Monthly Archives: December 2011

Fish Canyon Falls Via Van Tassel Ridge

Fish Canyon Falls is one of the most intriguing waterfalls in Southern Cali. Unfortunately, the main trail is blocked by the Vulcan Materials Company. Though, there is a schedule for certain Saturday’s where a shuttle takes you through the Vulcan property to the start of the of the trail at a bridge(which is a pretty moderate hike to the Falls and back). Maybe about 3.5 miles round trip and a few hundred feet in elevation gain. Without this shuttle through the Vulcan property, there is another way to get to the falls, but it is a 9 mile round trip and about 3000 feet in elevation gain taking the Van Tassel Ridge. This is pretty strenuous and there is quite a bit of poison oak along the way. If you want to see a great waterfall that has several tiers, then, it will be worth it to take this alternate route there. Be sure to wear long sleeves and pants to avoid the overgrown parts of the trail, and if you go in the summer, make sure to bring plenty of water, wear sunblock and a hat.

One of the Lower Tiers of Fish Canyon Falls.

From the parking lot just before the quarry, the first part of the trail takes you up Van Tassel Ridge for about a 2 mile hike with about 1500 feet of elevation gain. As you are climbing this ridge, you will start to get great views. Once you get to the top of this ridge, you will then descend down the canyon about 1100 feet in just over a mile into the creek/stream. Keep in mind that you will have to ascend this back to the top when you come back form the waterfall so make sure that you are prepared for this type of hike because it is very steep. Once you get to the creek from this big descent, you will go left about about a mile and a half or so and gain a few hundred more feet of elevation to get to the waterfall. Once you are there, you will find it to be a great place to relax and enjoy the amazing Fish Canyon Falls. Just remember, if you check the Vulcan shuttle schedule, the hike to the falls will be easy compared to this insane alternate route. This is not the greatest trail in some spots(but passable), so, please hike this at your own risk.

First Couple Tiers of Fish Canyon Falls.

Fish Canyon Falls Hiking Statistics:

  • Elevation Gain – 3000 feet
  • Round Trip – 9 miles
  • Suggested Time – 6 Hours
  • Difficuty – Strenuous
  • Best Season – October – June

    View From Near the Top of Van Tassel Ridge.

Fish Canyon Falls is in the Angeles National Forest. From the I-210 Foothill Freeway East, (or the I-605 traveling north): Exit Mt. Olive Avenue in Duarte. Turn right on Huntington Drive and go about half a mile to Encanto Parkway. Turn left and just before you reach a quarry, turn left into a small parking lot. Parking is free.

If you have any additional questions about this hike, feel free to leave a comment here, and/or email me at


Mt. Lukens via George Deukmejian Wilderness Park

This was a great hike and overall the trail is in pretty good shape. I took the “Rim of the Valley” trail connecting from the George Deukmejian Wilderness Park. This is probably not the greatest hike in the Summer because you are mostly exposed to the Sun, so, if you do it in the Summer, wear a hat, use Sunblock, and bring lots of water. This hike to Mt. Lukens is strenuous and should only be attempted by Intermediate to Advanced hikers that are in great physical condition. ‘The “Rim of the Valley” trail will eventually connect to the Haines Canyon Truck Trail that will take you all the way to the summit of Mt. Lukens. I did this hike on 12/17/2011 and I saw a lot of people enjoying the trails, but, I did not see many people as I began my ascension towards Mt. Lukens; maybe like 5 or 6 overall. The summit of Mt. Lukens had snow completely covering the trail over the last 1/4 mile or so and it was pretty cold up there, but, the views from the summit are panoramic in every direction. You can get a great view of Catalina Island and beyond.  Also, since there are radio towers, most likely, you will have cell reception. There are also several areas where you can rest and have snacks and/or drinks, and enjoy the magnificent views.

Old bridge that was destroyed in a landslide several years ago.

