About Josephine Creek Falls
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).
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 waterfall hikes tend to involve some degree of bushwhacking and off-trail experience.
Nevertheless, it was with these expectations that I prepared myself for this excursion, 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.
About a month later, I came back to Josephine Creek Falls when its flow was barely hanging on so that confirmed my suspiscions about its highly seasonal flow.
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.
After all, I’d imagine increased use (as more people find out about this place) and soil-destabilizing fires as well as 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”.
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.
By the way, Josephine Creek Falls can be combined with the Lower Fox Canyon Falls adventure, which I go over in the video below.
From the unsigned pullout marking the trailhead for the Big Tujunga Canyon Trail (see directions below), we’d pretty much take the narrow trail about 160ft leading up to a lone pole standing up around a bend.
Already from here, we could look down towards the reservoir held up by the Big Tujunga Dam below 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 the right right dropped steeply behind the adjacent natural ridge wall.
From this spot, we could 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.
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 we’d see throughout this hike.
Beyond this boulder, in another 350ft, we then encountered the first of four or five switchbacks, where we 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 according to Google Maps or Big Tujunga River according to Gaia GPS).
So we’d continue following the narrow use-trail on the right, which led another 0.2-mile down to the base of the Josephine Creek Falls.
In each of my visits to the foot of this waterfall, I was either all alone here or shared the experience with my Mom (but no one else).
That said, I couldn’t help but notice a fire ring with some litter around it, which goes to show you that this place wasn’t as unknown or as “secret” as one might think.
And unfortunately, the people who have been here before aren’t exactly the type who are respectful towards Nature given their lack of wilderness ethics and not leaving a trace.
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!
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.
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).
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).
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.
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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