Beautiful Eaton Canyon Falls: Easy and crowded, but well worth hiking

Hike-At-A-Glance


Eaton Canyon Falls Trail

Date Hiked: May 29, 2010
Best Season: Autumn Spring Summer Winter
Check Trail Conditions: Eaton Canyon Nature Center 626-398-5420
  • Distance: 3.84 miles round-trip
  • Elevation Gain: 481 feet
  • Route Type: Out-and-Back
  • Trail Type: Mostly dirt
  • Difficulty: Moderate
Eaton Canyon Natural Area

Parking lot was full.

Last Memorial weekend (May 29), Jeff and I picked an easy scenic hike, that we hoped would appeal to our two kids and niece.

It turns out that most of L.A. had the same idea that hot sunny holiday weekend — because the hike was one of the most crowded we’ve done.  All trail reviews warned of this, so we were not surprised, just hopeful — no luck.

Eaton Canyon Falls Trail

The first of several creek crossings, this one is just past the Nature Center.

Eaton Canyon Nature Area is “a 190-acre zoological, botanical, and geological nature preserve situated at the base of the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains.” One of the major, if not the biggest, highlights of the park is Eaton Canyon Falls, a 50-foot waterfall that flows all year into a big cool natural pool at its base. On a hot summer day, like the day of our hike, the pool is packed with people. To access the park, take the 210 Freeway eastbound to the Sierra Madre Boulevard/Altadena Drive exit and proceed north for 1.6 miles.

Eaton Canyon Falls Trail

The first two-thirds of the trail is like this, a nice wide fire road, and quite exposed.

The trail itself is very easy to follow. It is well signed and well worn. The majority of the trail is a wide dirt fire road, but the final stretch does involve some scrambling across rocks. Be prepared for your shoes to get wet, because there are several water crossings on this trail (I wore my Tevas the entire hike). But, don’t let that dissuade you — while we advocate proper hiking footwear, to our horror, there were plenty of people sporting flip flops, crocs and street shoes.

Eaton Canyon Falls Trail

Everyone, including our puppy, dug all the creek crossings on such a hot day.

The minimal distance and elevation gain, as well as the beautiful waterfall and natural pool, make this an excellent hike for kids. Be prepared for crowds, especially on a holiday weekend. Our hike was so crowded that we had to wait for people to traverse one or two of the creek crossings (made all the more difficult because of their poor choice of footwear), but, we certainly plan to visit this local gem of a hike again…just perhaps on a vacation day.

Eaton Canyon Falls Trail

Fortunately, there are periodic moments of shade along the trail.

Eaton Canyon Falls Trail

The final stretch to the falls hugs the canyon wall.

Eaton Canyon Falls

The shady area surrounding the falls is already crowded.

Eaton Canyon Falls

The beach alongside the pool at the base of the falls is equally crowded.

Eaton Canyon Falls

Did I mention that the falls were really really crowded???

Eaton Canyon Falls Trail

I was thrilled to still see some wildflowers at the end of May.


View Eaton Canyon Falls Trail in a larger map

Eaton Canyon Falls Elevation Profile

Eaton Canyon Falls elevation profile--click through for larger, more readable version

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Comments

  1. Dan Styer says

    This waterfall was visited by John Muir who (in the final pages of “The Mountains of California”) called it “a charming little thing, with a low, sweet voice, singing like a bird”.

    — Dan Styer

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