About Eaton Canyon Falls
Eaton Canyon Falls is a pleasant rare year-round waterfall dropping some 30ft or so with a rock wedged right at its brink.
We can vouch for the year-round characteristic of this waterfall because once we’ve made an October visit following Los Angeles’ worst fire during yet another prolonged period of low-rain Winters and very hot Summers.
So that’s saying something about how special this waterfall is, and in fact, we even included it in our Southern California Top 10 Waterfalls List.
However, being close to Pasadena it is an immensely popular local attraction and thus it also has a history of suffering from urban blight.
Such was the case when Julie and I first visited this waterfall way back in 2001.
There was graffiti on several rocks along the trail to the falls and even one on that rock wedged at the top of the falls.
On a subsequent trip several years later, the caretakers of the area did a great job sandblasting and painting over the graffiti.
Still, I have to believe it’s an ongoing and unpleasant job.
It’s too bad some immature gangsters have to exhibit their machismo tendencies and do their best to ruin things for everyone else.
Sometimes I wonder if they should collect park fees to ensure that there’s funding to maintain the trails while limiting the urban blight problem.
To further illustrate this urban blight battle, on our third trip in October of 2009, we saw some of the graffiti starting showing up again (at least it wasn’t as bad as it was on our first trip though).
The Hike to Eaton Canyon Falls
From the well-signed Eaton Canyon Nature Center parking area, the trail follows an open shrub area briefly crossing the usually dry wash.
On the other side of the wash, the trail then follows the east bank up into the mouth of the gorge for the first 3/4-mile or so.
Eventually, the trail and wash narrows past a bridge, where we followed a trail descending alongside the creek.
There was a separate path leading up to the bridge, which would allow some locals in the know to access the trail from some residences (but that’s kind of cheating and taking away from the experience, we think).
Once within the shady confines of the narrowing canyon walls, the Eaton Canyon Falls Trail pretty much follows the stream.
Throughout the hike, the wash had been mostly dry, but within Eaton Canyon, it seemed like the stream suddenly made an appearance and would persist the rest of the way up to the falls.
Anyways, the trail crosses this stream a handful of times.
Usually, you can get through them without getting your feet wet by a little bit of nifty rock hopping.
In addition to the stream crossings, there may be a few more minor obstacles involving a mini-climb here or there along with unforeseen detours.
Eventually after about a half-mile or so into the canyon, the trail ends right before the Eaton Canyon Falls.
The overall length of the trail is about 1.5 miles each way (or 3 miles round trip; assuming you didn’t take the shortcut).
The falls is usually very popular on the weekends so it’s not often you have this place to yourself.
Still, it’s a great introductory hike to one of Los Angeles County’s more scenic spots, and I’m sure it’ll draw a few pleasantly surprised reactions from those who haven’t seen waterfalls in the local area before.
Additional Waterfalls above Eaton Canyon Falls
Finally, we’ve had website visitors and contributors making us aware that there were more waterfalls further upstream of the main Eaton Canyon Falls.
Unfortunately, the US Forest Service prohibit going up there because of a combination of steep terrain, erosion, and undefined trails.
Almost all of the deaths and rescues that have occurred were as a result of people who have attempted to pursue these upper waterfalls.
Thus, we can’t vouch for going up there since we’ve never tried it, and we’re probably not going to either.
Eaton Canyon Falls is technically in the Angeles National Forest near Altadena in Los Angeles County, California. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service, but the trailhead resides in the Eaton Canyon Nature County Park. For information or inquiries about this area as well as current conditions, visit the Eaton Canyon Natural Area website or the USDA Forest Service website.
So this is how we’re describing the directions.
We’d drive west along the 210 Freeway, and then we looked for the Sierra Madre exit (it would be Altadena Drive exit if you’re headed east).
Once on the exit, we continued driving straight until we were able to turn right onto Altadena Drive.
We then drove north on Altadena Drive about 1.6 miles to the Eaton Canyon County Park, which was on the right.
Note that since Eaton Canyon Falls is a very popular spot, especially on the weekends, they sometimes open up an overflow parking area in an unpaved lot, which has a separate one-way exit.