Trail Canyon Falls

Angeles National Forest / Tujunga / Sunland, California, USA

About Trail Canyon Falls


Hiking Distance: 4.8 miles round trip (from Big Tugunja Road); 4 miles from day user parking
Suggested Time: 3-4 hours

Date first visited: 2002-12-30
Date last visited: 2020-02-08

Waterfall Latitude: 34.32040
Waterfall Longitude: -118.25543

Trail Canyon Falls was certainly one of the prettier and more unique waterfalls that we’ve seen in the mountains of Los Angeles County (let alone the Southern California area).

In fact, it once made an appearance on our Top 10 Best Southern California Waterfalls List, and we often waver when it comes to putting this waterfall back in that exclusive list.

Trail_Canyon_Falls_193_02082020 - Trail Canyon Falls
Trail Canyon Falls

Each time we’ve seen this 30-40ft waterfall (I’ve also seen it reported to be 50ft tall), it featured a Y-shaped flow that made it very pretty.

It almost kind of reminded us of how Millard Falls can look when it has a healthy flow.

Nevertheless, sometimes rewards or victories are made sweeter when there’s uncertainty in the outcome of an adventure, and it certainly felt that way with this one.

To even get the view you see in the photo above, we had to earn it with a bit of a moderate 4.8-mile round trip hike with lots of sun exposure and capped off with a harrowing scramble.

Trail_Canyon_Falls_147_02082020 - View of Trail Canyon Falls before the scramble to its base
View of Trail Canyon Falls before the scramble to its base

Given that this waterfall resided in a seemingly drier part of the San Gabriel Mountains, it had also seen its share of fires, which had historically prevented us from revisiting Trail Canyon Falls for several years at a time.

Case in point, this happened with us when the 2009 Station Fire closed the Trail Canyon Falls Trail, and we wound up going nearly 11 years between visits (from 2002 and 2013).

Knock on wood, all these things seemed to have made this waterfall a relatively quieter (but still popular) experience compared to the very busy Los Angeles waterfalls further to the east (like Eaton Canyon Falls and Sturtevant Falls among others).

Moreover, as you’ll see in the directions below, unlike the other local waterfalls we normally find neighboring the 210 Freeway, this one was a bit further west, which made it seem a little more out-of-the-way for us.

Hiking to Trail Canyon Falls – Longer Hike Than Before

Trail_Canyon_Falls_020_02082020 - With the locking of the gates right off the Big Tujunga Road, we now had to walk the North Trail Canyon Road instead of driving this stretch to the Day Use Parking
With the locking of the gates right off the Big Tujunga Road, we now had to walk the North Trail Canyon Road instead of driving this stretch to the Day Use Parking

In the past, we used to be able to park the car and start hiking from the day use parking area roughly 0.4 miles off the Big Tujunga Canyon Road.

However, recently, a locked gate prevents access to this day use parking area as only the authorities and residents remaining within the Trail Canyon area have the means of driving there now.

This means that we now had to hike the narrow and unpaved North Trail Canyon Road, which increased the overall hiking distance by 0.8 miles to about 4.8 miles round trip.

We used to report that the Trail Canyon Falls hike was about 4 miles round trip.

Trail_Canyon_Falls_024_02082020 - The initial part of the walk to the Trail Canyon Falls Day Use Parking climbed up to this junction with the Gold Canyon Trail
The initial part of the walk to the Trail Canyon Falls Day Use Parking climbed up to this junction with the Gold Canyon Trail

Although we found this extra hiking to be fairly short, it did involve some climbing (both going there as well as coming back) as we had to ascend to the junction with the Gold Canyon Trail.

In addition, we also had to deal with the nearly constant sun exposure, which would become a persistent aspect of nearly the entirety of this hike.

Hiking to Trail Canyon Falls – Beyond The Day Use Parking Area

Once we got to the former car park and trailhead, we followed a sign labeled “trail” that went to another gate next to some National Forest Day Use sign.

After passing a gate, we found ourselves on a fairly wide access road, which forded a shallow creek as well as passing between a few cabins or homes that appeared to be built after 2002 (as I didn’t recall these during my first hike to Trail Canyon Falls that year).

