Soldier Creek Falls (Lewis Falls)

Angeles National Forest / Crystal Lake, California, USA

About Soldier Creek Falls (Lewis Falls)


Hiking Distance: 1.25 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 45-60 minutes

Date first visited: 2002-03-10
Date last visited: 2017-06-10

Waterfall Latitude: 34.30695
Waterfall Longitude: -117.83665

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Soldier Creek Falls (also referred to as Lewis Falls after a ranger that once patrolled this area) seemed like one of those obscure waterfalls that made for a surprisingly pleasant local outing.

It was a modestly-sized 40-50ft waterfall though we have noticed over the years that it appeared to have even more hidden tiers further above its main drop.

Lewis_Falls_17_082_06102017 - Soldier Creek Falls or Lewis Falls
Soldier Creek Falls or Lewis Falls

Nevertheless, it was the relative seclusion that we thought was the main draw of this waterfall.

Reasons for Soldier Creek Falls’ Obscurity

The reason why we thought it was obscure was because there were no signs indicating its trailhead (see directions below).

It also required a bit of an unmaintained scramble to reach it.

Further exacerbating the uncertainty of a sighting of this waterfall was a prolonged closure of the access road to Crystal Lake for over several years.

Lewis_Falls_17_038_06102017 - A fairly rough scramble over some fallen trees and eroded ledges was required to access the Soldier Creek Falls or Lewis Falls
A fairly rough scramble over some fallen trees and eroded ledges was required to access the Soldier Creek Falls or Lewis Falls

This was largely a result of the 2002 Curve Fire and then subsequent road washouts that complicated rebuilding efforts.

My Mom and I even once made an attempt to come here back in Spring of 2009 and this road was still closed at the time.

I also didn’t think the Station Fire later that year did any of the reopening efforts any favors either.

Nonetheless, each time we did manage to visit this waterfall, it had satisfying flow and thus made it both pleasing and memorable.

Hiking and Scrambling to Soldier Creek Falls

Lewis_Falls_17_017_06102017 - Passing by one of the intact cabins on the way to Soldier Creek Falls
Passing by one of the intact cabins on the way to Soldier Creek Falls

From the unmarked trailhead (see directions below), we hiked gradually uphill on an established trail that followed along the eastern banks of Soldier Creek.

This trail passed by a pair of cabins that were either untouched by the fires or were rebuilt.

Some of these cabins seemed to have a new-looking appearance while being surrounded by evidence of past fires (from the black-barked trees in the immediate area).

Beyond the second cabin, there were a couple more cabin foundations (probably cabins that didn’t make it from the fires and weren’t rebuilt) that the trail passed by.

Lewis_Falls_17_158_06102017 - Context of the foundation of an old cabin that didn't survive a past fire seen on the way up to Soldier Creek Falls or Lewis Falls
Context of the foundation of an old cabin that didn’t survive a past fire seen on the way up to Soldier Creek Falls or Lewis Falls

It was after the second foundation, which had fences and railings surrounding it, did the path then cross the creek and transition from an assuring established trail to a pretty rough scramble.

In fact, I suspected that the trail was as established as it was up to this point because of those cabins.

Anyways, the remainder of the “trail” pretty much involved ducking under or climbing over fallen trees, balancing on logs, using both hands and feet to negotiate trickier “sit and scoot” spots, and brushing against some thorny foliage.

I recalled our experience back in 2001 involved a bit more stream scrambling.

Lewis_Falls_13_051_01052013 - After getting past the cabins, the trail degenerated into more of a scramble
After getting past the cabins, the trail degenerated into more of a scramble

However, our most recent visits in 2013 and 2017 involved a bit more rough scrambling where we had to be very wary of the obstacles and minor dropoff hazards, especially since we were hiking with kids.

Speaking of which, once we got to the boxed-in three-sided-enclosure at the head of the canyon, that was where Soldier Creek Falls was at.

It faced towards the opposite wall in a limited amount of real-estate.

So most of the views of the falls were pretty much right up in front of it (thus making it non-trivial to photograph the whole thing in one shot without a wide angle).

Lewis_Falls_17_142_06102017 - The family having to negotiate some of the trickier parts of the scramble as we were close to Soldier Creek Falls or Lewis Falls
The family having to negotiate some of the trickier parts of the scramble as we were close to Soldier Creek Falls or Lewis Falls

To even get in front of the falls, we had to cross Soldier Creek one last time and that was where hiking sticks and/or Gore-tex boots helped keep our socks dry.

In our latest excursions, we’ve managed to see other hikers in rugged gear.

