Bailey Canyon Falls

Sierra Madre / Arcadia, California, USA

About Bailey Canyon Falls


Hiking Distance: 1.25 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 1 hour

Date first visited: 2016-02-06
Date last visited: 2022-01-01

Waterfall Latitude: 34.1784
Waterfall Longitude: -118.06216

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Bailey Canyon Falls was one of the locally obscure waterfalling excursions that we’ve done in the foothill city of Sierra Madre.

We suspect that a large reason for this apparent obscurity was that it didn’t appear in any of our local guidebooks.

Bailey_Canyon_Falls_045_01212017 - A dry Bailey Canyon Falls
A dry Bailey Canyon Falls

It also appeared that most visitors to the Bailey Canyon Park were more interested in going to Jones Peak as opposed to this 30ft waterfall within the namesake Bailey Canyon.

Perhaps a much greater reason for the waterfall’s obscurity was due to its very short season, which the photo above kind of hints at.

In fact, the last photograph that we’ve seen in the literature showing the falls having any appreciable waterflow was taken in the year 2011, which was a very wet year as far as Southern California was concerned.

That said, in our experiences, timing this waterfall to see such good flow was very difficult (more like next-to-impossible) for reasons we’ll get into below.

Timing Bailey Canyon Falls

Bailey_Canyon_068_02062016 - Tahia's first time at Bailey Canyon Falls in February 2016
Tahia’s first time at Bailey Canyon Falls in February 2016

To illustrate the types of conditions to even see this waterfall flow, we made three visits.

The first visit happened on a warm Saturday afternoon in early February 2016 less than a week removed from the last fairly significant storm, which replenished a little bit of snow in both the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains.

The second visit happened less than 24 hours after some heavy downpours bombarded much of the Southland in January 2016.

Yet even after the second visit, the falls was nothing more than a trickle.

Then, on a third visit, we came back on New Year’s Day barely two days removed from a heavy downpour that capped off a week or two of the heaviest rains in Southern California we’ve seen in a while.

Bailey_Canyon_Falls_061_01012022 - Bailey Canyon Falls as seen on our third visit on New Year's Day in January 2022. Notice the fairly sizable landslide burying the front of the waterfall that I didn't recall was there before
Bailey Canyon Falls as seen on our third visit on New Year’s Day in January 2022. Notice the fairly sizable landslide burying the front of the waterfall that I didn’t recall was there before

And yet on that third visit, the falls was only trickling, which pretty much caused us to throw in the towel in terms of trying to see this waterfall flow.

I guess you can say three strikes was it for Bailey Canyon Falls, and we’re out!

So given the lack of water in the entire lower parts of the Bailey Canyon drainage, we believe that there may be some degree of water siphoning or diversion.

This is likely in order to support the sprawling foothill communities along the base of the mountains at Sierra Madre and the surrounding suburbs.

Bailey_Canyon_Falls_013_01212017 - Looking towards some kind of water catchment in the community of Sierra Madre seen from our hike to Bailey Canyon Falls
Looking towards some kind of water catchment in the community of Sierra Madre seen from our hike to Bailey Canyon Falls

It’s either that or the Bailey Canyon watershed must be very small compared to other longer lasting neighboring waterfalls like Monrovia Canyon Falls, Sturtevant Falls, and Eaton Canyon Falls among others.

And while it may be tempting to time a visit to this falls right when there’s a storm (just to see this waterfall flow), as you’ll see in the trail description below, it may not be a very wise thing to do.

After all, it’s full of flash flood hazards and overgrowth along with the change of rock slides into the canyon creating dangerous conditions, especially when exacerbated by heavy rains.

Even on our third visit, we noticed new evidence of landslides that changed the appearance of Bailey Canyon so it’s definitely not wise to be here when loose soil higher up the canyon could bury anyone within the canyon.

Hiking to Bailey Canyon Falls

Bailey_Canyon_015_02062016 - Julie and Tahia walking through a picnic area at the Bailey Canyon Wilderness Park
Julie and Tahia walking through a picnic area at the Bailey Canyon Wilderness Park

The excursion began at the Bailey Canyon Park, which had a well-established picnic area, parking lot, and restroom.

It sat right at the end of a residential neighborhood in the town of Sierra Madre (see directions below).

From there, we followed a pretty obvious trail that began from the western side of the parking lot (sandwiched between the restrooms and the Henderson picnic area).

We then meandered through even more fairly extensive picnic grounds before encountering a gate that took us onto a paved road, which didn’t seem to accept any public vehicular traffic.

Bailey_Canyon_023_02062016 - Julie and Tahia leaving the pavement adjacent to the Bailey Canyon debris basin
Julie and Tahia leaving the pavement adjacent to the Bailey Canyon debris basin

Next, we walked uphill along this road, which peaked adjacent to the Bailey Canyon debris basin, which was dry every time we’ve done this hike.