Trail_Canyon_Falls_032_02082020 - Julie and Tahia going past this shallow creek crossing by ones of the private properties next to the old Trail Canyon Falls Day Use Parking Area
Julie and Tahia going past this shallow creek crossing by ones of the private properties next to the old Trail Canyon Falls Day Use Parking Area

We then passed by one of the homes that appeared to have survived the fires here before following along the Golden Creek towards another trail junction near the foundation of what would have been the last cabin (only chimneys are left of it now).

Keeping right at this junction (there may or may not be a “trail” sign or other waterfall signs directing us), the trail continued to gently climb along the creek on a narrower footpath unsuitable for vehicles.

The trail proceeded to meander alongside a canyon wall before descending towards a small creek crossing just past a giant boulder.

From there, the path climbed briefly before flattening out at a series of a handful of creek crossings over Golden Creek.

Trail_Canyon_Falls_055_02082020 - Tahia and Julie crossing one of a handful of traverses of Golden Creek
Tahia and Julie crossing one of a handful of traverses of Golden Creek

Each time we’ve done this hike, we didn’t have too much difficulty staying dry on these crossings, and it seemed like some people even strategically laid out logs to make it even easier to avoid getting wet.

That said, if the creek happened to have higher flow, then I could easily imagine these crossings to be much more difficult and slower going.

After the last of the crossings, Trail Canyon seemed to open up again for a brief stretch before the trail started to climb and cling onto the canyon’s west wall.

There wasn’t much shade in this stretch of trail, especially given the ghostly remnants of bare trees juxtaposed with newly growing foliage (thanks to damage from the Station Fire).

Trail_Canyon_Falls_099_02082020 - The sun-exposed climb on the west wall of Trail Canyon. We had to climb up to towards the bare cliff you see in the upper middle part of this photograph
The sun-exposed climb on the west wall of Trail Canyon. We had to climb up to towards the bare cliff you see in the upper middle part of this photograph

Indeed, we found this mile-long part of the Trail Canyon Falls hike to be both the hottest and most strenuous given the combination of sun exposure and elevation gain.

Just to give you an idea of how hot it can get here, we saw people struggling in this stretch even in early February on a sunny day as I suspected they didn’t bring adequate water or underestimated the hike or a combination of both.

Anyways, over the years, we’ve seen this trail evolve given its history of fires and soil de-stabilization.

Indeed, after a fire would burn off the vegetation, which acted to stabilize the soil, we’d find badly eroded and washed out sections of this climbing portion of the trail.

Trail_Canyon_Falls_124_02082020 - Looking back down at Trail Canyon from the top of the tiring sun-exposed ascent
Looking back down at Trail Canyon from the top of the tiring sun-exposed ascent

On the other hand, it seemed like this trail got a fair bit of maintenance on it, especially with fencing and railings to try to stabilize the ground holding up the trail (which seemed to be in good shape again as of 2020).

As we climbed higher, we had plenty of opportunities to look back at Trail Canyon and its wrinkly V-shaped contour.

Such photo ops definitely helped us to break up the monotony of the moderately steep uphill hiking.

Eventually, the climb flattened out as the trail rounded a long bend, which coincided with the canyon walls closing in once again.

Beyond this bend, we finally started to see the Trail Canyon Falls in the distance as it sat nestled in its shadowy ravine making for some tricky lighting in our photos.

Trail_Canyon_Falls_277_02082020 - The full context of Trail Canyon Falls, where the waterfall sat in partial shadow towards the bottom of the photograph
The full context of Trail Canyon Falls, where the waterfall sat in partial shadow towards the bottom of the photograph

In the past, the falls was surrounded by trees though we would still be able to see most of the falls.

However, after the Station Fire, we could see that the trees conspiring to block our view were prickly and bare thereby revealing more of the waterfall as seen from the main trail.

Nevertheless, if you are risk averse and have no desire to do any scrambling to improve the experience, then this view of Trail Canyon Falls was perhaps as satisfying as it gets.

The Bottom of Trail Canyon Falls

The main trail continued to skirt above the ravine containing Trail Canyon Falls as it would eventually approach the top of the waterfall and continue further upstream.

Trail_Canyon_Falls_258_02082020 - The start of the steep scramble to the bottom of Trail Canyon Falls began in the opening through the bush that you see towards the bottom of this photo
The start of the steep scramble to the bottom of Trail Canyon Falls began in the opening through the bush that you see towards the bottom of this photo

However, before the trail went that far, there was an unmarked detour that descended steeply towards the edge of the gorge and ultimately to the base of Trail Canyon Falls.