On one occasion, we saw two other hikers wearing very wet and muddy pants.

We didn’t ask them whether they went beyond the waterfall, but we figured that they did somehow.

Lewis_Falls_13_055_01052013 - Approaching the profile of Soldier Creek Falls (or Lewis Falls) as we made one last crossing of Soldier Creek to get in front of it
Approaching the profile of Soldier Creek Falls (or Lewis Falls) as we made one last crossing of Soldier Creek to get in front of it

In another instance, there was a family of four dressed in camouflage while wearing rugged boots and gloves, and they looked ready to get rough and dirty on this trail.

In any case, we’re not sure what was beyond Soldier Creek Falls (if that was where they went or were intending to go), but any further scrambling upstream seemed to be very technical and beyond our comfort level.

Adding it all up, we probably spent about 60-90 minutes encompassing both the hiking, scrambling, and photographing.

However, on those times when we did bring our daughter (the first time at two years and later at six years) as well as my parents, I’d imagine that might have slowed us down.

Lewis_Falls_13_093_01052013 - Looking back across the base of Soldier Creek Falls (or Lewis Falls) to give you an idea of the scrambling involved to get here
Looking back across the base of Soldier Creek Falls (or Lewis Falls) to give you an idea of the scrambling involved to get here

After all, we had to be sure and steady with our hiking, especially considering the extra care and caution that was necessary to negotiate the hairier spots of the hike.

Authorities

Lewis Falls or Soldier Creek Falls is in the Angeles National Forest around the Crystal Lake Recreation Area near Azusa in Los Angeles County, California. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about this area as well as current conditions, visit the Angeles National Forest website or Facebook page.

