About Lower Fox Canyon Falls (Lower Falls Of The Fox)
Lower Fox Canyon Falls (or the Lower Falls of the Fox) is an elusive waterfall hidden within Fox Canyon, which itself was a tributary of Big Tujunga Canyon.
This place would typically be visited by well-equipped canyoneers rappeling or abseiling down Fox Canyon’s series of waterfalls that includes the Great Falls of the Fox.
However, mere mortals like us who hike to our waterfalls can still get a taste of Fox Canyon’s hidden gems provided you’re up for a bit of a hard adventure where you have to be willing to really get out of your comfort zone.
Case in point, we had to endure obstacles such as eroding cliff-hugging trails, a steep gully where we’re not sure we can get back up, lots of overgrowth that we had to bushwhack through, and inundating our trail shoes by slogging through water.
The ultimate reward for such efforts is a roughly 60ft waterfall that you’re likely going to have to yourself as well as a seasonal 180ft waterfall along the way.
Lower Fox Canyon Falls Adventure Summary
Indeed, this was pretty much an off-trail adventure where we were not quite sure if we were going to make it as doubt definitely crept in every so often throughout the excursion.
I’d have to say straight up that if you are considering pursuing Lower Fox Canyon Falls, you do so at your own risk because this is not for inexperienced hikers.
Before getting into the detailed description below, here’s a brief summary of the adventure:
- Hike 3/4-mile to an unsigned trail junction
- Either descend straight down to Big Tujunga River or hike 1/4-mile to bottom of Josephine Creek Falls, then bushwhack another 1/4-mile down to Big Tujunga River
- Scramble, wade, and route-find your way for about 1/2-mile or 0.6-mile to the mouth of Fox Canyon
- Scramble, wade, and route-find your way for about 0.4-mile to the foot of Lower Fox Canyon Falls
- Go back the way you came
Although the first part of the Lower Fox Canyon Falls adventure starts off on a trail, it was actually very narrow and full of eroded sections around cliff exposure.
Most of this part of the hike follows the trail leading down to Josephine Creek Falls, which has its own page.
Nevertheless, the first 3/4-mile of the hike definitely tested our fear of heights as well as the traction in our shoes.
That said, it’s still a seemingly maintained trail (whether officially or not, I’m not sure) as evidenced by the presence of switchbacks as well as a large boulder with the words “Big Tujunga Canyon Trail” scrawled on it.
Perhaps the steepest part of this initial hiking section was on the last of the switchbacks (more like a bend) that descended over loose dirt between some everpresent spiky yucca plants.
Shortly after this bend and descent, we’d eventually reach an unsigned trail “junction”, where we had a decision to make.
Adventure Description – Pick Your Poison
From the unsigned trail junction at about 3/4-mile from the start, there was a path that continued straight ahead as well as another one that switchbacked to our right and continued along its narrow trajectory.
The path on the right descended for less than a quarter-mile more to the bottom of the seasonal Josephine Creek Falls (which you might have noticed throughout the hike, especially if it’s flowing).
Going this route, the Josephine Creek Falls makes for an intermediate goal, but in order to continue on from there, we would have to bushwhack downstream.
It wasn’t obvious to me whether there was a well-used path to make this bushwhack towards Josephine Creek’s confluence with the Big Tujunga River.
So I actually didn’t pursue doing this bushwhack given the presence of poison oak, yucca, and the likelihood of ticks getting into me under such overgrown scrambling conditions.
As for the other path that continued straight and forsaken the narrow trail to Josephine Creek Falls’ base, it initially continued as a very narrow trail, but then it quickly disappeared into a steep gully.
Although the gully at first didn’t look all that bad, it quickly became steeper (and dangerous) at about a third of the way down.
It even got to the point that we had to sit and scoot (more like baseball slide) our way down to the bottom, and that was when I realized that coming back up this way wasn’t going to be easy.
Moreover, us doing this descent probably loosened more of the already loose and unstable soil there, which would further conspire to erode more (and eventually become a landslide) with continued use as well as with any subsequent storms.
