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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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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.