The Pasadena hills hold many great trailheads and hikes from Echo Mountain on the Sam Merril trail, to Mt. Wilson a part of the six pack of peaks. Eaton Canyon is one of those trails that is right outside the city with easy access to get into nature.
Eaton Canyon is a major canyon beginning at the Eaton Saddle near Mount Markham and San Gabriel Peak in the San Gabriel Mountains in the Angeles National Forest. This canyon is where the Southern Pacific Railroad used to be. The hiking trail leads through beautiful rugged hills filled with wildflowers on the trail in the spring to the 40 foot drop waterfalls into the canyon in a waist deep pool for wading on a hot day.
How to get there
Eaton Canyon is conveniently close outside the city in Pasadena on the edge of the hills. The canyon is a 25-30 minute drive outside of LA city via CA-134 E and about a 50 minute drive outside of Orange County area on the CA-57N and I-210W.
Eaton Canyon has a trailhead that starts in Pasadena, CA and goes straight up into the hills above the city. There is a trail to Eaton Canyon waterfall as well as Rubio Canyon and falls.
Pasadena to Eaton Canyon
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 past New York Drive. Pull into the park, leave your vehicle in the lot by the nature center and start hiking north.
Trailhead coordinates: 34.17832, -118.09663 (34° 10′ 42″N 118° 05′ 47.9″W)
Trailhead Address: 1999 Veranada Ave, Pasadena, CA 91107, USA
Eaton Canyon Parking
Eaton Canyon is a popular nature trail area since it is conveniently right outside the city. The parking lot is full and fills up fast, not only on weekends but also on weekdays. If the main lot is full, you can use the overflow parking in the Equestrian Area. Go through the gate on the north side of New York Drive, just east of Altadena Drive. From there you can walk along the west side of the wash to reach the hiking trails or take the short foot path into the main parking lot to access the Nature Center. See the map below:
The Nature Center
The nature center has displays, live animals, offices, classrooms, an auditorium, restrooms, and an information desk/gift shop. There is lots of helpful information about hiking trails, animals, plants, geology, history of the canyon, ecology, and docent-guided tours.
Location: 1750 North Altadena Drive in Pasadena (detailed map).
Hours: 9am-5pm Tues-Sun open
Eaton Canyon Falls Trail
The falls in Eaton Canyon are 40 feet high and fall into a pool that you can swim in. The falls are best after there has been rain so they are dried up. The water is waist deep and on hot days a refreshing spot to take a dip after a hike workout. The trail is a wide dirt trial that is fairly flat and half a mile up a more narrow canyon that is fun. This is one of the well known LA waterfall hikes.
Miles: 3.5 miles
Elevation: 375 feet gain
Time: 1.5-2 hours
Type: Out & back
Fees & permits: Free!
Animals: Dogs are allowed on leash
You start at the Eaton Canyon Nature Center and continue up the trail off Altadena Drive. This trail gives beautiful views of the San Gabriel Mountains heading north on the trail. The trail takes you essentially to the foot of the mountains. Eaton Canyon Trail crosses Eaton Wash after 0.2 miles and turns left underneath a canopy of trees.
At 0.55 miles from the start, the trail has a junction with Horse Trail. Veer left to go up Eaton Canyon Trail. Horse Trail (also known as Walnut Canyon Trail) goes up the east side of the canyon, reaching Mt. Wilson (Six Pack of Peaks hike) toll road after 0.6 miles.
There is a junction, 1.1 miles up Eaton Canyon Trail. The junction is where the trail comes to a white concrete bridge on Mount Wilson Toll Road, crossing over the top of Eaton Canyon Trail. The trail to the right connects to Mount Wilson Toll Road, which runs all the way to the summit of Mount Wilson. The trail also goes to Henniger flats, filled with pine trees, a visitor information center, campground, lookout tower, and tree nursery operated by the Los Angeles County Fire Department. To go to Eaton Canyon Falls, stay left, following an arrow for the waterfall. Pass below the bridge to enter the San Gabriel Mountains.
After going under the bridge, the hike changes. You hike up a canyon, crossing from bank to bank up a winding creek. Be especially careful on this section of the trail, which is in rugged terrain. This section of the trail is only a bit over half a mile as the falls are only 0.6 miles past the bridge.
Things to do nearby
Echo Mountain Hike
Echo Mountain is a famous LA hiking trail that is some of the best trail running area right outside the city. The hike takes the Sam Merrill Trail, which follows the old Mt Lowe railway route up to Echo Mountain, where you can see the old ruins of the Echo Mountain mountain resort. This is a great historical hike right outside the city conveniently and has amazing views. This is one of my favorite trail running spots near LA.
Mt. Wilson Hike
Mt. Wilson is technically the first peak of the 6 in the challenge. The peaks go up in elevation helping you build on your mileage and elevation over time. This peak has Mount Wilson Observatory on the top. This peak has telescopes as well on the summit and actually has a road that can be driven all the way to the top as well with a restaurant overlooking the mountains. Mt Wilson was one of the most wooded trails in the pack of peaks. This hike has nice shade and a cool viewpoint that is fenced in but goes out on a ledge with epic mountain views of LA, Catalina, Southern Channel Islands and San Diego county.
Placerita is a wooded park that has lots of trails, a waterfall, picnic space, historic monuments & a nature center with regular events. The park is situated in the transition zone between the San Gabrial Mountains and the Mojave Desert, and is full of sandstone formations, seasonal streams and riparian oak woodlands, as well as stands of cottonwood and native sycamore trees. The location connects the Angeles National Forest, the Santa Susana Mountains, the Simi Hills and the Santa Monica Mountains. The hills in this park have beautiful views and go through forested woods as well as open rolling hills with sweeping views.