From the Parking lot at the park, you will take a little trail/road that starts by a stone building, and at about a 1/4 mile or so, you will pass an oak tree, and see couple signs. Take the left trail(Rim of the Valley), and, then a make a right when you come to a section where you can either go right or left. As you begin this first climb, just continue to stay right and eventually, in about 1/4 mile or so, the trail will take you to the right and down to a stream where you will pass an old concrete sort of bridge. The trail will then take you to the left, and, soon you will start climbing again where you will pass a collapsed bridge. After the bridge, just a bit further up, the trail will make a sharp right and then you will begin a step ascension of switchbacks towards Mt. Lukens. Continue on the switchbacks and eventually the trail will start heading Northeast. There will be couple of sections where you will do a short but very steep climb, and, on the second section, you will see a wooden post and connect to the Haines Canyon Truck Trail where you will make a right. This truck trail will lead you to the summit, although at this point you will have another 1500 feet or so to climb, this will be more of a gradual ascension. Keep in mind that before you reach the truck trail, the “Rim of the Valley” trail(after the switchbacks) has sections that break off into other trails, so, make sure you are aware of that because on the way back down at this area, I missed a turn and went straight, and when I realized I was going the wrong way, I had to climb back up to connect to the correct trail, and this added about another 200 feet of elevation, so, keep track of your surroundings.

View towards Catalina from near the Summit of Mt. Lukens.

Mt. Lukens Hiking Statistics:
  • Elevation Gain –  3000 feet
  • Round Trip – 9 Miles
  • Suggested Time – 4-5 hours
  • Difficulty – Strenuous
  • Best Season – Year Around(Just be cautious if there is snow)

Radio towers at the Summit of Mt. Lukens.

Mt. Lukens is in the Angeles National Forest. From I-210 east or westbound in La Crescenta take the Pennsylvania Avenue exit north to Foothill Boulevard. Turn left (west) on Foothill Boulevard to Dunsmore Avenue. Turn right (north) on Dunsmore Avenue towards George Deukmejian Wilderness Park (City of Glendale). Make a right at Markridge Road, and then make a left at the park sign entrance, proceed for about 1/2 a mile or so, and then park in the lot to your right. Unlimited parking. Just in case, if you have one, display an adventure pass, although I do not think it is needed there.

If you have any additional questions about this hike, feel free to leave a comment here, and/or email me at

Switzer Falls

This was an excellent moderate hike! The scenery is amazing. The trail is mostly shaded, but, if you want to get next to the main waterfall(Switzer Falls), you will have to ascend for a little while on this great canyon with magnificent views! Then, you will descend down into the stream. You will go left and see a smaller waterfall up ahead, but, if you want to get next to the main one, you will have to climb a bit and do some boulder hopping. This a great hike to take pictures. The stream all along the hike has several pools and you can get above the main waterfall if you scale down the canyon wall, but, I would not recommend this if you are not an experienced hiker and/or climber. I have done A LOT of hikes in the Angeles Forest and this is one of the nicer trails that has a waterfall. The trail is pretty well maintained and it does cross with other trails if you wish to explore more of the area.

Switzer Falls Main Tier Waterfall.

This is a 4.5  mile round trip, but, getting to Switzer Falls seemed a little bit longer. I did not see a lot of trash and did not see any graffiti, so that is a big plus. I think these taggers and/or gang members  that vandalize areas like this should be slapped with an automatic $1,000.00 fine and spend 30 days in jail. On weekends, there are a lot of people doing this hike and/or picnicking, so, people are definitely taking advantage of this beautiful area. If you park on the Angeles Crest 2 Highway, you gain about another 250 feet of elevation, but, if you start at the actual trailhead by the parking lot, you will gain about 700 feet of elevation. The first part of the hike is very shaded, but after 1.5 miles or so, you will see a switchback on the right and that will ascend for a little bit and that will put you on a slope along a canyon and have great views of the other canyons around(please watch your step in this are because the trail is narrow and in some areas you are several hundred feet up), and then descend into the creek where, and, like I said, you will have access to the smaller waterfall, and, then of course, the main one if you go further. Please proceed at your own risk if you decide to go further.