This “trail” was both steep and slippery due to loose dirt and persistent erosion from people making this scramble.

As a matter of fact, during this descent, we noticed remnants of old railings lying haphazardly downslope from the main trail.

Since such railings used to act as a sort of marker letting me know where I could start scrambling to the bottom back in 2002 when I first did this hike, this kind of indicated to me how much erosion had taken place over the years.

Trail_Canyon_Falls_153_02082020 - The steep and slippery descent from the main trail towards the edge of the gorge containing Trail Canyon Falls
The steep and slippery descent from the main trail towards the edge of the gorge containing Trail Canyon Falls

So who knows how much longer this scrambling path may last before someone decides to blaze a different “trail”?

Anyways, this scramble ultimately brought us to the rim of the gorge, where we then continued to hike further downstream until we encountered a dry gully.

This steep gully ultimately led us down to the creek, but we had to exercise a lot of care in order to minimize the chances of a bad fall.

Just to give you an idea of the steepness of this gully, someone had set up some ropes to make this descent a little easier.

That said, I don’t think the forest service sanctions the use of the ropes as they could give at any moment, or they could choose to cut them down.

Trail_Canyon_Falls_237_02082020 - This was the steepest part of the descent to the bottom of Trail Canyon Falls so it's understandable why people have set up unsanctioned ropes here for a bit of a mental boost
This was the steepest part of the descent to the bottom of Trail Canyon Falls so it’s understandable why people have set up unsanctioned ropes here for a bit of a mental boost

In any case, we didn’t think the ropes were necessary as the “sit-and-scoot” maneuver was sufficient for us, but the ropes did provide an additional confidence-booster for those inclined to use them.

Once we made it to the bottom, then we hiked back upstream towards the bottom of the Trail Canyon Falls, which was where we got the photo you see at the top of this page.

By the way, during my first hike to Trail Canyon Falls back in 2002, I never recalled going this way to the bottom of the waterfall.

I’d imagine that the Station Fire had something to do with the route change as certain trees and roots were no longer reliable things to hold onto.

The Brink of Trail Canyon Falls

Trail_Canyon_Falls_272_02082020 - Looking down over the brink of Trail Canyon Falls with some people at the bottom providing a sense of scale of how high up I was
Looking down over the brink of Trail Canyon Falls with some people at the bottom providing a sense of scale of how high up I was

While the descent to the bottom of the Trail Canyon Falls was technically unsanctioned, the main trail did keep going past the waterfall.

The trail remained obvious and easy-to-follow, but I eventually found a somewhat wider area where it was fairly easy to cross Golden Creek and then backtrack to the brink of the waterfall.

Given the sheer dropoff at the very top of the waterfall, I had to resist the temptation to get too close to the edge of the gorge given how slippery the rocks could be when wet here.

By the way, the trail description in our California Waterfalls book by Ann Marie Brown was this route that ended at the top of the falls.

Trail_Canyon_Falls_262_02082020 - The Trail Canyon Trail continuing beyond the Trail Canyon Falls. This trail eventually took me to a spot where I could easily cross the creek then backtrack to the brink of the waterfall
The Trail Canyon Trail continuing beyond the Trail Canyon Falls. This trail eventually took me to a spot where I could easily cross the creek then backtrack to the brink of the waterfall

That said, the main trail would ultimately continue onwards to the Tom Lucas Camp, but we had never gone beyond Trail Canyon Falls so we can’t say anything more about that trail.

Once we had our fill of both the top and bottom of Trail Canyon Falls, we then looked forward to the mostly downhill hike back to our parked car.

All things considered, on our most recent hike, we had spent a total of nearly 4 hours away from the car, which encompassed the hiking, the photographing, and the picnicking at the base of the Trail Canyon Falls.

Back in 2002, I had spent about 2.5 hours for both the hiking and the photo taking, but that was when I was younger and I didn’t have to start my hike from as far as the Big Tujunga Road.

Authorities

Trail Canyon 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.

