A forty-foot cascade of water greets hikers at the end of a trail that winds through Eaton Canyon Natural Area Park and the Angeles National Forest. It’s beautiful, even at this dry point in the year, but be warned: it isn’t all for the novice hiker, and you shouldn’t go alone.
The trail to the waterfall begins in the Eaton Canyon Natural Area Park. It’s lovely, well-maintained and perfect for picnics. The 190-acre nature preserve sits at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, and features a nature center providing everything from twilight programs to information on hiking and docent guided tours. Parking and admittance is free, and they have gone out of their way to make the area family friendly (the family dog is also welcome, as long as it is kept on a leash).
If you are hiking to the waterfall, the hike starts here, and the main trail is mostly a winding, flat mile. This portion of the hike is not particularly physically challenging, though bring plenty of water and keep in mind that the heat at this time of year is no small obstacle. At just under the mile mark, signage indicates that you are leaving the Eaton Canyon Natural Area and are entering the Angeles National Forest. There is no developed or maintained trail after this point.
The last of the signs you’ll see are near the bridge, and they indicate that you have approximately a ½ mile to the waterfall. This can be somewhat misleading as your first time to the waterfall may be marked with missteps, and you’ll need to retrace to find an actual pathway. There are portions that have been broken in by the hikers before you. However, as the creek bed dries (as it is now), it gets increasingly difficult to determine which rocks are path and which rocks are just temporarily exposed. If you’ve gone in alone, this stretch can be a bit daunting. Every year, they have to rescue people who have fallen trying to get over the rocky formations on the way to the waterfall. Cell phone reception is poor during certain stretches, so be careful.
On a weekday, the area is not crowded. This is a blessing when you reach the waterfall (as the weekend can be very crowded), but less so if you are trying to figure out how to get there. Luckily, even when it is relatively empty, you will occasionally come across friendly hikers who can at least indicate if you are headed in the right direction.
The main waterfall itself is lovely. The water falls into a wide pool which during high water times can be waist deep. It is currently very shallow (barely reaching a dog’s belly), though the falls is still flowing. The water is very cool, which is exactly what you want on a hot day (even if you are just sticking your feet into it). Swimming is common when the water is deeper.
This is not an easy trek, but there are ways to make it somewhat easier. First, if you can go with someone, do it. If you go in on a weekday and fall while climbing over the rocks, there is no easy way to get help. Bring shoes that can get wet because as the creek beds rise, you’ll still need to cross from bank to bank to get to the waterfall (take care on the wet rocks because they can be very slippery). Bring drinking water. It seems like a short, easy stroll with some rock climbing at the end—it’s actually very hot, and you’ll want to hydrate.
If you are up for this adventure, the trailhead starts from the parking area of the Eaton Canyon Natural Area Park at 1750 North Altadena Drive, Pasadena, CA 91107. Enjoy!