Josephine Creek Falls

Angeles National Forest / Tujunga / Sunland, California, USA

About Josephine Creek Falls


Hiking Distance: about 2 miles round trip (lots of cliff exposure)
Suggested Time: allow 2 hours

Date first visited: 2022-01-01
Date last visited: 2022-01-01

Waterfall Latitude: 34.29872
Waterfall Longitude: -118.1733

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Josephine Creek Falls (or just Josephine Falls) was an impressively tall 180ft waterfall that was elusive because it was seasonal and it didn’t really show up on any of my surveyed maps.

Among the topo maps that I’ve consulted with were Gaia GPS with its premium layers or Garmin (though they did identify Josephine Creek).

Josephine_Creek_Falls_089_01012022 - Josephine Creek Falls
Josephine Creek Falls

Even someone misplaced a waypoint for this falls on Google Maps (reinforcing my thinking that you can’t really trust crowdsourced information) to further add confusion concerning its whereabouts.

Moreover, AllTrails didn’t even have an entry for this waterfall (though I’m sure this will change as more people know about it given the inevitability of free information).

In any case, I credit the Angeles Adventures blog for making me aware of this waterfall (as well as other obscure waterfalls in the Angeles National Forest).

That said, I also had to be wary that most of their hikes tend to involve some degree of bushwhacking and off-trail experience.

Josephine_Creek_Falls_105_01012022 - Angled look up at the plunge of Josephine Creek Falls from near its base
Angled look up at the plunge of Josephine Creek Falls from near its base

Nevertheless, it was with these expectations that I prepared myself for this hike, but it turned out that the hike itself wasn’t as bad as I anticipated provided some precautions were taken, which I’ll get into.

Timing Josephine Creek Falls

Josephine Creek drains the northwest face of Josephine Peak so it doesn’t really have much of a catchment unless there happens to be snow on the mountain.

Therefore, I expect that Josephine Creek Falls doesn’t have much longevity, and I’d argue that it probably doesn’t flow for most of the year, especially if we’ve had a drought year.

For a point of reference, on my first visit to this waterfall, I timed it for less than 2 days after the last of a series of heavy rain storms that really hit Southern California through much of December 2021.

Josephine_Creek_Falls_050_01012022 - Josephine Creek Falls looking wispy when viewed from the upper parts of the Big Tujunga Canyon Trail
Josephine Creek Falls looking wispy when viewed from the upper parts of the Big Tujunga Canyon Trail

The fairly light flow you see in the photos on this page were the result of that visit, but it’s hard for me to tell if that’s the norm or if it’s on the low side because of the lack of rain between mid-2020 until late 2021.

Summary of the Josephine Creek Falls Hike

Even though the hike to the bottom of Josephine Creek Falls is a modest 1.8- to 2 miles round-trip, I wouldn’t say it’s a cake walk because it’s mostly cliff-hugging with quite a few narrow and eroded sections.

Furthermore, it’s an upside down hike so all that elevation loss (roughly 450ft) will have to be regained on the return.

As far as the trail conditions, I do wonder how much longer this trail will be usable going forward.

Josephine_Creek_Falls_075_01012022 - The hike to Josephine Creek Falls involves a lot of narrow cliff-hugging sections with several eroded spots where you have to be real careful not to slip and fall into the ravine!
The hike to Josephine Creek Falls involves a lot of narrow cliff-hugging sections with several eroded spots where you have to be real careful not to slip and fall into the ravine!

After all, I’d imagine increased use (as more people find out about this place) and soil-destabilizing fires and subsequent storms will conspire to further erode the cliffs here to the point that it might eventually become impassable.

That said, the trail had a surprising amount of maintenance, and even the route involved a handful of switchbacks.

This is unusual to me because I tend to think the amateur, impatiently-haphazard scrambling use-trails would take a more direct (and erosion-causing) line on their descents.

In fact, I noticed one large boulder that had a writing scrawled on it that identified the trail as the “Big Tujunga Canyon Trail”.

