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Nobody Hikes in L.A.: Falls Creek Falls Is So Nice They Named It Twice

Photo by David Lockeretz of Nobody Hikes in L.A.
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By David Lockeretz of Nobody Hikes in L.A. / Special to LAistPerhaps it’s because most people associate them with Yosemite and not Los Angeles that waterfalls tend to be among Southern California’s most popular hiking destinations. Sturtevant, Holy Jim, Eaton, Temescal and Etiwanda are just a few of the many waterfalls that lie just beyond the urban fringe of Los Angeles. However, as well known as these waterfalls may be among L.A. hikers, there are more that still flow in relative obscurity. One of these is Falls Canyon Falls, located in Big Tujunga Canyon at the western end of the San Gabriel Mountains.

While its name may be redundant, Falls Canyon Falls can be one of the most dramatic waterfalls in the San Gabriel Mountains. It cascades down a total of four tiers. Only the bottom, which is the tallest at 70 feet, is easily accessible, but on the way down, hikers are treated to a dramatic view of the entire thing. The hike from Big Tujunga Canyon Road is a moderate, four-mile plus round trip. Some off trail scrambling near the end—during which there is much poison oak to be avoided—is required, but experienced hikers will have no problem with it and even newbies who are in decent shape should be fine. This trail is similar to, but considerably easier than, the popular trip to Orange County’s Black Star Canyon Falls.

To get to the trailhead, simply take the Angeles Crest Highway north from I-210 in La Canada for 9 miles to the Clear Creek Junction. Head north on the Angeles Forest Highway (yes, it’s a different road) for 4 miles, and turn left onto Big Tujunga Canyon Road. In less than a mile, look for a turnout at the side of the road on the right. A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking here.

The trail heads downhill. Station Fire damage has made a few spots rough, but overall navigation isn’t too bad. Dramatic views of Big Tujunga Canyon open up during the descent. Just over a mile down, a small, seasonal waterfall can be seen on the right.

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At 1.7 miles, the trail meets the creek. The route to the falls heads left (west), following the creek. The exact path may vary; a few fallen logs block progress and at least two stream crossings will be required. This can be tricky if the water level is high (hiking poles will come in handy). Soon the waterfall itself becomes visible. After the final stream crossing, a short walk accesses the base of the waterfall. Be careful of the poison oak around the pool. There are a few rocks to sit on while enjoying the sight of Falls Canyon Falls.

It’s surprising that this waterfall isn’t better known. Even if Falls Canyon Falls isn’t a true year-round waterfall, and even if reaching it requires a little more than straight trail-hiking, it has the potential to be one of Los Angeles’s premier hiking destinations.