The road then briefly descended alongside this basin before the pavement gave way to a conventional dirt trail immediately after a sign warning of the flash flood hazard in the area.

We then kept left on the trail bypassing (not going on) a bridge over the dry creek to our right.

Afterwards, we walked for a few more minutes before the trail continued its ascent at a signposted trail junction.

Bailey_Canyon_040_02062016 - Tahia leaving the Jones Peak Trail and going into the Bailey Canyon Trail ultimately ending at the Bailey Canyon Falls
Tahia leaving the Jones Peak Trail and going into the Bailey Canyon Trail ultimately ending at the Bailey Canyon Falls

The sign indicated that the waterfall was another 1/4-mile to the left alongside the creekbed.

It was at this point that we deviated from the main trail (which headed towards Jones Peak and joined with other trails further up the mountains) to continue to the Bailey Canyon Falls.

It didn’t take long before the trail became somewhat of a stream scramble as we found ourselves climbing over a few smooth rocks.

Meanwhile, we tried to minimize skin exposure to some of the overgrowth (which happens when the winter season ends and things start warming up) within the creek itself (some of which looked like poison oak).

Bailey_Canyon_Falls_036_01212017 - Julie and Tahia going around one of the unexpected landslide or fallen-tree obstacles within Bailey Canyon. Things definitely change within the canyon, which is why it's not to good idea to be in here during heavy rains
Julie and Tahia going around one of the unexpected landslide or fallen-tree obstacles within Bailey Canyon. Things definitely change within the canyon, which is why it’s not to good idea to be in here during heavy rains

With the canyon walls narrowed in, I could easily see why it wouldn’t be wise to be here during a storm as the risk of the flash flood would far outweigh the chance at timing the visit to see Bailey Canyon Falls flowing.

That said, we were still able to follow a fairly obvious trail within this creek.

Even our daughter didn’t seem to have too much trouble with this scramble despite the somewhat rough scrambling that had to be done whenever there was a fallen tree or rockslide obstacle.

Generally, these obstacles weren’t too much of an issue for all three of our visits, but there always seemed to be a different one, which was indicative of how often Mother Nature changes things around with each passing storm.

Bailey_Canyon_078_02062016 - Our daughter keeping her arms up while walking through an area that seemed to be overgrown with poison oak
Our daughter keeping her arms up while walking through an area that seemed to be overgrown with poison oak

Of course, had the creek contained flowing water, then this hike might not have been as easy as it was during our visits when the creek had little to no water.

Eventually, we’d reach the trail’s dead-end, which was right at a rock wall that was probably 20-30ft tall.

On all of our visits, all that was left on that wall was some wet streak that was all the water we’d be seeing on our visits.

This was our turnaround point, and overall, we spent about an hour away from the car (which was pretty consistent across all of our visits).

Bailey_Canyon_Falls_050_01212017 - Tahia standing next to a trickling Bailey Canyon Falls on her second visit a year after her first visit
Tahia standing next to a trickling Bailey Canyon Falls on her second visit a year after her first visit

According to our GPS logs, this hike was on the order of about 1.25 miles round trip.