Josephine_Creek_Falls_204_01012022 - Closeup look at a large boulder with the words 'Big Tujunga Can. Trail' scrawled on it, which made me think that this might be either an officially maintained trail or at least maintained by a generous local volunteer
Closeup look at a large boulder with the words ‘Big Tujunga Can. Trail’ scrawled on it, which made me think that this might be either an officially maintained trail or at least maintained by a generous local volunteer

However, it’s not clear to me if that’s official or if someone local and not affiliated with the forest service volunteers the maintenance.

In any case, I’d budget about 2 hours for this excursion, but you’ll definitely want a good, grippy pair of hiking boots, long pants (due to prickly vegetation), as well as a healthy-but-not-debilitating fear of heights.

This is one trail that you absolutely would not want to slip-and-fall and take a tumble down the steep cliffs.

Trail Description

From the unsigned pullout marking the trailhead for the Big Tujunga Canyon Trail (see directions below), I pretty much took the narrow trail about 160ft leading up to a lone pole standing up around a bend.

Josephine_Creek_Falls_007_01012022 - Looking past a pole towards the Big Tujunga Reservoir and the Big Tujunga Canyon Road
Looking past a pole towards the Big Tujunga Reservoir and the Big Tujunga Canyon Road

Already, I was able to get a look down towards the reservoir held up by the Big Tujunga Dam below me as well as across the canyon towards the Lower Fox Canyon.

The trail then skirted to the right and continued for about 0.2-mile before reaching a ridge where the ravine on my right dropped steeply behind the adjacent natural ridge wall.

From this spot, I was able to see if Josephine Creek Falls was flowing or not, and in the case of my first visit, it was definitely flowing (though it was hard to see behind some of the foreground foliage).

The trail then veered more northwards as it continued to skirt more steep cliffs seemingly dropping right into the Big Tujunga Reservoir beneath me.

Josephine_Creek_Falls_059_01012022 - Josephine Creek Falls in context with the switchbacking Big Tujunga Canyon Trail
Josephine Creek Falls in context with the switchbacking Big Tujunga Canyon Trail

After another 0.1-mile, the trail then skirted past a giant boulder with the “Big Tujunga Can. Trail” scrawled on it, and this happened to be the only “signage” that I’d see throughout this hike.

Beyond this boulder, in another 350ft, I then encountered the first of four or five switchbacks, where I could get additional distant glimpses of Josephine Creek Falls with its hanging ravine context.

After the third switchback, the trail continued to skirt desert vegetation while descending perhaps the steepest and most slippery part of the trail shortly before the fourth switchback.

Somewhere between the fourth and fifth switchback, a separate use-trail branched off to the right (while the main trail descended steeply towards Big Tujunga Creek).

Josephine_Creek_Falls_121_01012022 - Context of a fire ring and some litter around it fronting the base of Josephine Creek Falls. Clearly, people have been here before and even inconsiderately treat it as if it's theirs to abuse
Context of a fire ring and some litter around it fronting the base of Josephine Creek Falls. Clearly, people have been here before and even inconsiderately treat it as if it’s theirs to abuse

And then, I’d continue following the narrow use-trail leading another 0.2-mile down to the base of the Josephine Creek Falls.

Even though I was all alone on my first visit to this falls for at least 30 minutes on New Year’s Day 2022, I couldn’t help but notice a fire ring with some beer cans and litter around it.

Clearly, people have been here before (and disrespectfully trashing the place) so it wasn’t like this was that much of an unknown spot.

Still, most drivers on the Big Tujunga Canyon Road are oblivious to the fact that there was this waterfall plunging beneath them as they drive by, and it was nice to enjoy while it lasts!

Authorities

Josephine Creek Falls resides in the Angeles National Forest near Pasadena in Los Angeles County, California. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website or Facebook page.