Trail_Canyon_Falls_015_02082020 - Julie and Tahia walking the North Trail Canyon Road on a stretch where they used to let us drive to the trailhead in the past. This photo was taken in February 2020, and the next several photos were taken on this day
Trail_Canyon_Falls_028_02082020 - Julie and Tahia descending towards the Trail Canyon Falls Day Use Parking and Trailhead on our February 2020 visit. We used to drive to this spot and start the hike from there
Trail_Canyon_Falls_029_02082020 - Approaching the now-empty Trail Canyon Day Use Parking and Trailhead during our February 2020 hike
Trail_Canyon_Falls_034_02082020 - Julie and Tahia walking past a private home that apparently managed to survive the fires that have gone through Trail Canyon over the years. This was taken in February 2020
Trail_Canyon_Falls_035_02082020 - The Trail Canyon Falls Trail beyond the private home as seen in February 2020
Trail_Canyon_Falls_036_02082020 - Julie and Tahia walking on the road between the first and last of the homes in Trail Canyon during our February 2020 visit
Trail_Canyon_Falls_038_02082020 - Approaching the foundations and remnants of the last of the homes in Trail Canyon in February 2020
Trail_Canyon_Falls_306_02082020 - These chimneys were the remnants of the home that was furthest from the Big Tujunga Road. The trail to Trail Canyon Falls narrowed beyond this point
Trail_Canyon_Falls_041_02082020 - Julie and Tahia walking past some old landslides just beyond the last of the homes in Trail Canyon during our February 2020 visit
Trail_Canyon_Falls_046_02082020 - We noticed this giant boulder shortly before encountering the next crossing of Golden Creek en route to Trail Canyon Falls in February 2020
Trail_Canyon_Falls_049_02082020 - Julie and Tahia ascending towards the next series of creek crossings as the sun continued to beat down on us en route to Trail Canyon Falls in February 2020
Trail_Canyon_Falls_051_02082020 - Trail Canyon narrowing again as we were about to cross Golden Creek a few times during our February 2020 hike
Trail_Canyon_Falls_059_02082020 - One of a handful of shallow creek crossings en route to Trail Canyon Falls in February 2020
Trail_Canyon_Falls_062_02082020 - A familiar-looking well-organized set of logs to make some of the creek crossings easier en route to Trail Canyon Falls in February 2020
Trail_Canyon_Falls_066_02082020 - Another one of the handful of creek crossings en route to Trail Canyon Falls during our February 2020 visit
Trail_Canyon_Falls_073_02082020 - We noticed this picnic table somewhere between creek crossings en route to Trail Canyon Falls in February 2020
Trail_Canyon_Falls_077_02082020 - One of the last of the creek crossings on the way to Trail Canyon Falls in February 2020
Trail_Canyon_Falls_082_02082020 - Looking back at Trail Canyon as the trail made a long climb in the hot sun even though our hike took place in February 2020
Trail_Canyon_Falls_084_02082020 - Looking towards a dry waterfall early on in the long climb en route to Trail Canyon Falls on our February 2020 hike
Trail_Canyon_Falls_086_02082020 - Context of the long, hot, and moderate climb to reach the Trail Canyon Falls in February 2020
Trail_Canyon_Falls_094_02082020 - Julie and Tahia walking by an interesting dry or trickling intermediate waterfall en route to the Trail Canyon Falls in February 2020
Trail_Canyon_Falls_103_02082020 - Julie and Tahia near the end of the long climb en route to Trail Canyon Falls in February 2020
Trail_Canyon_Falls_127_02082020 - Beyond the main part of the climb, the trail then bent as it leveled out and got close our first looks at the Trail Canyon Falls in February 2020
Trail_Canyon_Falls_128_02082020 - Context of the main trail and Trail Canyon Falls in the distance as seen during our February 2020 visit
Trail_Canyon_Falls_134_02082020 - A more focused look at the Trail Canyon Falls from the main trail during our February 2020 visit
Trail_Canyon_Falls_158_02082020 - Julie and Tahia scrambling down towards the edge of the gorge containing the Trail Canyon Falls as of February 2020
Trail_Canyon_Falls_251_02082020 - Looking down at Trail Canyon Falls from the rim of the gorge during our February 2020 visit
Trail_Canyon_Falls_166_02082020 - Julie walking in the downstream direction in pursuit of the steep scramble to the bottom of Trail Canyon Falls as of February 2020
