Friday, April 6, 2012

HIke 2012.020 -- Rubio Canyon

Hiked Sunday, April 1.

With the brief but significant downpour over Saturday night, I thought a waterfall hike on Sunday might work out well. Thought about Bailey Canyon, but settled on Rubio Canyon, instead.

Managed to find the trail head without making any wrong turns. Took Altadena Drive (which intersects the Foothill Freeway (I-210) north, past Eaton Canyon. Followed it as it arced to the west, to Tanoble Drive, then made a right. Made a left at Loma Alta. Most of the time I have a lot more trouble finding this stupid road.

Just past the Camp Huntington Drive access, I parked (on Rubio Crest Drive). Walked back east the 100 yards or so to Camp Huntington Drive and headed into the canyon. This access (rather than the one I used to always take, where Rubio Crest Drive turns into Pleasant Ridge Drive) adds about 1/2 mile round trip to the hike up the the canyon, as well as what I would guess to be about 150 vertical feet of altitude gain.

Shortly after passing a water tank and a water company facility, the trail drops to the wash level. One trail heads up the east side of the canyon, to some newly-constructed trails. Another crosses the wash, then heads steeply up a narrow and winding trail. It meets the previously-mentioned trail from Rubio Crest and Pleasant Ridge, maybe 1/5 of a mile after that trail started.

At this junction, one can see another new trail switchback quickly up the canyon wall facing you. If I was feeling more energetic at the end of my hike, I might have explored that way. But, as is usually the case, once I headed into what I consider to be upper Rubio Canyon, I was pretty beat by the time I got back. Missing the turn and heading unnecessarily far up a ridge line didn't help.

The main thing to remember if you're looking for the Rubio Canyon waterfalls is to head down right after you pass the pavilion foundation. The more obvious trail heads up from there towards Echo Mountain. It's much tougher than the Lake Avenue (Sam Merrill) trail, but also lightly traveled, and gives you some nice views back over Rubio Canyon. Along the way, there's also a short but bush-wacky detour can give you a nice view over to Leontine Falls.

Instead, I dropped down to the canyon level. Once there, I tend to think the easiest route is to more or less follow the water up. It's a short but somewhat hard-earned 1/2 mile (probably a short 1/2 mile) from the pavilion foundation to Ribbon Rock and Moss Grotto Falls.

When I got there, a couple was walking on up to the top of Ribbon Rock falls. I either never knew, or knew but then forgot, that it's a really pretty straightforward walk up the left side of the Ribbon Rock to get to the top of that one, and to the base of Moss Grotto.

As has been my habit most time I come this way, I continued rather quickly up the canyon to the left of the waterfalls. After heading up a few hundred yards and rounding a large tree, I made the left turn, then passed above some fountain grass on the trail to the overlook for Thalehaha Falls.

Thalehaha can look Yosemite-esque when the water is flowing strong (as it was last year, and as it is pictured at the top of this post). However, this year, the waterflow (even with the brief but heavy downpour the night before this hike, was still running slow. I got to the overlook just a few minutes too late to watch a couple of rock climbers come down over Thalehaha. They still provided some sense of scale to this massive fall, however.

I snapped a number of pictures of them as they descended Roaring Rift Falls.

After my break, I headed east, up towards the trail that would take me towards the base of Leontine Falls. Unfortunately, I missed my turn, and continued several hundred feet higher on the ridge than I needed to. Finally found my way back, and descended the rope-assisted way to near the base. There's a small waterfall in this alcove. There used to be a rope to assist the climb up the next ridge, but that one was gone.

Nonetheless, I made it up there, then inched upstream. I don't know if the past year's rains have removed some debris, or I just got more chicken, but I decided against heading to the base of Thalehaha. I guess partly it was because the water was lower than my last trip, so I didn't feel I'd get any superior pictures. So, even though it's my impression (definitely NOT the opinion of an expert, mind you), that I could have made it there and back with minimal risk of a fall, and with likely any fall resulting in no more than a 5-foot slide into a pool of water, I decided not to risk it.

I then headed downstream a bit, to see about exploring that way. Again, I faced a situation with a small drop. I'm 100% certain I could have gotten down with no problem. And I was 99.876% sure I could get back up. There was even a long, metal, bent pole wedge near my descent point, that I was pretty sure would provide the assistance I would need to give myself the six inches or so of additional height I would need to get my foot into a foothold to get back out.

But I wasn't 100% sure. And if I could not get back up the way I came, I knew I'd be stuck, because Leontine Falls would not be far below me, and there was obviously no way I was going to be able to descend THAT. I may try coming back again, with some rope, then see if there isn't a tree I can use to tie that off to and explore this little bit of the canyon below.

So I then returned the way I came, up the rope-assisted climb out, to the Leontine Falls overlook, along the canyon edge, to the Thalehaha Falls overlook, then across and down, past Ribbon Rock and Moss Grotto, down Rubio Canyon, back up away from the water at the pavilion, then down the trail, then down back to wash level, then out to Loma Alta Drive, then on the road across the wash and to my car. I'm calling it four miles, though the distance is probably less, but with a steepness and degree of difficulty that burns a whole lot more calories than that.


  1. Looks like a fantastic hike

  2. Wow, you managed to comment before I even finished moving the pictures around!

    Yeah, it's a fun hike. Tough in spots, and sometimes there are issues with ticks, but last weekend's hike went well.

  3. The trail up from the creek is the Camp Huntington Trail (circa 1930s). The switchback trail starting just south of the junction of the Camp Huntington and the main Rubio trail (formally called the Right-of-Way Trail) is the rationalized base of the Old Echo Mountain Trail (1892) the original trail to Echo Mountain. Originally the Old Echo Mountain came up from the draw to the west; sine the 1960s that has been closed private property. After the closure, a use trail developed roughly where the switchbacks are now to access the ridgeline and pick up the trail.

    Since this portion of the Old Echo is within AFC’s boundaries my crew and I have repaired the trail up to the point on the ridge where the trail enters the ANF. The trail is clear to the Sam Merrill and is accessed at the major switchback below the SCE towers. As with many 19th century trail, the grade is steep, ~500’ gain over about ½ mile.

    The trail originally went all the way to Echo Mountain; the trail that leads to Echo from the Incline Trail is the upper portion of it. The middle of the trail collapsed in the 30’s and the Sam Merrill ultimately replaced it as the primary Echo Mountain route.

    Paul Ayers

    1. Thanks for the info, Paul! I'll have to try this trail the next time I'm in the area.

  4. What trails would you say have lots of spots with boulder climbing like blackstar?