Lewis_Falls_17_001_06102017 - Looking up along Hwy 39 from the Soldier Creek Falls trailhead during our June 2017 visit. This photo and the next several photos were taken on this day
Lewis_Falls_17_014_06102017 - There used to be a 'No Fires' sign at the Soldier Creek Falls trailhead, but now there's this snow pole essentially acting as the only hint that this was the correct trailhead
Lewis_Falls_17_015_06102017 - Julie on the trail leading closer to the Soldier Creek Falls
Lewis_Falls_17_020_06102017 - Beyond the first intact cabin on the way up to Soldier Creek Falls, the trail went around some large boulders
Lewis_Falls_17_022_06102017 - Mom going past some water pipes seen alongside and across the Soldier Creek Falls Trail during our June 2017 visit
Lewis_Falls_17_026_06102017 - The family continuing onwards to the Soldier Creek Falls as the trail degenerated into a narrowing path and eventually would degenerate further into a straight scramble
Lewis_Falls_17_029_06102017 - Dad and Julie now negotiating some of the crossings of Soldier Creek en route to the Soldier Creek Falls during our June 2017 visit
Lewis_Falls_17_032_06102017 - Looking towards a small intermediate cascade on Soldier Creek that we noticed while en route to the Soldier Creek Falls during our June 2017 visit
Lewis_Falls_17_033_06102017 - Railings and fences surrounded the fourth and last cabin foundation en route to the Soldier Creek Falls in June 2017
Lewis_Falls_17_034_06102017 - The family continuing ahead past the last of the cabin foundations as we made our way to Soldier Creek Falls in an increasingly rougher scramble during our June 2017 visit
Lewis_Falls_17_042_06102017 - The family engaged in a bit of a bouldering and deadfall scramble en route to Soldier Creek Falls during our June 2017 visit
Lewis_Falls_17_043_06102017 - Closer look at some of the foliage we brushed up against on the scramble to Soldier Creek Falls during our June 2017 visit, but we weren't sure if these were harmful or not
Lewis_Falls_17_045_06102017 - Julie negotiating some of the deadfall obstacles during the scramble leading up to the Soldier Creek Falls in June 2017
Lewis_Falls_17_048_06102017 - The family making their scramble closer to the Soldier Creek Falls in June 2017
Lewis_Falls_17_050_06102017 - Context of the family making another cross of Soldier Creek as we were getting very close to the waterfall during our June 2017 visit
Lewis_Falls_17_051_06102017 - Last stream crossing to get right in front of the Lewis Falls during our June 2017 visit
Lewis_Falls_17_056_06102017 - Tahia and Joshua checking out the Soldier Creek Falls (or Lewis Falls) in June 2017
Lewis_Falls_17_074_06102017 - The family enjoying the bottom of the Soldier Creek Falls (or Lewis Falls) in June 2017
Lewis_Falls_17_087_06102017 - When the kids were older, they got to appreciate chilling out at the base of Lewis Falls during our visit in June 2017
Lewis_Falls_17_139_06102017 - After having our fill of the Soldier Creek Falls (or Lewis Falls) in June 2017, it was time to scramble back to the trailhead
Lewis_Falls_17_149_06102017 - Encountering other hikers on our way out from Soldier Creek Falls during our June 2017 visit
Lewis_Falls_17_155_06102017 - Context of a log crossing obstacle during our return hike from Soldier Creek Falls during our June 2017 visit
Lewis_Falls_17_157_06102017 - The family getting over one of the scrambling obstacles on our way out of Soldier Creek Falls during our June 2017 visit
Lewis_Falls_17_164_06102017 - During our June 2017 visit to Soldier Creek Falls, we noticed swarms of ladybugs, which was something I had never seen before in all the times we'd been to Soldier Creek Falls.  A month earlier, we had seen a similar phenomenon at the Heart Rock Falls
Lewis_Falls_17_168_06102017 - The family returning on the Soldier Creek Falls excursion in June 2017 as the trail was getting progressively easier
Lewis_Falls_17_171_06102017 - The family continuing on the return hike from Soldier Creek Falls in June 2017
Lewis_Falls_17_173_06102017 - The family passing by the intact cabin along the Soldier Creek Falls hike as we were headed back the other way in June 2017
Lewis_Falls_17_175_06102017 - Finally returning to the parked car to end our June 2017 visit to the Soldier Creek Falls
Lewis_Falls_17_176_06102017 - During the drive back from Soldier Creek Falls in June 2017, we couldn't help but notice this relic or contraption at a large pullout along the Hwy 39
Lewis_Falls_13_003_01052013 - Looking across Hwy 39 towards the start of the Soldier Creek Falls hike in January 2013. This photo and the next several shots were taken on this day
Lewis_Falls_13_012_01052013 - Hiking past the 'No Fires' sign. That sign could very well have been the only notable landmark that clued us in to this place back in the January 2013 time frame, but apparently it was removed when we came back in June 2017
Lewis_Falls_13_014_01052013 - Approaching one of the intact cabins on the way to Soldier Creek Falls as seen in January 2013
Lewis_Falls_13_020_01052013 - Hiking past the first intact cabin on the way to Soldier Creek Falls in January 2013
Lewis_Falls_13_024_01052013 - On an established trail beyond the second cabin during our January 2013 hike to Soldier Creek Falls
Lewis_Falls_13_025_01052013 - Some water pipes seen alongside and across the Soldier Creek Falls Trail as seen in January 2013
Lewis_Falls_13_027_01052013 - Going up some steps onto the foundation for the third cabin on the way to Soldier Creek Falls in January 2013
Lewis_Falls_13_028_01052013 - Looking back at the foundation for the third cabin that we noticed on the way to Soldier Creek Falls during our January 2013 visit
Lewis_Falls_13_031_01052013 - Passing by some black-barked trees on the way to Soldier Creek Falls in January 2013. This was evidence of past fires that came through here
Lewis_Falls_13_033_01052013 - With low hanging deadfalls like this, we had to be real careful with our two-year-old daughter as we were carrying her to Soldier Creek Falls in January 2013
Lewis_Falls_13_037_01052013 - Railings and fences surrounded the fourth and last cabin foundation en route to Soldier Creek Falls in January 2013
Lewis_Falls_13_046_01052013 - Some parts of the Soldier Creek scramble required us to get on all fours during our January 2013 experience
Lewis_Falls_13_056_01052013 - Julie on the last stream crossing to get right in front of the Lewis Falls (or Soldier Creek Falls) on our January 2013 visit
Lewis_Falls_13_062_01052013 - Looking directly at Lewis Falls during our January 2013 visit
Lewis_Falls_13_085_01052013 - Dad carrying Tahia while looking at Lewis Falls in January 2013
Lewis_Falls_13_099_01052013 - Looking back at the entirety of the Soldier Creek Falls (or Lewis Falls) during our January 2013 visit
Lewis_Falls_13_101_01052013 - The family starting to make their way back from the base of Soldier Creek Falls after having their fill in January 2013
Lewis_Falls_13_108_01052013 - Before leaving Soldier Creek Falls, I snuck in one last look at it during our January 2013 visit
Lewis_Falls_13_110_01052013 - Context of the family scrambling back from Soldier Creek Falls during our January 2013 visit
Lewis_Falls_13_112_01052013 - The family negotiating the deafall obstacles on the way back from Soldier Creek Falls in January 2013
Lewis_Falls_13_113_01052013 - The family going back past one of the cabin foundations along the Soldier Creek Falls hike in January 2013
Lewis_Falls_13_118_01052013 - Mom going past the intact cabin besides the Soldier Creek Falls hike in January 2013
Lewis_Falls_13_119_01052013 - Finally making it back to the Hwy 39 to end our visit to Soldier Creek Falls in January 2013
Soldier_Creek_Falls_001_scanned_03102002 - Soldier Creek Falls (or Lewis Falls) as seen back in March 2002. This was taken with Julie's old analog Nikon camera, and I had a difficult time trying to capture the whole thing
Soldier_Creek_Falls_004_scanned_03102002 - Aven more angled view of Soldier Creek Falls from our first visit back in March 2002
Soldier_Creek_Falls_006_scanned_03102002 - Looking back at Soldier Creek Falls from back in March 2002. Note all the foliage surrounding us. I knew I wasn't imagining things when I recalled our first visit here that we encountered much more foliage than when we saw over the years in January 2013 and in June 2017

