Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hike 14: Fish Canyon Hike, Feb 1, 2010

One of the hikes I have already taken was to Fish Canyon Falls, the long way. This was on Feb. 1, 2010.

To get to the trailhead, taking Huntington Drive to Encanto Drive. Head north. The parking lot for this trailhead is somewhat tricky to find, if only because you pass a whole lot of "No Parking Anytime" signs along Encanto Drive. Shortly after you pass the sign for an Equestrian Center, you'll see a clearning on the left side of Encanto Drive. There are no signs pointing to this lot, and no signs in the lot indicating you are at a trailhead. However, after you park, walk, to the northwest corner of the lot, and you'll find a trail heading through the brush. Follow that a few feet and you'll see a sign verifying that you are at a trailhead.

It's an intimidating sign, full of warnings about the dangers of hiking, wild animals, ticks, etc. If you dare to continue, you'll pass behind a horse property. Shortly after passing this, your ascent begins. It'll continue steeply for about 45 minutes (if you are walking at a slow but steady pace). Finally, you level off and feel like you're at the crest. Not quite.

You drop some, into a thicket of bushes. You rise some. You eventually find yourself walking along a chainlink fence. There's a dirt road on the otherside of that fence. When the fence finally ends, you should continue walking in the direction you were heading. In about fifty yards, you'll see a sign pointing you to the left, up a very steep bulldozer cut in the mountain. Head up that way. In another fifty yards, it splits. Left is extremely steep. Right is only very steep. They join up shortly, so it's up to you. Personally, I'd take the left.

Five or ten more minutes and you begin a steep descent into Fish Canyon. Slowly, the noise the mining operation will give way to the sounds of rushing waters. As hour two of your hike ends, you should join the old Fish Canyon Trail. A self-congratulatory sign will greet you.

Turn left. After passing the remains of some old cabins and several informational signs, you'll have reached Fish Canyon Falls. Enjoy the sounds and sights, then return the way you came.

The pictures appear in this post in the reverse of the order I posted them. The last picture is looking down Fish Canyon when I was about halfway down to the canyon trail. The second to last picture is a blow-up of the last picture. Note that, above the conveyor system that you saw in the middle of the last picture, there were large trucks. That puts the scale of what you saw in the last picture into perspective.

The main Fish Canyon Falls has three parts, the lowest of which seems the tallest and most impressive. There's a shot of the full falls, and one of just the lowest falls. At the base of the lowest falls is a pool. Another falls is created where the pool exits. One of the shots shows the lowest of the main falls, the pool and tree, and the next fall, dropping into yet another pool.

The few descriptions I could find of this hike mostly warned people from attempting it. They said the trail was dangerously steep, unmaintained, and overgrown with poison oak. They were partially right.

The trail is crazy-steep. It hot weather, it might be unbearable. In cool winter weather, it was only very tiring. It is so steep that some slipping and sliding is inevitable, even with lug-soled boots. However, there was evidence of recent trail maintenance. Green branches with green leaves were found at several points along the trail, indicating a trimming within the week. Older branches were also piled in several spots.

Cuts for steps were also visible, although they were quickly being worn down.

I did not see any poison oak. Then again, it was winter. (I returned to this hike several months later, and the poison oak was abundant!)

However, even without poison oak, wearing long pants and long sleeves is a reasonable precaution, given the density of plant growth along this trail. Lots of water is a good idea, too. Also, bring food to refuel your body, because the return trip is going to be as hard as the arrival trip.

I was also aided by a soft ground from recent rains. That let my boots sink into the ground to give me traction on the steep climb and descent. In drier weather, not only would the temperature be a killer, but drier earth would be more slippery. It would still not be what I would consider dangerous, but it certainly would be tougher. Take care. A walking stick might help you maintain balance. Pay attention. Otherwise, wait for a day when Vulcan Mining is offering a free shuttle ride to the trailhead.


  1. Nice pix & trip report! Fish Canyon is definitely a challenging hike but it's nice to be able to say you've done it. I am the author of another So Cal hiking blog ( and if you're interested I'd love to exchange links.

    Thanks & keep up the good work.


  2. Sorry, I didn't see this comment until just now. Yeah, I'll see if I can figure out how to insert a link to your website on the front page. I'm sure it can be done, but I haven't tried it, yet.