Switzer Falls Smaller(Lower) Tier Waterfall.

Switzer Falls Statistics:

  • Elevation Gain – 700 feet
  • Round Trip – 4.5 Miles
  • Suggested Time – 2.5 to 3 hours
  • Difficulty – Moderate
  • Best Season –  All Year

Just Above Switzer Falls(Main Waterfall).

Switzer Falls is in the Angeles National Forest. From Interstate 210 in La Canada, take Highway 2 north and drive 10 miles to Switzer picnic area on the right. Descend to the parking area outside the campground. You will see a footbridge over the stream leading to the trail head. Display your adventure pass.

If you plan to do this hike and have any additional questions, please feel free to leave a comment here and/or email me at

Trail Canyon Falls

I have done this hike several times before the 2009 fire and I guess back then I would just not care too much about waterfalls because I did not remember passing it. I would take this trail to the Tom Lucas Camp, but, when I really got into waterfalls(I have seen a lot of them this past year), I wanted to come back and check this one out AND it was AMAZING! Though, it is prohibited to take this trail because of the 2009 fire damage, I did it anyway. The gate to the parking lot (Trail Canyon Road) is closed, so, I had to park about a 1/4 mile down the road (before you reach Trail Canyon Road) in a picnic sort of area with a bunch of trees. So, I walked back up the 1/4 mile  to the (Trail Canyon Road) and I went right through the (STOP – DO NOT ENTER SIGN). I got to the trail head and started to hike. Before 2009 this trail was well paved, but, now some parts of the trail are completely washed out and gone. I was able to make it to the waterfall because I knew which way the trail went, and though I had to hike over bushes and burnt down tree branches, I was able to see the trail again as it ascends on the left up a really nice canyon. The trail is still there on the canyon ascencion, but the weeds have pretty much grown over it, though, it is still visible as a trail. Take that all the way to the top of the canyon and then as you start veering to the left, you will see the waterfall at a distance. But to get right next to the waterfall, you have to descend down the side of the canyon on a pretty steep grade, it is manageable and doable, but, you just got to be very careful. Well, I finally got to the bottom, walked left up the creek a little bit and got to the waterfall. There was A LOT of water coming down and there is actually two waterfalls running parallel to each other about 5 feet apart. I went by myself and there was not a single soul on this trek, but, I got some great pictures. This waterfall by itself makes this hike worth it, this is one of the nicest waterfalls I have seen in this area. Just know that you will need to ascend back up on the canyon to get back to the trail, and if you are not an experienced hiker, it may be tough to climb back up. You can still see the waterfall from the trail and you can also get to the top part of the waterfall as well if you choose not to go down into the creek and get next to it. I give this waterfall 5 stars, but the trail is in pretty bad shape now(which is a shame), so, that is why I give the overall hike a 4. I did this hike on 10/29/2011.

View From Above Trail Canyon Falls.

The Trail Canyon Falls Trail does go to the Tom Lucas Camp, and, all the way to Condor Peak. The round trip to Tom Lucas Camp is about a 7 miles and about 1400 feet in elavation gain. If this trail is taken all the way up to Condor Peak, then the round trip would be about 16 miles, with an approximate elevation gain of 3800 feet. As I mentioned before, several sections of this trail are now gone and/or washed out, but as long as you keep following the stream and keep looking to your left, you will see the trail ascending the canyon that will take you to the waterfall. Also, there is poison oak, so you will have to watch out for that. As I mentioned, this trail is closed off to the public, so, please enter at your own risk, and if you do, wear long sleeves and long pants to avoid scratches and to not come into direct contact with poison oak. You can also wait until this trail re-opens, but, it does not look like that will happen any time soon, and, it is a shame as I said before because this is one of the nicest waterfalls in the area.

Trail Canyon Falls.

Trail Canyon Falls Statistics:

  • Elevation Gain – 700 feet
  • Round Trip – 3 Miles
  • Suggested Time – 1.5 – 2 hours
  • Difficulty – Moderate
  • Best Season – Late Fall to Late Spring 

View Towards Mt. Lukens.

