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 we’ve made an October visit here 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 reckon it’s an ongoing and unpleasant job, and it’s too bad some immature gangsters have to exhibit their machismo tendencies and do their best to ruin things for everyone else. Our third trip in October of 2009 illustrated this fact when some of the graffiti started showing up again (at least it wasn’t as bad as it was on our first trip though).
From the well-signed Eaton Canyon Nature Center parking area, the trail follows an open shrub area briefly crossing the usually dry wash before following 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 (this bridge allows some locals in the know to reduce the hike by starting closer to the canyon than at the Nature Center, but that’s kind of cheating and taking away from the experience, we think).
At this point, the trail follows the stream (that seemingly suddenly appears) within the mostly shady canyon. 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. But if you’re unsure about your dexterity and balance, then a hiking stick might help you out in those sections.
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.
Eaton Canyon Falls was in the suburb of Altadena, which itself was just north of Pasadena (also further north of downtown Los Angeles). We generally make the approach from the east at the I-605/I-210 interchange near Duarte and Monrovia. So this is how we’re describing the directions.
Driving west along the 210 Freeway, 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.