Josephine_Creek_Falls_002_01012022 - Looking up towards the end of the wide pullout, which was where the hike to Josephine Creek Falls began
Josephine_Creek_Falls_005_01012022 - The pole up ahead on this narrow trail was perhaps the only man-made landmark in the immediate area to indicate that this trail was legit
Josephine_Creek_Falls_014_01012022 - Continuing to skirt the very narrow and eroded Big Tujunga Canyon Trail where those spiny yucca plants easily gave me a poke or two during my New Year's Day visit in 2022
Josephine_Creek_Falls_015_01012022 - Still skirting the narrow and erosion-prone Big Tujunga Canyon Trail in pursuit of Josephine Falls
Josephine_Creek_Falls_022_01012022 - Looking down into the half-shadowed headwaters of the Big Tujunga Reservoir as seen from the Big Tujunga Canyon Trail during my New Year's Day 2022 visit
Josephine_Creek_Falls_009_iPhone_01012022 - Another stretch of the narrow and erosion-prone Big Tujunga Canyon Trail en route to Josephine Creek Falls
Josephine_Creek_Falls_010_iPhone_01012022 - Context of the Big Tujunga Canyon Trail precariously curving before the Big Tujunga Reservoir down below
Josephine_Creek_Falls_012_iPhone_01012022 - It may be hard to see in this photo, but right behind the cliffhanging shrub in the foreground was a glimpse of Josephine Creek Falls. This convinced me that it was both flowing and worth the pursuit to go further for a closer look during my January 1, 2022 visit
Josephine_Creek_Falls_030_01012022 - Eventually, the Big Tujunga Canyon Trail veered more towards the Big Tujunga Creek as it was about to approach a handful of switchbacks
Josephine_Creek_Falls_033_01012022 - Looking back across the top of Josephine Creek Falls, which showed me that the waterfall was flowing and that I was in the right place during my New Year's Day 2022 visit
Josephine_Creek_Falls_036_01012022 - Approaching a large boulder that actually had 'Big Tujunga Can. Trail' written on it, but I must have missed it on the way down
Josephine_Creek_Falls_038_01012022 - Looking right into the headwaters of Big Tujunga Reservoir from deeper down the Big Tujunga Canyon Trail en route to Josephine Creek Falls
Josephine_Creek_Falls_040_01012022 - Context of the Big Tujunga Canyon Trail with some power lines in the distance. I wondered if this waterfall was first found by people who put those power lines in
Josephine_Creek_Falls_044_01012022 - Context of Josephine Creek Falls plunging before mountains beneath Josephine Peak as well as some power lines looming overhead
Josephine_Creek_Falls_048_01012022 - Looking down at the full main 180ft drop of Josephine Creek Falls from the Big Tujunga Canyon Trail during my New Year's Day 2022 visit
Josephine_Creek_Falls_054_01012022 - Looking into the Lower Fox Canyon from the Big Tujunga Canyon Trail.  One day I'm going to explore that canyon when the headwaters of the Big Tujunga Reservoir doesn't force a swim
Josephine_Creek_Falls_055_01012022 - Closer look at the mouth of Lower Fox Canyon proved to me that you really do have to swim to make it to the Lower Fox Canyon under such conditions
Josephine_Creek_Falls_056_01012022 - Looking back at the Big Tujunga Reservoir as I continued to descend the Big Tujunga Canyon Trail en route to Josephine Creek Falls
Josephine_Creek_Falls_067_01012022 - Looking against the early afternoon sun towards the wispy Josephine Creek Falls during my New Year's Day 2022 visit
Josephine_Creek_Falls_069_01012022 - Another look at the Josephine Creek Falls as seen from the Big Tujunga Canyon Trail as I continued to descend closer to the shadows on my New Year's Day 2022 visit
Josephine_Creek_Falls_077_01012022 - Looking into Big Tujunga Canyon and the Big Tujunga Canyon River from the spur trail leading to the bottom of Josephine Creek Falls
Josephine_Creek_Falls_078_01012022 - The spur trail leading down to the base of Josephine Creek Falls was still narrow and cliff hugging
Josephine_Creek_Falls_080_01012022 - Looking down at more of the trail leading down to the bottom of Josephine Creek Falls as I still had a little more to descend
Josephine_Creek_Falls_084_01012022 - Looking up at some interesting bulbous leaves adjacent to the Josephine Creek Trail
Josephine_Creek_Falls_085_01012022 - Making the final approach to the bottom of Josephine Creek Falls
Josephine_Creek_Falls_086_01012022 - Context of Josephine Creek Falls towering over the foliage fronting it as I continued to approach its base
Josephine_Creek_Falls_091_01012022 - Finally making it near the base of Josephine Creek Falls and getting my first satisfactory views of it from down here during my New Year's Day visit