From the 210 freeway in Sunland, take the Sunland exit and head north east to Mt Gleason Avenue. Turn left and follow Mt Gleason to a T intersection with Big Tujunga Canyon. Turn right and follow Big Tujunga 4.5 miles to Trail Canyon Road on the left. Note that Trail Canyon is a fairly narrow dirt road, a bit bumpy, but passable. Follow the dirt road to the parking area/gate. Keep in mind that that road is closed so you would have to park in a turnout about 1/4 mile below. Please park there at own risk, I did not get a ticket, and you shouldn’t either, but you never know.

If you plan to do this hike and have any additional questions, please feel free to leave a comment here and/or email me at

Mount Wilson via Little Santa Anita Canyon

The trail towards Mt. Wilson via Little Santa Anita Canyon has a lot to offer. The trail starts at a 970 elevation and can take you all the way up to Mt. Wilson, which stands at about 5,650 feet. The trail is in good condition and has several stops before the summit of Mt. Wilson is reached(if you choose to go all the way). The trail begins via Mt. Wilson Trail Drive. The first mile and a half of the trail has a moderate climb(where you can see a waterfall at a distance) up to First Water; there you have the option to take the trail to the right and relax down by a creek, or you can continue to the left to the next destination, which is Orchard Camp. Keep in mind that at First Water, you will have gained about 980 feet in elevation. A lot of people hike up to here and then just turn back. If you wish to proceed to Orchard camp, you will gain about another 1020 feet for a total of about 1990 feet in elevation gain so far. Orchard Camp used to be a resort back in the late 1800’s or so to about 1940, and now all that remains are just concrete slabs, but, it is a great resting spot to enjoy drinks or snacks. If you wish to add another 1540 feet of elevation gain to your hike, you can continue another 1.9 miles up to Manzanita Ridge. At this point, you will have gained about 3500 feet in elevation. Manzanita Ridge offers great views towards the San Gabriel Valley and there is a little bench that you can take a nice, well-needed break. From here, you have the option to continue an additional 2.25 miles to the summit of Mt. Wilson. You will gain an additional 1180 feet of elevation for a total of about 4680 in elevation gain. If you do plan to go all the way to the top, or just up to Manzanita Ridge, you should be in great physical condition.

Dusk View Towards the San Gabriel Valley.

There is an option to cut the 2.25 additional hike up to Mt. Wilson. When you head towards Mt. Wilson from Manzanita Ridge, you have the option to stay right and take the regular trail, or stay left and take a trail that has a very steep climb and you can stay on this path until the regular trail crosses paths and that will cut about .5 miles out of the hike, but, it is a very steep climb, and by this point you may be too tired to go this way and you may just want to stick with the regular trail. You will get to a toll road that will take you right and then you come to another road where you will have to go right to the radio towers and at that point, you will reach the top. From Mt. Wilson, you can see all the way out to Catalina and beyond and overall; it has excellent views. This trail does expose you to the Sun, especially in the beginning up to First Water, but it does also offer lots of shade in certain parts of the hike. Whether you decide to go to all the way up to Mt. Wilson, or the previous spots, this will be an enjoyable hike, and even up to First Water, you will get a nice workout. I would say the toughest part of the entire hike up to Mt. Wilson is the section between Orchard Camp and Manzanita Ridge.

View of the San Gabriel Valley near the top of Mt. Wilson.

Mt. Wilson Trail Statistics:

  • Elevation Gain – 4680 Feet
  • Round Trip – 14 Miles
  • Suggested Time – 6-7 hours
  • Difficulty – Strenuous
  • Best Season – Late Fall to Late Spring

View Towards the San Gabriel Valley from the Trail.

To reach the Mount Wilson Trailhead via Little Santa Anita Canyon, on the 210 East Foothill Freeway in Arcadia, exit on Santa Anita Avenue and drive north. Turn left on Sierra Madre Blvd. and drive 0.9 miles to Mountain Trail Avenue. Turn right (north) and drive 0.5 mile to where Mountain Trail Ave ends but turns left as Mira Monte Ave. Turn left here. Immediately on your right is Mount Wilson Trail Drive. Park in this area on the street, either on the lower end of Mount Wilson Trail Drive or on Mira Monte. The hike begins by walking up Mount Wilson Trail Drive.

