just over five miles from I-210 in Sunland.  Scenic highlights include nice views of Mt. Lukens, the trickling stream and more.

0:00 - Trail Canyon Falls trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)
0:00 – Trail Canyon Falls trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

Be advised that there are eight stream crossings each way between the trailhead and the waterfall, and they can be tricky if the water level is high. Also keep an eye out for poison oak.

0:03 - Turn left at the junction (times are approximate)
0:03 – Turn left at the junction (times are approximate)

From the parking area, follow the signs to the trail and begin hiking north on a dirt road. There’s an immediate stream crossing that can be a good indicator of how high the water levels will be later on. Continuing north, following the signs for the trail at the next two intersections (left at the first junction, right at the second.)  The trail bends to the left, heads out of the canyon and then back down.

0:09 - Ascending into the canyon
0:09 – Ascending into the canyon

At 0.6 miles, where the road makes a hairpin turn to the left, look for a single-track trail heading farther up into the canyon. Immediately, you make your second stream crossing, using a makeshift bridge of logs (hiking poles will come in handy here).

0:19 - Leave the fire road and follow the single-track trail up the canyon, toward the stream
0:19 – Leave the fire road and follow the single-track trail up the canyon, toward the stream

The trail follows the creek, making several more crossings, passing by oaks and alders, many showing damage from the fire. The walls are high on both sides of the canyon, creating a nice sense of isolation.

0:27 - Crossing the stream
0:27 – Crossing the stream

After the eighth and final stream crossing (1.1 miles), the trail begins heading sharply uphill on canyon’s west wall. At 1.3 miles, Trail Canyon Falls comes into view. The trail leads to the top of the waterfall, from which you get a nice view of the canyon below, including Mt. Lukens to the south.

0:34 - The eighth and final stream crossing
0:34 – The eighth and final stream crossing

If you are up for a challenge, you can continue on to Tom Lucas Trail Camp, two miles and 1,200 feet higher. It’s also possible to reach the base of the falls by going back to the last stream crossing, although this is best left to those with bushwhacking experience.

In case you were wondering, Trail Canyon gets its name not from the trail that runs through it, but from the trail of gold dust that was said to be visible back in the canyon’s mining days.

0:45 - Looking down into the canyon toward Mt. Lukens from the top of Trail Canyon Falls
0:45 – Looking down into the canyon toward Mt. Lukens from the top of Trail Canyon Falls
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.

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