Indeed, this probably crosses the line of adventure versus wilderness ethics of leaving no trace, but as you can see, there’s a reason why most people don’t go to Lower Fox Canyon Falls, and this was the main reason why.
Adventure Description – Following Big Tujunga River
Once at the Big Tujunga River and the base of Big Tujunga Canyon, we then had to scramble our way downstream for roughly 1/2- to 0.6-mile.
We found it easier to cross the river and then try to follow as much open terrain as possible off the river’s northern banks.
We did find some odd evidence of people being down here, and this included a ring of sandbags as well as some kind of wildlife camera or something further downstream.
In fact, in between scrambling in the open wash flanking the Big Tujunga River, there were some presence of footprints as well as use-trails.
So clearly, people do go up and down this canyon though I’d imagine they’re mostly a combination of forest service employees, hard-core adventurers, or well-equipped canyoneers that would come down here.
Anyways, we’d eventually reach a point where further progress involved getting into the Big Tujunga River as we’d be met with a wall of overgrowth.
And after roughly another quarter-mile of slogging through the Big Tujunga River downstream, that’s when we would finally reach the mouth of Fox Canyon, which was the first side canyon we’d encounter to our right.
One thing worth mentioning about scrambling in this section of the Big Tujunga Canyon is that every so often the Big Tujunga Reservoir may be filled to the point that its headwaters may inundate the mouth of Fox Canyon.
Under such conditions, you might have to swim in order to reach Fox Canyon.
This was definitely the case when I first came here (in pursuit of Josephine Creek Falls) about a month prior to actually pursuing Lower Falls of the Fox.
Adventure Description – Scrambling In Fox Canyon
Once at the mouth of Fox Canyon, we then scrambled upstream along Fox Creek for about 0.4-mile to reach the foot of Lower Fox Canyon Falls.
This scramble pretty much involved a lot of route-finding as there wasn’t an obvious trail-of-use that we were able to follow.
So we found ourselves, doing a combination of stream scrambling before the water either became too deep or the overgrowth was too thick, and then we’d climb up the loose embankments to reach higher, drier ground.
I think on the way to the falls, we actually crossed Fox Creek at least 3 or 4 times before finally getting to the bottom of the falls.
However, on the way out, we stuck to the east side of Fox Creek, which served us for most of the way until it became overgrown and steep beneath a side gully.
Then, we pretty much stream scrambled to the canyon mouth (so we probably could have gotten away with some mild dry hiking on the west side of Fox Creek in that lower section).
At the base of Lower Fox Canyon Falls, we were able to scramble right up to its foot without too much difficulty though I can definitely see how this scramble could be more overgrown and rough with poison oak everywhere later in the season.
Our visit took place in late January 2022, where the trees still didn’t sprout leaves, so we were able to get some decent all-encompassing distant views.
That said, once the trees sprout leaves, then I can envision that the views would start to get blocked and that you’d have to scramble all the way to the bottom to get a clean look again (though it’d be hard to get it all in one photograph from that close).
Getting A Sneak Peak At Lower Fox Canyon Falls
With all the trouble and risk that it took us to reach the Lower Falls of the Fox, we found out that there was one way to get a sneak peak at this waterfall to determine whether it would be worth the effort or not.
The key is that you can actually catch a distant glimpse of the Lower Fox Canyon Falls from the Fall Creek Falls hike.
The view into the Lower Fox Canyon was roughly a quarter-mile into the start of that hike.
You’ll really need to pay attention in order to spot it, especially if there’s a lot of shadows concealing the waterfall within the shade of the canyon.
Lower Fox Canyon Falls (or Lower Falls of the Fox) 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.
Lower Fox Canyon Falls actually shares the same trailhead as that of Josephine Creek Falls, which has its own page, but I’ll reproduce the driving directions here for convenience.
There are two driving approaches – one via Sunland and the other via La Canada-Flintridge.
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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