Josephine_Creek_Falls_102_01012022 - Looking right up at the top of Josephine Creek Falls from its misty base on New Year's Day 2022
Josephine_Creek_Falls_106_01012022 - Angled look up at the top of Josephine Creek Falls as seen from its base in New Year's Day 2022
Josephine_Creek_Falls_032_iPhone_01012022 - Looking at the shallow plunge pool right at the bottom of Josephine Creek Falls
Josephine_Creek_Falls_107_01012022 - Another look right up towards the top of Josephine Creek Falls in January 1, 2022
Josephine_Creek_Falls_110_01012022 - This fire pit with some litter around it was a rather shameful sight at the base of Josephine Creek Falls
Josephine_Creek_Falls_116_01012022 - Another full look at the entirety of Josephine Creek Falls as seen from its base in New Year's Day 2022
Josephine_Creek_Falls_125_01012022 - Another look back at Josephine Creek Falls before I started to head back up
Josephine_Creek_Falls_134_01012022 - Closer look at one of the rougher sections of the Josephine Creek Falls spur trail on my way back up
Josephine_Creek_Falls_139_01012022 - On the way back up, I noticed that the lighting was a bit more evened out so I tried to take more pictures of Josephine Creek Falls where I could during my New Year's Day 2022 visit
Josephine_Creek_Falls_140_01012022 - Looking back down at the narrow trail in context with the Josephine Creek Falls as I was heading back up
Josephine_Creek_Falls_143_01012022 - Skirting by an interesting tall tree with those venus fly-trap-like bulbous leaves along the Big Tujunga Canyon Trail
Josephine_Creek_Falls_145_01012022 - Looking ahead at more of the narrow Big Tujunga Canyon Trail on the way back up
Josephine_Creek_Falls_147_01012022 - It always felt like the Josephine Creek Falls hike was constantly exposed to dropoffs and was definitely not a trail for people with a debilitating fear of heights
Josephine_Creek_Falls_155_01012022 - Going back up a fairly steep and eroded section of the Big Tujunga Canyon Trail, which was probably the diciest part of the overall hike during my New Year's Day 2022 visit
Josephine_Creek_Falls_160_01012022 - Another look back at the context of Josephine Creek Falls and its ravine as I was headed back up to the Big Tujunga Canyon Road
Josephine_Creek_Falls_163_01012022 - With the improved lighting, I was able to get more satisfying trailside downward-looking shots of the Josephine Creek Falls
Josephine_Creek_Falls_169_01012022 - Going up another narrow and eroded section of trail on the return hike from Josephine Creek Falls
Josephine_Creek_Falls_175_01012022 - Looking down over the brink of Trail Canyon Falls during our February 2020 visit
Josephine_Creek_Falls_185_01012022 - Going back up more eroded sections of the Big Tujunga Canyon Trail. I wonder how much longer before even these sections of the trail start becoming impassable
Josephine_Creek_Falls_191_01012022 - Still getting glimpses of Josephine Creek Falls as I was climbing back up towards the Big Tujunga Canyon Road
Josephine_Creek_Falls_192_01012022 - Focused look at the tips of the leaves of the yucca plant that grew alongside the Big Tujunga Canyon Trail and Josephine Creek Falls Trail, which kept jabbing me every so often given how narrow the trail was
Josephine_Creek_Falls_193_01012022 - Context of the ascending Big Tujunga Canyon Trail and Josephine Creek Falls down below to the left
Josephine_Creek_Falls_197_01012022 - My last look at the Josephine Creek Falls before returning to the Big Tujunga Canyon Road on my New Year's Day 2022 visit
Josephine_Creek_Falls_203_01012022 - Closer look at the writing on the big boulder that I must have missed earlier on when descending to the bottom of Josephine Creek Falls
Josephine_Creek_Falls_214_01012022 - Looking down in the distance at a pair of hikers that I spoke to as I was going back up to the car while they were heading down to Josephine Creek Falls
Josephine_Creek_Falls_222_01012022 - Traversing another very narrow and eroded part of the Big Tujunga Canyon Trail which further made me wonder how much longer before even this part starts to become impassable
Josephine_Creek_Falls_228_01012022 - It really seemed like the higher up the Big Tujunga Canyon Trail I went, the more erosion-prone sections there were like this part.  I guess the ruggedness of the terrain here made Julie think twice about coming down with me on New Year's Day 2022
Josephine_Creek_Falls_232_01012022 - Finally returning to the trailhead though this time I noticed more cars (we weren't the only ones anymore). I guess this place wasn't as unknown as I thought
Josephine_Creek_Falls_235_01012022 - Looking ahead towards the Big Tujunga Dam Overlook and adjacent pullouts