Trail_Canyon_Falls_169_02082020 - Julie and Tahia sitting and scooting their way down the steep gully to access the bottom of Trail Canyon Falls during our February 2020 visit
Trail_Canyon_Falls_175_02082020 - Julie and Tahia continuing to slowly make their descent to the bottom of Trail Canyon Falls during our February 2020 visit
Trail_Canyon_Falls_177_02082020 - Julie and Tahia still slowly making their way down to the last of the steep descent to the Trail Canyon Falls in February 2020
Trail_Canyon_Falls_179_02082020 - Now walking back upstream to get up to the Trail Canyon Falls
Trail_Canyon_Falls_183_02082020 - The final descent to reach the foot of the Trail Canyon Falls as of February 2020
Trail_Canyon_Falls_188_02082020 - Finally at the bottom of Trail Canyon Falls during our February 2020 visit
Trail_Canyon_Falls_203_02082020 - Another look at the Trail Canyon Falls from its base in February 2020
Trail_Canyon_Falls_205_02082020 - Unfortunately, there was graffiti near the bottom of the Trail Canyon Falls during our February 2020 visit
Trail_Canyon_Falls_211_02082020 - Julie and Tahia having a picnic with a view of Trail Canyon Falls during our February 2020 visit
Trail_Canyon_Falls_230_02082020 - Last look at Trail Canyon Falls before we headed back up in February 2020
Trail_Canyon_Falls_219_02082020 - People starting to head back up to the main trail from the bottom of Trail Canyon Falls during our February 2020 visit
Trail_Canyon_Falls_241_02082020 - Julie and Tahia making their way back up to the main trail after having had our fill of the bottom of Trail Canyon Falls during our February 2020 visit
Trail_Canyon_Falls_254_02082020 - Julie and Tahia ascending the slick-footed trail-of-use to regain the main Trail Canyon Falls Trail
Trail_Canyon_Falls_264_02082020 - The main trail further upstream from the Trail Canyon Falls
Trail_Canyon_Falls_265_02082020 - On the other side of Golden Creek backtracking to the brink of the Trail Canyon Falls during our February 2020 visit
Trail_Canyon_Falls_271_02082020 - Looking down over the brink of Trail Canyon Falls during our February 2020 visit
Trail_Canyon_Falls_273_02082020 - More graffiti that I noticed on the way back from Trail Canyon Falls during our February 2020 visit
Trail_Canyon_Falls_282_02082020 - Context of the long descent on the way back from Trail Canyon Falls in February 2020. Given how exposed to the sun it was, no wonder why it took a lot out of us on the way to the waterfall
Trail_Canyon_Falls_288_02082020 - Returning to the foot of Trail Canyon on the return hike in February 2020
Trail_Canyon_Falls_310_02082020 - Julie and Tahia making it back to one of the private homes seen along the Trail Canyon Falls Trail
Trail_Canyon_Falls_315_02082020 - Although most of the return hike from Trail Canyon Falls was downhill, this was one noticeably uphill stretch between the old day use parking area and the Big Tujunga Canyon Road near the junction with Gold Canyon Trail during our February 2020 visit
Trail_Canyon_Falls_327_02082020 - Julie and Tahia finally making it back to the Big Tujunga Canyon Road to end our Trail Canyon Falls visit in February 2020
Trail_Canyon_Falls_117_01192013 - The next few photos show you how the Trail Canyon Falls experience was back in January 2013.  This was the start of the unpaved Trail Canyon Road. Notice how the gate was open back then.
Trail_Canyon_Falls_005_01192013 - Julie and Mom going past the gate at the actual trailhead for Trail Canyon Falls during our hike in January 2013
Trail_Canyon_Falls_006_01192013 - Crossing the ford in the access road to Trail Canyon Falls, which seemed easier back then in January 2013 than it did in February 2020 given how the rocks seemed to be more organized
Trail_Canyon_Falls_008_01192013 - Julie passing by one of the newly-built cabins along the Trail Canyon Falls Trail as of January 2013
Trail_Canyon_Falls_010_01192013 - Context of the fire damage that has stripped a lot of the vegetation in Trail Canyon as seen during our January 2013 hike
Trail_Canyon_Falls_011_01192013 - Following the signs beyond the cabins, which looked different back in January 2013 than February 2020
Trail_Canyon_Falls_012_01192013 - The scenery at the initial climb just beyond the cabins en route to Trail Canyon Falls as seen in January 2013
Trail_Canyon_Falls_016_01192013 - Looking back at the trail in Trail Canyon as it climbed up towards a series of crossings of Golden Creek during our January 2013 visit