Authorities

Bailey Canyon Falls resides in the Bailey Canyon Wilderness Park in Sierra Madre in Los Angeles County, California. It is administered by the City of Sierra Madre. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Bailey_Canyon_Falls_001_01012022 - Getting started on our short hike to Bailey Canyon Falls on New Year's Day 2022
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_003_01012022 - Looking towards some greenspace at the Bailey Canyon Park on New Year's Day 2022
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_006_01012022 - Tahia going past this turnstile to get onto the paved part of the walk leading into Bailey Canyon on New Year's Day 2022
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_008_01012022 - The familiar paved ascent leading up to Bailey Canyon as seen on New Year's Day 2022
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_010_01012022 - Tahia and Julie approaching the end of the paved part at the mouth of Bailey Canyon as seen on New Year's Day 2022
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_013_01012022 - Looking towards the dry catchment or debris basis at the mouth of Bailey Canyon, which was already a bad sign about the state of the waterfall
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_015_01012022 - Julie and Tahia back within the naturesque part of the Bailey Canyon hike
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_017_01012022 - Julie and Tahia skirting by some cacti that seemed to have been planted alongside the Bailey Canyon Trail
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_018_01012022 - Julie and Tahia continuing to go deeper into Bailey Canyon on New Year's Day 2022
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_022_01012022 - Tahia and Julie descending into Bailey Canyon while forsaking the trail climbing to the right leading up to Jones Peak
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_024_01012022 - Tahia interacting with a local dog  started on our short hike to Bailey Canyon Falls on New Year's Day 2022
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_025_01012022 - Julie and Tahia going up some rocky section of Bailey Canyon, which was potentially slippery. However, there wasn't any water within the canyon to this point during our visit on New Year's Day 2022
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_026_01012022 - Julie and Tahia scaling another slippery rocky obstacle en route to Bailey Canyon Falls on New Year's Day 2022
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_029_01012022 - Julie and Tahia about to round this bend where it looked like there was a landslide that baried part of this open section of Bailey Canyon as seen on New Year's Day 2022
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_032_01012022 - Julie and Tahia continuing along the narrowing Bailey Canyon in pursuit of Bailey Canyon Falls on New Year's Day 2022
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_033_01012022 - Tahia and Julie going past this puddle of water, which was one of the few spots where we actually saw surface water in Bailey Canyon on New Year's Day 2022
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_036_01012022 - Tahia using this fallen tree obstacle as a limbo stick during our visit on New Year's Day 2022
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_037_01012022 - Tahia and Julie about to round the final bend before Bailey Canyon Falls on New Year's Day 2022
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_044_01012022 - This disappointing flow of Bailey Canyon Falls even less than two days removed from pretty heavy rains on our visit during New Year's Day 2022
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_057_01012022 - There's always some kind of surprise or something different on this hike to Bailey Canyon Falls, and in this case, someone set up some kind of makeshift teepee-looking thing in front of the dead-end as seen on New Year's Day 2022
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_059_01012022 - Contextual look at the disappointingly trickling Bailey Canyon Falls fronted by a landslide as seen on New Year's Day 2022
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_070_01012022 - Tahia and Julie heading back out of Bailiey Canyon after our disappointing start to New Year's Day 2022
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_073_01012022 - Back at the bridge that we've never taken at the mouth of Bailey Canyon
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_076_01012022 - Back on the paved part of the Bailey Canyon Falls hike on New Year's Day 2022
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_077_01012022 - Deja vu once again as Tahia made her way down this sloped pavement on the return to Bailey Canyon Park during New Year's Day 2022
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_082_01012022 - Tahia running towards the turnstile leading back into Bailey Canyon Park on New Year's Day 2022
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_083_01012022 - Making it back to the restroom and parking lot for Bailey Canyon Park to end this brief and disappointing visit on New Year's Day 2022
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_003_01212017 - Back at the Bailey Canyon Park in February 2017. This photo and the next several photos were taken on this visit
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_005_01212017 - Tahia checking out a sign at the parking lot for the Bailey Canyon Park
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_016_01212017 - Julie and Tahia hiking back alongside the Bailey Canyon debris basin again during our February 2017 hike
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_020_01212017 - Even with the dark clouds and evidence of recent past storms, we weren't sure if Bailey Canyon Falls would still be flowing during our visit in February 2017
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_026_01212017 - On our second visit, we were back doing the scramble in the last quarter-mile to the Bailey Canyon Falls. This time, the creek had a little water, but we weren't sure if that would result in a performing waterfall
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_033_01212017 - This landslide obstacle was a little tricky to cross until we backtracked and found a much easier trail to get around it en route to the Bailey Canyon Falls
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_040_01212017 - Disappointed once again at the Bailey Canyon Falls in February 2017
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_061_01212017 - Julie wondering what kind of purplish rock that was that we had just passed by in Bailey Canyon
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_064_01212017 - Tahia leading the pack as we were scrambling through Bailey Canyon after our disappointing visit in February 2017
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_070_01212017 - Going back around the tricky landslide obstacle on the return hike from Bailey Canyon Falls during our February 2017 visit
Bailey_Canyon_Falls_088_01212017 - Tahia heading downhill on the paved road while enjoying the views towards Sierra Madre and the Los Angeles basin on a cool, crisp day. Funny how this seemed like deja vu from the first time we did this hike a year earlier
Bailey_Canyon_003_02062016 - The gated entrance to Bailey Canyon Park at the north end of Grove Street as soon in February 2016, which was the first time we've been here.  This photo and the rest of the photos in this gallery were taken on this day
Bailey_Canyon_001_02062016 - The parking lot for Bailey Canyon Park as seen in February 2016
Bailey_Canyon_012_02062016 - The start of the trail to Bailey Canyon Falls on the west end of the parking lot
Bailey_Canyon_017_02062016 - Tahia and Julie now walking towards a gate as we were about to leave the picnic grounds of Bailey Canyon Park
Bailey_Canyon_020_02062016 - Now on a paved road heading closer to Bailey Canyon
Bailey_Canyon_026_02062016 - Just past this flash flood sign was where the trail went from pavement to dirt, but that sign also underscored the inherent danger of Bailey Canyon under wet conditions
Bailey_Canyon_101_02062016 - Looking back at the Bailey Canyon debris basin, which as you can see here was bone dry on our first visit in January 2016
Bailey_Canyon_028_02062016 - We kept left at this trail junction next to this bridge over the dry Bailey Creek. Note the number of people on this trail, which indicated to us how popular it can be
Bailey_Canyon_032_02062016 - Tahia walking by a grove of cacti, which hinted at how arid the Bailey Canyon area can be
Bailey_Canyon_035_02062016 - Julie and Tahia now hiking on the main trail where Bailey Canyon Falls is shared with the trail to Jones Peak
Bailey_Canyon_042_02062016 - Julie and Tahia hiking within Bailey Canyon, which was noticeably narrower and more overgrown
Bailey_Canyon_044_02062016 - Parts of the last quarter-mile on the trail to Bailey Canyon Falls involved hiking directly in the creek. This was not a problem when the creek was dry as shown here, but it could make things trickier if there actually was water in the creek
Bailey_Canyon_050_02062016 - Julie and Tahia continuing on the narrow and more overgrown scramble up to Bailey Canyon Falls
Bailey_Canyon_056_02062016 - Julie and Tahia getting through perhaps the narrowest part of the stream scramble to Bailey Canyon Falls
Bailey_Canyon_057_02062016 - Julie and Tahia getting through an overgrown part of the stream scramble to Bailey Canyon Falls, where we had to be wary of poison oak exposure
Bailey_Canyon_069_02062016 - Graffiti on a rock just downstream of Bailey Canyon Falls
Bailey_Canyon_070_02062016 - Finally at Bailey Canyon Falls, but unfortunately all we had to show for our efforts of our first visit in January 2016 was a few wet streaks on this wall
Bailey_Canyon_084_02062016 - Julie and Tahia making their way back out of Bailey Canyon after our disappointing first visit in January 2016
Bailey_Canyon_096_02062016 - Julie and Tahia going past that footbridge that we had skipped on the way in
Bailey_Canyon_103_02062016 - Tahia running downhill on the pavement with the rest of the Los Angeles basin in the background