If you plan to do this hike and have any additional questions, please feel free to leave a comment here and/or email me at

Cucamonga Peak

This is one of the best summit hikes in the San Gabriel Mountians. Cucamonga Peak towers at 8,859 feet and offers breathtaking views. The most popular access to this peak is Via the Icehouse Canyon Trail. This is one of the most challenging hikes in Southern California and should only be attempted by very intermediate to advanced hikers that are in great physical condition. By accessing the trailhead at Icehouse Canyon, you will hike a total of 3.6 miles and gain about 2600 feet to reach the Icehouse Saddle. From there, there are several peaks that you can access as there as signs posted as to which direction your desired peak is. Look for the sign for the Cucamonga Peak and continue an additional 2.4 miles to the summit. After the Icehouse Saddle, for about 0.9  miles, you will gradually ascend and then descend to the Cucamonga/Bighorn Saddle. Once you are there, you will begin the toughest part of the hike as you will begin numerous switchbacks that will take you to the peak. This final 1.5 miles is an elevation gain of about 1500 feet with the last .2 miles or so being very tough. This is a great conditioning hike to prepare for a summit like Mt. Whitney(due to the altitude, distance, elevation gain and steepness).

Danilo with the Inland Empire way down below from the Peak.

We did this hike on 12/10/2011, and there were a few patches of snow and ice towards the latter part of the Icehouse Canyon Trail, but, once we passed the Icehouse Saddle(especially the final 1.5 mile ascencion to the Cucamonga Peak), just about the entire trail was covered with snow and ice. Keep in mind that the ice is very slippery and could be dangerous. Based on that, the best season for this hike would probably be around Late May to early November. Of course, with any summit hike, pacing yourself is very important as well as bringing enough water, snacks, etc. Icehouse Canyon Trail is very popular and it is good to try and get there as early as possible to find a parking spot because the lot can fill up pretty fast. Icehouse Canyon Trailhead is at an elevation of approximately 4,920 feet. Also, the hike from Icehouse Canyon Trailhead to Icehouse Saddle alone is strenuous, so, to even complete that you should be in good physical condition. If you reach the Icehouse Saddle(which is at a 7500 elevation) and you are already tired, I would just call it a day because that will still be a hell of a workout and a 7.2 mile round trip once you get back to the Icehouse Canyon parking lot. So, to cap this off, from the Icehouse Canyon Trailhead to the Icehouse Saddle is 3.6 miles, from there it is an additional 2.4 miles to Cucamonga Peak, therefore you will complete a 12 mile round trip once you get back to the parking lot.

Gyorgyi and Danilo with a view of San Jacinto.

Cucamonga Peak Hiking Statistics:

  • Elevation Gain – 4200 feet
  • Round Trip – 12 miles
  • Suggested Time – 6-7  hours
  • Difficulty – Very Strenuous
  • Best Seasons – Late Spring to Late Fall

Gyorgyi with a view of the Riverside area towards Mt. San Jacinto.

Cucamonga Peak is located in the Angeles National Forest near Mt. Baldy. To get to the Icehouse Canyon Trailhead, take the I-210 to the Mountain Ave/Mt. Baldy exit, drive 4.3 miles north on Mountain Ave (which becomes Shinn Road). Take a right on Mt. Baldy Road (the end of Shinn Road), and drive 6.4 miles and take a right into the Icehouse Canyon parking lot. On the way drop by the Mt. Baldy Visitor’s Center and pick up the free wilderness permit required for the Cucamonga Wilderness. A National Forest Service adventure pass ($5 per day or $30 per year) is required for parking at the Icehouse Canyon Trailhead.

If you plan to do this hike and have any additional questions, please feel free to leave a comment here and/or email me at