Trail_Canyon_Falls_017_01192013 - Going past some abandoned equipment as seen from our Trail Canyon Falls hike in January 2013 not long after they re-opened this trail after several years of closure due to damage from the Station Fire
Trail_Canyon_Falls_019_01192013 - Julie going across a make-shift log bridge, which was set up for our January 2013 hike. This was one of the few bridged crossings because most of the other ones were not
Trail_Canyon_Falls_021_01192013 - Hiking through Trail Canyon in January 2013 with much of the tree cover lost due to the 2009 Station Fire
Trail_Canyon_Falls_024_01192013 - Julie and Mom traversing one of several stream crossings en route to Trail Canyon Falls in January 2013
Trail_Canyon_Falls_025_01192013 - Now Trail Canyon was really open to the sun during our January 2013 hike
Trail_Canyon_Falls_026_01192013 - Julie descending towards the easy-to-miss last creek crossing during our January 2013 hike to Trail Canyon Falls
Trail_Canyon_Falls_030_01192013 - Starting the long uphill climb in the hot sun to Trail Canyon Falls during our January 2013 visit
Trail_Canyon_Falls_035_01192013 - Looking back towards the start of the ascent alongside Trail Canyon as of January 2013. Compare this photo with a similar shot taken in December 2002. You might notice quite a big difference in the vegetation since our 2013 visit took place shortly after the trail recovered enough to re-open after the Station Fire damage
Trail_Canyon_Falls_036_01192013 - Further up the unshaded long ascent on our January 2013 hike to Trail Canyon Falls
Trail_Canyon_Falls_040_01192013 - Taking a break while looking down into Trail Canyon as of January 2013
Trail_Canyon_Falls_041_01192013 - Almost at the end of the climb in the hot sun during our January 2013 hike to Trail Canyon Falls
Trail_Canyon_Falls_046_01192013 - Finally, our first look at Trail Canyon Falls in January 2013 after the Station Fire damage and recovery
Trail_Canyon_Falls_049_01192013 - Looking down at the steep and eroded trail leading towards the base of Trail Canyon Falls during our January 2013 hike
Trail_Canyon_Falls_054_01192013 - Mom cautiously making the steep and harrowing descent to the bottom of Trail Canyon Falls during our January 2013 hike
Trail_Canyon_Falls_058_01192013 - Mom checking out Trail Canyon Falls in January 2013
Trail_Canyon_Falls_062_01192013 - Long exposed look up at Trail Canyon Falls during our January 2013 visit
Trail_Canyon_Falls_067_01192013 - Looking up towards the top of Trail Canyon Falls and the closing in of the canyon walls as seen in January 2013
Trail_Canyon_Falls_078_01192013 - Looking at the context of Trail Canyon Falls from a little further downstream during our January 2013 visit
Trail_Canyon_Falls_098_01192013 - Angled look up at the Trail Canyon Falls from the fringes of its plunge pool as seen during our January 2013 visit
Trail_Canyon_Falls_104_01192013 - Julie and Mom both making the steep climb back out from Trail Canyon Falls in January 2013, which gives you another idea of how steep this part of the trail was
Trail_Canyon_Falls_106_01192013 - Looking down over the brink of Trail Canyon Falls during our visit in January 2013
Trail_Canyon_Falls_116_01192013 - Finally back at the trailhead ending our January 2013 hike to Trail Canyon Falls. Note how busy this parking lot used to be back then
Trail_Canyon_Falls_002_12302002 - Just to show you how eerily different things were back in December 2002, here's a series of photos that you can take a look at and compare with our more recent photos starting with this calm pond seen along the Trail Canyon Falls Trail
Trail_Canyon_Falls_003_12302002 - Looking back at Trail Canyon after going partway up the climbing section of the trail in December 2002
Trail_Canyon_Falls_004_12302002 - Partial view of Trail Canyon Falls from the trail in December 2002. Notice how much more overgrown this trailside view was back then
Trail_Canyon_Falls_007_12302002 - Looking down over the brink of Trail Canyon Falls from my first visit back in December 2002
Trail_Canyon_Falls_009_12302002 - Direct view of Trail Canyon Falls in December 2002
Trail_Canyon_Falls_012_12302002 - View of Trail Canyon Falls in December 2002 from further downstream so we could see more of it. These days, there's more deadfall and overgrowth that prevented us from having this kind of view anymore
Trail_Canyon_Falls_018_12302002 - Focused look at the plunge pool at the base of Trail Canyon Falls as seen in late December 2002

