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

As of 2019, this trail is still closed. There is no current information as to when it will be open again.

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 eight 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 eight months ago, and I finally got a chance to check it out on the first open day of the season, April 13th, 2014 (yes, this post is super late). Even with the crazy amount of people, this indeed is a fantastic waterfall that you 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.

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  • 4 Miles round trip but not too hard
  • A new trail has 70 spots for parking and adds .7 miles each way to the trail.
  • Open 7 AM – 7 PM
  • Closed indefinitely due to fire damage

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The below history is from here:

During the “Great Hiking Era” of the early 1900s, Fish Canyon was one of the premier 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-1970s 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-1980s.  In 1997 the City of Duarte received a grant through the 1992 Safe Neighborhood Parks Act to provide new access to Fish Canyon and to restore the existing trail.”

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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 of 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 two shuttles came to pick us up and shuttle us to the trailhead.

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The trailhead 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 surrounded by lush green plants, streams, and big mountains.

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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.

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

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

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The 2 miles to the falls went quickly to me as I was soaking in the beauty of the area and 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 bottom of the falls.

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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.

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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.

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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 many people out enjoying the trail and the falls on this beautiful Spring day.

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

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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.

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