Monday, January 24, 2011

Hike 2011.006 -- Eaton Canyon Falls

Hiked Monday, January 24.

Nice, easy hike today. I may try something long tomorrow. Depends on how I feel.

Started from the Eaton Canyon Nature Center, which is located on Altadena Drive, just north of New York Drive. I think there's an Altadena Drive exit off the 210 freeway going either way. From there, head north about 1 3/4 mile, then look for the entry and sign on your right, just after passing New York.

If you're coming from well to the south of the 210 freeway (say, from the 10 freeway), you may find San Gabriel Blvd is the fastest way to get north. After your cross under the 210 freeway, San Gabriel turns into Sierra Madre Blvd. Take that for about 1/2 mile past the 210, then turn left on Orange Grove, then right on Altadena.

If the San Gabriel Blvd offramp is closed, exit before or after, go north, and take Valley Blvd two lights to get to San Gabriel.

This is a short hike that got on my mind because of the recent spate of rescues coming out of this canyon. If you're willing to stay on the canyon floor and just go to the waterfall, you'll probably be fine. Just take some care on the water crossings.

From the large parking lot at the Eaton Canyon Nature Center, proceed in a generally northerly direction, past the yellow gates. There are portapotties at the gate, and regular flush toilets available if the actual nature center is open (currently 9-5, Tuesday - Sunday). There's also a small museum in the nature center. Out on Altadena Blvd, there's a banner announcing docent classes starting in February. I'm thinking I may try to sign up for that.

After 1/8 mile, you trail dips to the right a bit and approaches a wash. 10 months out of the year, the wash will be dry, except immediately after a rainfall. Today, however, the water was running pretty well. I think that's an indication of how saturated the wash bottom has become, because the volume of water coming over Eaton Canyon Falls actually isn't very high compared to what I have seen at peak flow times.

Your trail then parallels the wash, running on the northeast side. The hills are to your right. Approximately 1/2 mile past the crossing, you'll come upon a sign. The "shortcut" to Henninger Flats peels off, heading steeply up a trail, to your right. The waterfall trail continues, mostly level, straight ahead.

As you near a bridge that supports fire trucks and other official traffic heading towards Eaton Canyon, the trail splits, again. A turn to the right would take you up to the same former toll road that the shortcut would have taken you to. From here, however, it would be less steep.

Passing under the bridge takes you towards the waterfall. About 1/2 mile and many stream crossings later, you're at the waterfall.

If the water is running high, the roar can be quite impressive. Eaton Canyon Falls flows into a sort of amphitheater that focuses the sound of the rushing water right back at the viewer.

This trail is extremely well traveled, even on weekdays. A lot of people take their daily walk here, either to the bridge and back or on up to Henninger Flats. Others go to the waterfall. A much smaller proportion go up the former toll road to Mt. Wilson.


  1. Less than three miles but a sweet waterfall. This was a random find for me when I did it and you can stretch it into three miles if you explore the surrounding area. --Nice pictures by the way!

  2. It's actually somewhat longer than 3 miles roundtrip ( gives it at 3.72, as I recall) if you hike it from the nature center.

    I think you hiked it from what I call the midpoint access, off of Altadena. It's about 1/2 mile shorter each way from there. If you access it from Pine Crest, it's even shorter.