There are actually a couple of ways to drive to the trailhead for Josephine Creek Falls – one via Sunland and the other via La Canada-Flintridge.

Either way, we’re going to start the driving description from the 210 Freeway at Pasadena (which is north of downtown Los Angeles).

Josephine_Creek_Falls_003_iPhone_01012022 - Driving up through the mouth of Big Tujunga Canyon
Driving up through the mouth of Big Tujunga Canyon

So from the 210 Freeway at Pasadena, we headed west towards Sunland and the Sunland Blvd exit.

Then, we turned right onto Sunland Blvd and followed this busy street for 3/4-mile to Oro Vista Ave. or 1.5 miles to Mt Gleason Rd.

You can turn left at either of those streets, and both streets will eventually deposit you to the Big Tujunga Canyon Road.

From where Oro Vista Ave became Big Tujunga Canyon Rd, we followed Big Tujunga Rd for a little over 10 miles to the large pullout area on the left (north side of Big Tujunga Canyon Rd) on the left (just past the Big Tujunga Dam Overlook).

Josephine_Creek_Falls_251_01012022 - The start of the hike to Josephine Creek Falls was not much further past the Big Tujunga Dam Overlook
The start of the hike to Josephine Creek Falls was not much further past the Big Tujunga Dam Overlook

This long pullout would be a little over 5 miles from the Clear Creek Station going in the opposite direction on Big Tujunga Canyon Road.

Note that the 7-11 shop at Oro Vista Ave also sold Angeles Forest passes, which you’d need to display in your vehicle anywhere you park within the boundaries of the Angeles National Forest.

In addition, if the Clear Creek Ranger Station (by the Angeles Crest Highway) is open, then you can also pay cash to get Forest Service Adventure Passes from there as well.

Josephine_Creek_Falls_003_01012022 - The pullout fronting the Big Tujunga Canyon Trail was actually quite wide even though there was no telling sign indicating the start of the hike on my visits
The pullout fronting the Big Tujunga Canyon Trail was actually quite wide even though there was no telling sign indicating the start of the hike on my visits

Finally, to give you some idea of the geographical context, Pasadena was about 13 miles (20 minutes drive without traffic) from Sunland, 11 miles (anywhere from 20-60 minutes depending on traffic) from downtown Los Angeles, 34 miles (about 45 minutes without traffic) from Santa Clarita, and 56 miles (over an hour drive without traffic) from Irvine.

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Back and forth sweep of Josephine Creek Falls with a zoom-in on the falls itself as seen from perhaps the steepest part of the narrow trail


Back and forth sweep before focusing in on the Josephine Creek Falls then ending with a panout


Sweep starting with an angled look up from the base of the Josephine Creek Falls before moving right by the base for a bottom up sweep


Pretty thorough exploration of the area at the base of Josephine Creek Falls while doing sweeps from three different spots

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Tagged with: sunland, tujunga, angeles national forest, los angeles, angeles crest, southern california, california, waterfall



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Johnny Cheng

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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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