Fish Canyon Falls: One of Southern California’s Best Waterfalls

This trail is now open year round and no longer requires the shuttle I wrote about below. Check out up to date information in the comments.

Fish Canyon Falls, one of the premier Southern California waterfalls, has been on my list for a long time. Unfortunately, if you do not want to do a 9 mile grueling hike to the falls then the best bet is to wait for one of the 8 days that the private land you have to cross is open to the public each year. So I have been waiting ever since I was told about it 8 months ago and I finally got a chance to check it out on the first open day of the season, April 13th (yes this post is super late). Even with the crazy amount of people we saw here this truly is an amazing waterfall that you really need to see. I can’t believe the start of the hike is only like 5 minutes off the freeway, check out the open dates and add it to your list, then read on for my full review.

Fish Canyon Falls 18

Details 

  • 4 Miles round trip but not too hard
  • New trail has 70 spots for parking and adds .7 miles each way to the trail.
  • Open 7AM – 7PM

Fish Canyon Falls 27

History

The below history is from here:

During the “Great Hiking Era” of the early 1900’s, Fish Canyon was one of the premiere outdoor recreation destinations in the San Gabriel Valley.  At one time over 50 cabins dotted the canyon, along with several miles of trails, and a dance hall at the mouth of the canyon. During the fire of 1958 and the subsequent flooding of 1959, most of the cabins were destroyed.  Only four cabins remained until the mid 1970’s when they were torn down.  Today, there is one trail left in Fish Canyon and remnants of the cabins can be found along the trail. Access to this superb natural and historic attraction was severely curtailed when Azusa Rock expanded its quarrying operation in the mid 1980’s.  In 1997 the City of Duarte received a grant through the 1992 Safe Neighborhood Parks Act to provide a new access to Fish Canyon, and to restore the existing trail.”

Fish Canyon Falls 8

The Hike

We arrived at around 8 to try and beat the crowds for the hike. This was somewhat of a success but at 8 in the morning we were car number 67 so that should be an indication for how many people are coming here.  We got a good parking spot and quickly jumped into line for the shuttle. We were only waiting about 5 minutes before 1 of the 2 shuttles came to pick us up and shuttle us to the trail head.

Fish Canyon Falls 1

The trail head goes right through a chain link fence that tells people from the outside to stay off the mining property as it is private. The first thing you do is cross a bridge onto the trail and from here on out you are literally surrounded by lush green plants, streams and big mountains.

Fish Canyon Falls 2

The canyon itself feels like something you would experience in the forest of Hawaii more than right at the base of a Southern California mountain.

Fish Canyon Falls 28

We got to see the sun rise over the morning fog since we were on the trail early and it was a beautiful way to hike into the canyon.

Fish Canyon Falls 13

The trail itself is well maintained and easy to follow, plus there will be a lot of people so its pretty hard to get lost as there is always someone behind or ahead of you.

Fish Canyon Falls 4

The 2 miles to the falls went really quick to me as I was just soaking in the beauty of the area and really enjoying myself. When we saw the falls for the first time we could see all of the people waiting at the base and we entered the line to descend the somewhat slippery rocks down to the base of the falls.

Fish Canyon Falls 22

The Waterfall

Fish Canyon Falls itself is a beautiful 70-80 foot three-tiered waterfall. It has a 15 foot drop for the first tier about 10 feet for the second then about 50 down to the pool below.

Fish Canyon Falls 21

The water was flowing decent when we were there but since this year was so dry I would imagine it has been a lot more crazy in years past.

Fish Canyon Falls 16

This really is a beautiful place to explore, and while I would have liked fewer people there for my photos I was glad to see some many people out enjoying the trail and the falls on this beautiful Spring day.

Fish Canyon Falls 20

There is also a smaller 10 foot falls right at the run off for Fish Canyon that you can see as well.

Fish Canyon Falls 24

All in all it was a beautiful place to spend a morning and I plan to go back on another one of the open days. Shout out to my friend Jeff, the SoCal Hiker who I ran into while there and he put up his recap here as well. If you like waterfalls I highly suggest you make the trek to Fish Canyon Falls and I would love to hear what you think in the comments. Here are the rest of my pictures.

Photo Gallery

 

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  • Jeff Hester

    Great post, Josh! It was so funny running into you there at the falls. There were so many people, I didn’t expect someone to be calling my name out.

    Love the photos. Although this is a really crowded hike, it’s fun and there’s a lot of history in the canyon. It was worth doing at least once.

    • Ya I agree! it is crowded but that isn’t a big deal since it is only open so little.

  • kim

    I just love all your posts and pictures! these are very useful information – thank you!

    • Thanks Kim, I am glad you liked the post!

  • James v

    You mentioned a 9 mile hike? Is that an option on the days that the trail is not open to the public?

  • Neek

    hello !! on a scale of one to ten whats the intensity of this hike? 10 being the hardest or steepest etc? I am 5 months pregnant and we want to do a photoshoot and ofcourse enjoy the hike so I’d love the feedback! …
    and is the shuttle free or have a cost? please and thank you!!

  • Jerry McCormick

    Hey Hikers,
    Most of the Stoners from Cerritos, CA. used to hike up there back in the late ’70s & early ’80s to party. This was before the Factory came along & messed up the beggining of the Canyon. Back then we used to call it Marijuana Falls because there were stories that it used to grow wild at the top of the Falls many years ago. One night we even took a Keg up to where we used to call Painted Rocks, a spot about 1/3 of the way up where Graffiti is painted on rocks in the stream bed by Hippies. During those years of hiking up there a few people had fallen & there were more than 1 or 2 deaths by a person from our school, Cerritos High. We have seen Trantilas, Rabbits, & many Rattle Snakes on our hikes , so watch your dogs carefully. Alot of Cub & Boys Scouts have hiked there. Some poeple that I have seen personally used to bring Guns up with them to horse around with, back in the day. It’s a Great Hike & I plan to start going back with my Family.

    Reply

  • Sue FW

    I was wondering, with the recent fires in thebpast few monthd, is Fish Canyon open?

    • I am not sure but I haven’t personally heard anything about closures.

      • Sue FW

        Ok. Ive heard both yes and no to the closure. If I ever get out that way again, I’ll check it out and post an update. Thank you for replying.

      • SueMarie

        I was searching on Google and saw on another hike site that Fish Canyon is closed as of June 26th. Some of the comments said it was a total loss there. I’m saddened by this. It was a beautiful hike.