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Eaton Canyon Falls

Hiking to Eaton Canyon Falls

Hiking to Eaton Canyon Falls

Eaton Canyon Falls are often flowing in the spring, especially after Los Angeles has had a few good rainstorms. This hike takes you to a genuine waterfall right in Los Angeles and one of the easier ones to get to — which is both good and bad. I’ll get to that later.

Trail Details
Distance: 4.0 miles
Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation gain: 476 ft
Dogs: Yes
When to go: Year-round
First the specifics. Eaton Canyon Falls are located in Altadena in the front range of the San Gabriel Mountains. There are several access points, but the preferred start and the one used for this guide is at the Nature Center in the Eaton Canyon Natural Area Park (map). There is a lot of free parking here, but the waterfall is so popular that the parking lot fills up on the weekends. Be prepared to add walk a bit just to get to the Nature Center.

The original nature center was destroyed in a wildfire in 1993, then rebuilt and reopened in 1998. In the center you’ll find a small gift shop, maps, information and full restrooms. From the center, head north toward the mountain.

The Eaton Canyon Trail begins

The first 1.4 miles is an easy, wide trail that follows the Eaton Canyon wash. On weekends there are runners, dog-walkers and families with strollers. It feels more like a pleasant suburban stroll than a hike.

In the shade of Eaton Canyon

At 1.4 miles you’ll pass under a bridge for the Mt. Wilson Toll Road. This road isn’t normally open to public traffic, but hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers frequently take the route to the higher points in the range.

A serene scene in Eaton Canyon

Here the scenery takes a turn for the better. The canyon narrows, and you hear the sound of the babbling creek spilling over rocks. The trail crosses the creek many times, with fairly easy rock-hopping. As you progress deeper into the canyon, you can see the remains of an old flood control system and enjoy the cool shade of the alder trees.

Crossing the creek in Eaton Canyon

After about 0.5 miles, you’ll hear the sound of the falls. And (unless you’re lucky) you’ll see people. Lots and lots of people.

Th mob at Eaton Canyon Waterfall

It’s a beautiful canyon with great waterfall that’s easy to get to. Waterfall = wilderness tourist magnet. 

Most of the people I saw at the falls were not hikers. They were tourists curious about a “wilderness experience” right in Los Angeles. And so Eaton Canyon Falls gets really busy. Along with the crowds come other problems, like trail erosion, trash, occasional graffiti and even stupidity.

Every year, people who don’t really know what they are doing are tempted to try and reach the upper falls, resulting in several deaths every year and numerous rescues. In 2012 alone there were 92 rescues — 30 by aircraft — and four fatalities.

So even though you may have the skills to safely ascend the treacherous, unmaintained trail to the upper falls, consider the example you set for the inexperienced young people who will follow your footsteps — and don’t do it. There are other places where you can push limits and take risks, but this shouldn’t be one of them.

Parting Shot

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a video worth? You’ve read what I say about the crowds. This super-short video drives it home

Eaton Canyon Waterfall Trail Map

Download file: Eaton-Canyon-Waterfall.gpx

Photo Gallery

Click on any photo to view a larger version. You can also leave comments on any photo.

Eaton Canyon Tips

  • Beat the crowds by going on a weekday or getting their early. This place turns into a zoo on the weekends.
  • Consider other visiting a different waterfall. Eaton Canyon Falls are beautiful, but there are other waterfalls that aren’t quite as crowded. Generally speaking, the harder is it to get to, the less crowded it will be.

More Eaton Canyon Resources

Eaton Canyon Weather Forecast

[forecast width=”100%” location=”91001″]

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