To reach Bailey Canyon Falls from the 210 Freeway westbound in Arcadia (about 18 miles or over 30 minutes drive northeast of downtown Los Angeles), we took the Baldwin Ave exit.

Then, we kept going straight (north) on Baldwin Ave for about 1.2 miles (passing through a fairly charming downtown part of Sierra Madre).

Drive_to_Bailey_Canyon_022_iPhone_01012022 - If taking the Baldwin Ave approach to Bailey Canyon Park, you might go under this thick row of trees as you enter the city limits of Sierra Madre
If taking the Baldwin Ave approach to Bailey Canyon Park, you might go under this thick row of trees as you enter the city limits of Sierra Madre

Next, we turned left onto Grandview Ave at a four-way stop.

We then drove for about about a half-mile on Grandview Ave (passing through two four-way stop intersections) while navigating through a residential area before turning right onto Grove St.

This small street was one block just west of the four-way stop at Grandview and Lima.

After about a quarter-mile on Grove St, we got past the houses and into the gated parking lot for the Bailey Canyon Park.

Bailey_Canyon_Falls_001_01212017 - The parking lot for the Bailey Canyon Wilderness Park
The parking lot for the Bailey Canyon Wilderness Park

Note that had we gone east on the I-210 from say Pasadena, we’d exit at Michillinda Ave, then head north on Michillinda Ave for roughly 1.2 miles to Grandview Ave.

Then, we’d turn right onto Grandview Ave and follow it for a few blocks before turning left onto Grove St.

If we reached the four-way stop sign at Lima St, then we went too far.

The Bailey Canyon Park gates are said to be open from sunrise to sunset.

Bailey_Canyon_004_02062016 - Sign at the entrance to the Bailey Canyon Park
Sign at the entrance to the Bailey Canyon Park

There was no fee required to park during our visits.

For geographical context, Sierra Madre was about 7 miles (less than 30 minutes drive) east of Pasadena, 18 miles (roughly 30 minutes drive) northeast of Downtown Los Angeles, about 51 miles (about an hour drive) north of Irvine, about 101 miles (under 2 hours drive) west of Palm Springs, and about 104 miles (about 2 hours drive) east of Santa Barbara.

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At the trickling Bailey Canyon Falls despite being here two days after saturation rains on our 3rd try


Checking out the trickling waterfall despite the downpours yesterday along with the high rainfall from this Winter season so far


Just examining the dry Bailey Canyon Falls and the surrounding little grotto

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Tagged with: sierra madre, arcadia, los angeles, southern california, california, waterfall, bailey canyon, jones peak



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Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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