Monday, February 15, 2010

Hikes 18 and 19: Rubio Canyon Falls, Including Thalehaha Falls

I think this is the prettiest waterfalls I've seen in the Angeles National Forest.

Thalehaha Falls is up Rubio Canyon. The trailhead is hidden away between a couple of houses at the corner of Pleasant Ridge Drive and Rubio Vista Road, a bit east of Lake and north of Altadena. It's the last of the "easily" accessible falls in Rubio Canyon. On the way here, you'll also pass Moss Grotto and Ribbon Rock Falls.

Thalehaha dwarves them all. It's an 80 foot drop that's best viewed around noon, local time. That's because the falls slice through a narrow gap in the wall. Earlier or later and the waterfall is in shade.

From the trailhead, the trail is initially well-defined. After about .5 mile, you'll pass the foundation of an old bridge or pavilion. The main trail then angles sharply to the left, up the incline and on to Echo Mountain. That trail is extremely steep. In places, there are ropes tied to trees to help you ascend.

To see the waterfalls, however, go the other way. A less-clearly defined trail goes down to the river. Follow it along the streambed, crossing the water several times. In 1/4 of a mile, you'll be at the base of Moss Grotto and Ribbon Rock Falls.

Most hikers will stop here. However, you may notice a trail that heads up the canyon, to your right. It's also relatively well defined, but very steep. Head up that way. A faint trail turns left almost immediately after you started your ascent. That leads you to the top of Moss Grotto and to Grand Chasm Falls.

I don't recommend this diversion because it's kind of steep and you'll be pushing down a lot of rocks. Also, the payoff is relatively modest.

Instead, continue up the canyon. When that trail appears to fade out below a large rock (150 yards or so), you may see another trail heading off to your LEFT (I had "right" on an earlier version of this post--I get turned around a lot!). It soon runs through a whole lot of deer grass. Follow that one. It's also steep, but not dangerously so. In another 75 yards or so, you'll come to a large rock outcropping with plenty of room to sit. That's the overlook for Thalehaha Falls. The falls will be in front of you, to the north. If it's clear, downtown will be visible behind you, to the south. Enjoy the view!

If you continue to the east of the ridge, a difficult trail will take you to an overview of Leontine Falls. It then heads down into the canyon, then back up another canyon. You'll discover that Rubio Canyon stream has two forks. That's why Leontine Falls (which is one fork) has so much less water coming down it in comparison to Thalehaha Falls, which is after the two forks have merged.

I do not recommend continue past the Thalehaha Falls overlook because, again, the trail is extremely steep and the payoff is relatively small. You'll be pushing down a LOT of rocks, and you'll have to rely on ropes tied to trees left by people you don't know some unknowable period of time ago and of unknown strength and security.


  1. Nice pictures & info, I'll have to check this one out.

  2. Yes, your experience at Rubio was mush more worth while than mine! What are you going to do. I went with my family during the dry season, forget about it! I need to get out with my dudes from work and conquer some real terrain. Happy Holidays :)

  3. FYI: A more recent visit to this area was written up here. A walk further up stream, to the next set of falls, is here.