The Trail Canyon Trail isn’t a product of the Office of Redundancy Department (or the Ministry of Silly Walks, for that matter). Trail Canyon refers to the trail of gold flakes seen swirling down the creek at the bottom of the canyon. At the turn of the 20th century, miners worked the creek, but the trail didn’t lead to any riches.
The real gold of Trail Canyon is the scenery: rugged and steep canyon walls containing a babbling creek and a beautiful waterfall.
We hiked to Lazy Lucas Camp — a single campsite named for Tom Lucas, a grizzly bear hunter and one of the first forest rangers in the San Gabriel Timberland Reserve — now known as the Angeles National Forest.
Getting to the Trailhead
There is a parking area about 0.4 miles off Big Tujunga Canyon Road at 19607 N. Trail Canyon Road. Click the pin on this map to calculate driving directions.
A couple notes about this dirt road. There is a gate that is sometimes closed. It only adds 0.4 miles each way (0.8 total) to hike in, so you can park and hike in if the gate is closed. Do not block the gate, as there are residents in the canyon who need to get in and out.
Also, the road narrows to one lane in a couple of sections. Proceed with caution. Finally, you’ll see a fork in the road at the crest of the first hill. Stay to the right to reach our trailhead.
There are conflicting reports about whether you need to display an Adventure Pass to park at this trailhead. I have an annual pass (highly recommended) and didn’t have to take any chances.
Hiking the Trail Canyon Trail
We parked amid a cluster of cabins dating back to the 1920’s. There is some shade here, and a marker pointing the direction toward the trailhead. There’s an information sign as well as a trail register.
Just beyond the sign, you’ll see a gated dirt road that heads up the canyon. You immediately cross the creek — the first of 24 creek crossings — and follow the dirt road as it clings to the canyon wall.
Soon you pass the last standing cabin, and the trail continues on a now abandoned jeep trail. You’ll pass a sign with an ominous warning: “TRAIL NOT MAINTAINED — HAZARDS MAY EXIST.” You’re on the right path.
0.8 Miles – The trail winds around a ridge and down toward the creek again. Reaching a hairpin turn, the old jeep trail beds downstream toward the ruins of an old cabin. You may see the rusty remains of it’s contents piled for pickup, like some sort of rusty yard sale. But here’s where the trail gets better. Bear right and head down towards the creek.
For the next 1/2 mile, you follow the creek, criss-crossing the water several times, climbing over and ducking under fallen tree trunks. It wasn’t especially difficult, but it was fun. You may have to pause a few times to find your way, but it was one of our favorite sections of the trail.
At 1.2 miles, the trail begins climbing up the west side of the canyon.
This section of the trail is exposed, but soon we were rewarded with sweeping views back down the canyon.
At 1.8 miles, we caught our first glimpse of Trail Canyon Falls below.
At about 2 miles, there is an unofficial spur trail that descends steeply with several treacherous spots. For many people, this is as far as they go. We opted to continue to Lazy Lucas Camp, and would visit the base of the falls on our way back.
The trail again criss-crosses the creek several times above the falls. We followed the trail up the canyon and at the 2.8 mile mark, we reached Lazy Lucas Camp. This is a single campsite with an iron fire ring. Note that the sign at the trailhead warned that this area was open for day use only and no campfires — so while backpacking to this spot may once again be an option in the future, it’s limited to a comfortable place to take a snack break for now.
We rested and munched on trail snacks — then started backtracking down the canyon. At the 4 mile mark, we again reached the spur that leads to the base of the falls. This “trail” requires some scrambling confidence to tackle, but yields a close-up view of a pretty spectacular waterfall.
We followed the trail back to the trailhead, counting the creek crossings on our return. In total there were 24 creek crossings — 12 each way. Take care to look for the pink ribbons tied to tree branches to help you find the trail, and the occasional stone cairn.
I did a short exploratory hike to some of the ruins of the cabins that no longer stood. It’s amazing to think how these were built, and what this canyon must’ve looked like before the fire.
When we got back to our car, there were about ten other cars now parked in the lot. While the trail wasn’t crowded by any means, we did encounter several other groups of hikers. In contrast to the over-crowded Eaton Canyon Falls, this was a welcome change.
The Trail Canyon Falls hike was one of Joan’s favorites. It combines a lot of great features — interesting terrain, a cool creek and beautiful waterfall. This is a trail I’ll happily hike again.
Trail Canyon Trail Map
Trail Canyon Photo Gallery
Click on any photo to view a larger version. You can also leave comments on any photo.
Trail Canyon Tips
- This trail is unmaintained. There is poison oak and some of the dreaded Poodle Dog Bush, so long pants and long sleeves are highly recommended. Several of the hikers in our group hiked beyond to the remains of Big Cienega Camp, but reported that the trail was very difficult to locate and required a great deal of bushwhacking.
- The many creek crossing require you pay close attention for trail markers to stay on the trail. Look for cairns (stacks of stones) or the occasional pink ribbon tied to branches to mark the trail.
- The spur trail down to the base of the falls is treacherous and requires scrambling.
- Joan and I agreed that we were glad we brought our trekking poles on this hike.
More Trail Canyon Resources
- Looking for a challenge? You can extend this hike up to Condor Peak and you’ll log 16 miles and 4,000 feet of elevation gain. Casey over at Modern Hiker has a great write-up, as well as pre-Station Fire photos.
- Dan Simpson shares his perspective on the trail from his June 2012 hike.
- Love waterfalls? Check out these hikes.