Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fish Canyon Falls Hike - April 16, 2011

Fish Canyon Falls See Fish Canyon Falls Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages

Another springtime day where Vulcan Materials shuttles hikers through their quarry to the beginning of the trail to Fish Canyon Falls! I was eager to see what's changed in the plant community since my last visit on March 19. And I always look forward to the access days for the experience of shared community with the many hikers who show up. And indeed the story of the day was the crowds. Tons of people...hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people! In fact it hit a new all-time record high for numbers of people on a Fish Canyon access day. So if you were at Fish Canyon on Saturday, you were part of a remarkable day.

I arrive at the Vulcan Materials parking lot at about 6:55 to find myself in a line of cars. Vulcan changed the sign-in process and was doing it by car rather than at the table. I sign in and park. There are already a number of cars there. I jump in a van with few others and arrive at the bridge at 7:08 to find a large group of about 60 people waiting to begin. This was certainly a harbinger of things to come. I waste no time in jumping on the trail in front of the crowd.

Fish Canyon creek7:10 - Start hike. Temps are nice and the canyon is shrouded in early morning shade. Things are still green but lack the lushness of the March scenery after the rains. Much of the non-native weedy grasses are losing their greenness. The creek is flowing briskly. Not as much in bloom as I had anticipated. The poison oak now has its full foliage with rich green leaves, some are poking out into the trail. I snap pictures along the way but scurry along to stay ahead of the throng. In the "jungle area," the tree of heaven is coming to life. The alder, maple, sycamore, and elderberry are in full leaf now.

Creek crossing7:51 - Arrive at the creek crossing. The water is still running briskly and poses some challenges in crossing. I cross in time to see the crowd arrive behind me, reminding me of a line of ants being disrupted by a leaf falling on their route. I continue as the trail climbs the east canyon wall rising above the creek. The canyon is still shrouded in morning shade but the sun is now landing on some ridge tops.

Fish Canyon Falls8:06 - Fish Canyon Falls. The falls are gushing. A father and son (who later I learned are John and Jason) arrive with me and one man was leaving. The three of us had the falls to ourselves...for two minutes. Then the masses arrived as the group of 60 swarmed down upon us. At the cheers of his friends, one man in the group takes a swim in the frigid water. Smaller parties of hikers continue to arrive, including Nick and Jyoti, who I met previously in Fish Canyon on several occasions. Enjoy conversations with various ones. The large group leaves about 8:50. I consider leaving around 9:00 but notice the sun hitting the top of the falls and so I linger to capture the falls in full sun in about 20 minutes. Hikers continue to arrive, and arrive, and arrive. There is a deficit of departures to arrivals and soon the crowd at the falls is larger than I have ever seen. The line of people on the narrow trail coming into the falls was backed up like a line at Disneyland. I soak in the spectacle. Enjoy more conversation with various ones. The place is abuzz with kinetic energy.

Rattlesnake11:00 - Finally I leave the falls and start back. The canyon is now in full sun. My pace is slow and I take time to photograph plants. People still coming and going. Take a side jaunt to Darlin' Donna Falls, still flowing nicely. The numbers of people decrease as I saunter along. Getting hot as the temps are forecast to be in the 90s. Have a little lunch break at Old Cheezer's (the location of the Flora in Fish Canyon sign). Near the end, I encounter a 3-foot long rattlesnake crossing the trail. Rattlers are amazing creatures and I welcome seeing them occasionally as a sobering reminder that they are indeed part of our natural environment.

2:17 - End hike. Jump in the van driven by Erick from Vulcan. Back at parking lot, I chat with Denny from Vulcan and learn there were more than 600 hikers for the day...a new record!

Poison OakEpilog - Another rewarding adventure in Fish Canyon. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting lots of great people and look forward to staying in contact with some. Talked with hikers who came from Riverside, Orange County, Los Angeles, and Long Beach. I'm thankful I live 5 minutes away...ah, maybe it's 10. I always appreciate Vulcan providing these access days. And I thank them for printing the plant guide. Of the 22 flowers featured in the guide, I observed 13 of them in bloom (buckwheat, bush monkeyflower, wallflower, sunflower, golden yarrow, Mediterranean mustard, tree tobacco, Spanish broom, caterpillar phacelia, blue dicks, periwinkle, everlasting, and miner's lettuce. There were some other plants blooming as well, such as poison oak, sugar bush, spreading larkspur, thistle, wild pea, common yarrow, ceanothus, eupatory, bedstraw, wishbone bush, mulefat, black sage, stinging lupine, and more. I'm eager to see what will be blooming in May. icon

 plant icon See Fish Canyon Trail Plant Guide

See Fish Canyon Falls Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages

NEXT > Fish Canyon Falls Plants - May 28, 2011
PREVIOUS > Fish Canyon Falls Hike - March 19, 2011


  1. We were at the falls (our first visit), this same insane day. We had to wait 1/2 hour just for a shuttle and assumed this was normal, until our shuttle drive informed us the hike is never this crowded, and that these were the most hikers he'd seen in his 6 years of driving the shuttle.

    The falls are gorgeous, but the hike out was miserable because the trail was so crowded, and we had to keep pulling off the side to let groups pass. But, the hike back was much less crowded and much more enjoyable.

    Nice shot of the rattlesnake! We saw an almost 4-foot-long gopher or garter (I can't tell, Hubby can) snake on our hike back, but no rattlers.

    The kids do want to do the hike again, on a much less crowded day.

    - Colleen @ Greene Adventures

  2. If it's striped, it's a garter. If it's mottled (same general pattern as a rattler, but without the triangular head and rattle), it's a gopher.

    Didn't know they had a plant guide. Don't see it on their website. Oh, well. Would be nice to have, since I'm sure it would have applications in neighboring areas.

  3. I have been here 4th times but today seems to be a Black Friday at the Falls. Thanks for the plant ID mini-guide. Will try Van Tassel Ridge in another cool day.

  4. Saturday was my first time at Fish Canyon. Although it was quite packed, im glad i made it out that day. It definitely is a beautiful hike. Not only did i get to see the waterfall at the end of the hike, but i got to meet you as well! It was such a great pleasure to meet the person behind the website and blog that i check regularly!

  5. We were there the same day, too. I even remember the guy in the yellow shirt in your first pic passing us on the way to the falls. :) It was our first time and it won't be the last. I'm even thinking about heading out again this weekend. How do you get to Darlin' Donna?

  6. Thanks for all the comments!

    To visit Darlin' Donna, see my hike description here:

  7. I was there that day too. We got there at 9:30 and waited half an hour to get on shuttle. I thought this was normal, then I saw this page saying it was a record.