We’ve had beautiful weather in Southern California recently, so Eric and I decided it was time to get back into hiking. We grabbed a few friends and headed up to the San Gabriel Mountains (north of Pasadena) to explore Eaton Canyon.
Eaton Canyon is located within a 190-acre nature preserve at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. Its most popular feature is a 40-foot waterfall at the top of Eaton Canyon Trail, which happened to be our destination on this particular Sunday morning. As it turned out, we were not alone.
Be sure to arrive early for this hike. We pulled into the parking lot around 9:30 AM to find it completely full. Thankfully, there was an overflow lot with a few spots open, but even these were filling quickly.
The hike itself is fairly easy. Depending on where you park, it’s about 3.5 to 4 miles round trip. Most of this is on a flat, wide, dirt path, which is quite easy to follow. A few trails lead off the main path in different directions, but are clearly marked, so it would be difficult to lose your way. We were able to follow the massive crowd of people heading towards the falls, which helped us to know we were going in the right direction.
Once you’re about half a mile from the falls, you’ll cross under a tall bridge and meet up with the creek. Here is where the hike gets a bit tricky, as you’ll be doing a bit of climbing and creek-crossing, but even this is not too difficult. Many of the people we passed on our way to the falls did not look like experienced hikers and were at varying fitness levels, so this hike really is for just about anybody. We saw people of all ages. We even saw a woman in full make-up dressed in skinny jeans and heels, though I question whether she actually made it to the falls.
We knew we had arrived at the falls when we saw the giant crowd of people. Here is where I emphasize again that you should begin this hike early in the day, or perhaps on a weekday. There were at least 100 people milling about in this tiny canyon, enjoying the cool water and the beautiful waterfall.
Because this hike is so popular, it is unfortunately frequented by people who don’t seem to care much about preserving its natural beauty. We noticed a significant amount of graffiti and trash. One thing that particularly upset me was the frequent sightings of bagged dog poo littering the ground. I’m not quite sure why people think this constitutes cleaning up after your dog!
After completing this hike, I can’t say that I would recommend it.While the falls themselves are beautiful, my experience was much less special due to the huge crowds and the poor condition of the trail. I may give it another chance one day, when I can go at a less popular time. Until then I’ll continue to explore other natural areas of Southern California in the hopes that I’ll find some that are better appreciated.
Quick facts about Eaton Canyon:
Park open daily from sunrise to sunset, year-round.
Best time to go: Very early. Weekdays.
Distance: 3.5 to 4 miles round-trip
Time: 2 to 3 hours
Elevation gain: 375 feet
Dogs allowed, but must be kept on-leash.
Free parking on-site. Overflow parking available.
Location: 1750 North Altadena Drive, Pasadena, CA