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To reach Soldier Creek Falls (or Lewis Falls) from the I-210 and I-605 interchange near Duarte and Monrovia (well east of downtown Los Angeles), we headed east on the I-210 towards the Azusa Ave (Hwy 39) offramp in the city of Azusa.

Lewis_Falls_17_181_06102017 - Not far from the trailhead for Soldier Creek Falls (or Lewis Falls) was this relic alongside the Hwy 39 en route to Crystal Lake
Not far from the trailhead for Soldier Creek Falls (or Lewis Falls) was this relic alongside the Hwy 39 en route to Crystal Lake

Then, we turned left and passed through some traffic lights in downtown Azusa before continuing on into the mountains.

By then, the road wound about in opposing two-lane traffic so there were limited to no opportunities to safely pass slow vehicles, including bikers.

After just under 19 miles from the Azusa off-ramp (passing by the Coldbrook Camp but we were well before Crystal Lake Recreation Area), we reached a hairpin turn with a snow pole (there used to be a sign that said “No Fires” here).

Besides our memories and our pre-trip GPS waypoints, this was the only clue that we were in the right place.

Lewis_Falls_13_005_01052013 - Looking back at the context of the roadside pullout alongside the Hwy 39 by the start of the hike to Soldier Creek Falls (or Lewis Falls)
Looking back at the context of the roadside pullout alongside the Hwy 39 by the start of the hike to Soldier Creek Falls (or Lewis Falls)

A ranger at Crystal Lake also informed me that this trailhead was near the mile marker labeled 34.84.

Avoiding downtown Azusa

As an alternate to the direct method stated above, my parents (who were familiar with this area), also suggested that you could avoid the traffic lights of downtown Azusa for the most part.

You’d do this by exiting Irwindale Ave instead of Azusa Ave (since the I-210 goes southeast).

Then, you’d go north towards Foothill Blvd and turn right.

Lewis_Falls_17_010_06102017 - Context of the pullout by the Hwy 39 around the trailhead to Soldier Creek Falls (or Lewis Falls), which had a few more cars parked here during our June 2017 visit
Context of the pullout by the Hwy 39 around the trailhead to Soldier Creek Falls (or Lewis Falls), which had a few more cars parked here during our June 2017 visit

Next, you’d follow Foothill Blvd until you reach Azusa Ave (Hwy 39) and turn left to continue going north on Hwy 39 towards the trailhead.

Bottom up sweep of the falls from right at its plunge pool showing faint rainbow at its base then panning up to the blue skies


Checking out Soldier Creek Falls rom its base as well looking downstream towards the scramble we've done to get here


Bottom up sweep of the falls from directly in front of the falls


Top down sweep of the falls at an angle also showing the terrain downstream

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Tagged with: lewis falls, soldier creek, los angeles, falling springs, san gabriel, crystal lake, california, southern california, waterfall, angeles national forest, azusa, 210, coldbrook camp



Visitor Comments:

Diamond Jans (Soldier Creek Falls) August 20, 2016 1:18 pm by Matthew - Does anyone remember this place back in the 80's just about 100 yards up the road f on the trail leading to the falls, my aunt and uncle use to on it back then I used to be one Of the cooks, my friend Donald was a waiter , we were like 13 years old,… ...Read More
Highway 39 is reopened March 30, 2011 7:20 pm by Fredric L. Rice - Caltrans has reopened the highway after being closed for nearly 10 years due to extensive fire damage (Curve Fire) and then the 2005 flooding. Access to Lewis Falls is difficult due to the inability for volunteers to get in to the area to maintain the trail leading to the falls. In that video you can… ...Read More

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About Johnny Cheng

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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