Eaton Canyon is nestled in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, just hop, skip and a jump from Los Angeles, on the north-eastern side of Pasadena and Altadena. There are a number of hiking trails meandering there way through these hills, but the one I particularly want to feature in this post is the trail that leads to Eaton Canyon Falls.
The magnificent forty-foot falls lie at the top of Eaton Canyon Trail, cascading into a beautiful, vast pool below. In the summertime, while it can be extremely busy, I can imagine this pool would be incredibly refreshing to wade or lie in - you could even pack a picnic and relax amongst the large boulders scattered throughout. The trail to Eaton Canyon Falls is fairly straight forward and can be easily be summed up through about 1 miles of wide flat dirt trail, followed by 0.65 miles of single track, rocky creek bed that makes it's way up the slender canyon that is a whole lot of fun to navigate. In total, this trail is about 3.5 - 4 miles (depending how much exploring you do) out and back with a slight elevation gain of about 580 feet (again this depends on your exploration).
The hike begins at the Eaton Canyon Nature Center which is situated inside the gates amongst the parking lot. Between the picnic areas, nature center and flat terrain this specific location is a hot spot for dog walkers, baby strollers and families with young children. If you are in search of a serene, quiet experience in nature, I definitely recommend exploring this area on a weekday as opposed to a weekend. We went on a cooler, overcast day in February and still there was rarely a moment that we were alone on the trail or at the falls.
There is a large sign marking the start of the trail, you can't miss it! Follow the trail along a usually dry creek bed, Eaton Wash. You'll find yourself amongst a few shaded areas and some little tree hideouts as you make your way up the trail.
The trail crosses over Eaton Wash after about 0.2 miles into your hike. At this point you will make a left, heading northwest under a canopy of trees. Around 0.55 miles in from your start, you will find yourself at a junction with the Horse Trail (you will notice signs). Continue to the left to stay on the Eaton Canyon Trail.
At just about the 1.1 mile mark in your hike, you will reach another junction which is just in sight of a concrete bridge up ahead in the distance. Here, head left again following an arrow for the waterfall, and pass below the bridge to enter the San Gabriel Mountains.
Passing under the bridge turns your hike into a whole different experience. Suddenly you will be traversing much more rugged terrain, boulder hopping, and creek crossing as you make your way through the dense canyon. While this section is quite fun, it can also be unassumingly dangerous - make sure you watch your footing and keep an eye out for falling rocks from above the steep walls of the canyon. Eaton Canyon is infamous for it's helicopter rescues due to careless hiking.
After just about 0.6 miles you will find yourself coming upon the falls. You might have to do a bit of scrambling to get up close, but the views are certainly worth it! If you're lucky you might get a moment to yourself at the falls. We were not so lucky, but still happy to be face to face with a flowing waterfall. It's a rare sight these days due to the common droughts, but thankfully, these last few weeks we've had some decent rainfall.
While the heavy traffic can be daunting, it's a must see trail nonetheless. With it's close proximity to the city, large parking area, easy to navigate trails and a rewarding ending, you really have no reason NOT to check this trail out!
When you're done taking in the views, simply head back the way you came!
How to get there: Take the Altadena exit off the 210 Freeway in Pasadena. Head north on Altadena Drive. The Eaton Canyon Nature Area is a couple miles up the road on the right. Pull into the park past the gates, and leave your vehicle in the lot by the nature center. WARNING: The parking lot gate closes at 5pm (a little early if you ask me!) so if you plan on hiking past 5pm, make sure you park your car on the outside street and use the trails to get inside.
Address: 1750 North Altadena Drive, Pasadena, CA 91107