join-booking-970x240-1.jpg


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.

Trail_Canyon_Falls_001_02082020 - Looking back at the turnoff for North Trail Canyon Road from the Big Tujunga Canyon Road
Looking back at the turnoff for North Trail Canyon Road from the Big Tujunga Canyon Road

From where Oro Vista Ave became Big Tujunga Canyon Rd, we followed Big Tujunga Rd for about 4.5 miles to the turnoff for the N Trail Canyon Rd on the left. This turnoff would be about 3.5 miles from the Mt Gleason Rd / Big Tujunga Canyon Rd intersection.

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.

North Trail Canyon Road

In the past, we used to be able to drive onto N Trail Canyon Rd, which was narrow, unpaved, and scary in spots given the presence of a few deep ruts.

Back then, we could make this drive in our 2wd passenger vehicles.

Trail_Canyon_Falls_001_01192013 - This was the Trail Canyon Day Use Parking and Trailhead back in the days when they used to let you drive here
This was the Trail Canyon Day Use Parking and Trailhead back in the days when they used to let you drive here

Anyways, this road would continue for about 0.4 miles to the Day Use Parking Area for Trail Canyon.

However, recently, it seemed like they closed the gate at the start of this unpaved road, and that this appeared to be a permanent closure unless you happen to have the keys to unlock the gate.

So that means that you must now park in the pullouts or open spaces along Big Tujunga Canyon Road, and then you’ll have to walk the 0.4 miles to the old day use parking area and trailhead for Trail Canyon Falls.

It’s not clear if the Forest Service enforces the display of Angeles Forest passes for parked vehicles here since we didn’t see signage stating this.

Trail_Canyon_Falls_004_02082020 - Now that a locked gate blocks public access to the unpaved North Trail Canyon Road, you have to park along Big Tujunga Canyon Road and walk to the old Trail Canyon Day Use Parking Area and Trailhead
Now that a locked gate blocks public access to the unpaved North Trail Canyon Road, you have to park along Big Tujunga Canyon Road and walk to the old Trail Canyon Day Use Parking Area and Trailhead

That said, I’d imagine it would be easy to enforce given this new trailhead parking scheme.

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.

Right to left sweep from the trail while ending at our first look at the Trail Canyon Falls


At the base of Trail Canyon Falls and examining the falls from as many different positions as possible


Looking down over the top of Trail Canyon Falls from a couple of spots above its brink


Top down sweep of the falls from its base


Bottom up sweep from the stream at the base of the falls to the falls itself


Top down sweep of the falls before panning towards the scrambling trail


Right to left sweep at the top of the falls following the creek to the brink


Pretty clumsy 360 degree sweep of the falls with my lame commentary (from back in 2002)

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



Visitor Comments:

Trail Canyon Falls Open June 11, 2012 8:41 pm by Stephanie - This trail is now open. We hiked this trail on June 9th. ...Read More
Aug 12, 2011- Trail Canyon Falls still not open August 13, 2011 10:43 pm by Carolina Oester - Still not open from the fire 2 years ago... ...Read More
Trail Canyon 1/20/11 January 30, 2011 12:29 am by _Anonymous56 - Just hiked to the falls! It was so beautiful. It was hard to follow the trail, lots of boulder hopping and crossing of the creek. If you're looking to stay on the trail you need to be looking up to the left for barbed wire and that's how you know when the trail verges up… ...Read More
Trail Canyon Falls – 10/30/2010 Couldn’t get to it October 31, 2010 1:30 am by Nutella Crepe - We tried driving up from Big Tujunga Drive, but Trail Canyon is still closed from fire damage. Where Big Tujunga meets Angeles Forest Rd., you can only go north -- Angeles Forest Rd. in the direction of Pasadena is still closed. By Aliso Park (more north on Angeles Forest Rd.) the Pacific Crest Trail is… ...Read More

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Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

Trail Canyon May 17, 2012 May 18, 2012 6:48 am by John - Just went to trail canyon falls today. The trail is closed due to fires that happened years ago but I think it is because they don't have the money to fix and maintain the trail to be honest. You must trespass at your own risk. I parked on Ollie Rd. just yards from the dirt… ...Read More

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of 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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