Hiking to Eaton Canyon Falls

This week's hike in the San Gabriel Mountains focuses in on the very popular Eaton Canyon Falls hike from the just-as-popular Eaton Canyon Nature Center.

Eaton Canyon is one of the most popular hiking spots in the San Gabriel Mountains and features a little something for everyone.

The trail begins atop a very large and free parking lot. It is a very pronounced trail, large enough to drive a truck (or ride a horse) on.   It is also a relatively flat trail, following alongside the mostly flat canyon bed. For this reason, the first mile of the trail draws in many casual hikers and families with strollers and child-carriers. It is also not uncommon to see children running around with nets in search of a frog.

After about a mile, the trail transitions from a wide dirt road to a more common hiking 4’ wide hiking trail. This change occurs almost directly after pass underneath a beautiful bridge that connects Mount Wilson Toll Road across Eaton Canyon. The terrain becomes a bit more varied for the remainder of the hike, with the trail traversing across decomposed granite. Because of these mini-hazards, one will notice that some of the crowds do thin out from the bridge to the waterfall a half-mile further down. However, this hike is so accessible and uniquely pretty that solitude is not one attribute I would associate with Eaton Canyon.

Finally, this trail culminates at Lower Eaton Canyon Falls, a large wash of whitewater splendor. There are recreational options around the waterfall; many people enjoy a swim in the pool just below the waterfall. Others may choose to take advantage of the wonderful rappelling opportunities around this waterfall and the many others that feed into it from Eaton Wash. Still others may choose to sharpen their photography skills in a very popular yet still beautiful abode of nature in our backyard.

Hike At A Glance

Difficulty Level (1-10): 2

Distance: 3 miles roundtrip

Scenery: The view varies, from a wide view looking into a canyon to much narrow canyon landscapes near the waterfall.

Best time to go: Year-round, but be careful during rain season (for flash floods).

Trail condition: This trail is very easy to follow and well established.

Other considerations: You can make this hike even shorter by parking on Pinecrest and following the Mount Wilson Toll Road down to the trail.    Also, just like anywhere in the San Gabriel Mountains, be mindful of typical hiking hazards like bees, snakes, and ticks.

Nicoline Conway August 14, 2011 at 06:32 PM
How can one get there from Monrovia?
Kirk Rogers August 14, 2011 at 08:13 PM
Google Altadena Nature Center. 210 fwy to the Altadena Dr exit, north, right after New York Dr. you will see the signs on the right hand side.
Johanna Turner August 15, 2011 at 01:51 AM
The streambed of the upper canyon is beautiful, solid granite. The walls of the canyon are badly decomposing granite. Canyoneers who "know what they're doing" are usually just fine following their known route through the canyon itself. Matt is referring to that, not people who attempt to scramble up the cliffsides.
D Shelley August 15, 2011 at 07:16 PM
Johanna, Matthew specifically wrote that, "Others may choose to take advantage of the wonderful rappelling opportunities AROUND THIS WATERFALL." THOSE cliffs are the ones that are made up of decomposed granite and THOSE are the cliffs that everyday people try to scramble up because they are so visible to the general public. He should not have referred to rock climbing in this specific area at all! If he wants to talk about rock climbers hiking up to Idlehour and dropping in, that is a different story, but that isn't what this piece was about - he was obviously talking to weekend hikers who may not be familiar with the area. He also should have said, "Experienced and properly equipped rock climbers might enjoy....." Otherwise you get all of these 20-somethings dying and getting injured. I've lived, hiked, and done volunteer trail maintenance in the area for over 30 years. I've seen that rescue helicopter heading into Eaton Canyon way more times than I care to count to recover or rescue someone who thought they had the skill set to handle it.
D Shelley August 15, 2011 at 07:23 PM
Actually, it's "Eaton Canyon Nature Center" and it is located in Pasadena.


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