Saturday, March 21, 2015
Etiwanda Falls Hike - March 21, 2015
I’ve known of Etiwanda Falls for years, but with its diminutive stature and the less-than-glamorous dirt-road route to get there, it had never risen high on my hit list. But the first full day of spring begs to be celebrated by hiking to a waterfall. And since I’ve already visited most of the noteworthy falls of the San Gabriels, I decided I’d give Etiwanda Falls a visit. In going online to find a good trail guide, I found none. It reminded me why I started Dan’s Hiking Pages. There were lots of write-ups, but nothing that gives a clear and reliable description of how to hike to the falls. So after I pieced together various postings, I was ready to hike.
My friend Tom and I leave Azusa shortly after 7 AM on Saturday morning and head east on the I-210 freeway. The marine layer transitions to hazy sun. We exit on Dry Creek Blvd. in Rancho Cucamonga and drive north to the trailhead at the upper end of Etiwanda Avenue. There are dozens of cars parked along the dirt road but we are able to find a spot right up front.
North Etiwanda Preserve, a habitat preservation consisting primarily of a unique Riversidean Alluvial Fan Sage Scrub plant community. The trail to the falls is a dirt road that heads north through the preserve, briefly crosses some private property, enters the San Bernardino National Forest, and ends at the falls. It climbs 700 feet in 1.6 miles. The route is entirely exposed so a hike would be brutal on a hot sunny day. Today’s forecast is for the mid-70s and so we will be fine, particularly with an early start.
It has several signage displays providing information about plants, animals, and history. The vandalism and trash is unfortunate. Back on the road we continue north. There are lots of people on the trail.
Lizards scamper along the ground and butterflies flutter through the air.
Saddleback pokes above the marine layer in distant Orange County. I’m curious and about loud engine noise coming from the valley to the south. It kind of sounds like aircraft engines. Oh, could it be the speedway? Tom says that NASCAR is in town this weekend, so I bet that’s what it is. We reach a half mile maker at 8:24. It’s made of thick iron and has the characters cut out in relief, so it would be very difficult to vandalize. It states the elevation at 2247’.
The water flowing down East Etiwanda Creek would have tumbled over Etiwanda Falls, about a mile upstream. Back at the junction we continue north. In about 50 yards we pass through an open gateway. The climb gets steeper. Our pace is casual as we enjoy good conversation and stop to admire plants and soak in the beautiful scenery.
provisional summit on Peakbagger.com, so in my preparation I wondered if there was a route to the top. From Google satellite view, it appears that the thick brush forms an impassable barrier. And as we walk along, I can’t see any reasonable route through the hostel vegetation to the summit. We pass along the east flank of the prominence as the topography becomes hillier. There are a still scads of people coming and going to the waterfalls. The prevalence of graffiti is a strong refutation of the theory of evolution. The leaves of alders and sycamores in the creek far below shimmer in the morning sun. My eyes are drawn to surrounding peaks and wonder if they have names and ways to reach them.
As we reach a tributary coming in from the left (west) we are greeted with plants we’ve not experienced yet today: poison oak, mule fat, canyon dudleya, bigberry manzanita.
The preserve has various remnants from when early settlers used inventive was to tap and transport precious water for their ranches and farms. Today the transport is primarily by steel pipes. This grate-covered concrete box with water rushing through it is part of today’s water transport system. We are near the falls and we can hear the gleeful voices of visitors enjoying the setting. A use path heads into the brush and provides a means to access the canyon below the falls, but later we find that it is treacherous. We take the road as it veers left and curves back around. The view back toward the hazy valley is framed by the canyon. Our pace is still slow as we look at plants. The road terminates at the shady creek above the falls.
The falls from this vantage point are simply puny and consist of water cascading down a chute-like series of rocks dropping only about 15 feet. Beyond that pool the water pours over a lip and drops about 10 feet into another pool. The water then disappears over another lip into a deep gorge out of view. To see that falls will require some concerted effort and is not for the casual walker or faint of heart.
We climb the rocks on the right to get above falls. The canyon walls are steep with textured rocks and varied vegetation. Color wildflowers accent the scene. We climb up stream a couple more minutes and find another waterfall. This one drops virtually about 7 feet into a pool. We hike a little further but decide it’s time to head back.
11:00 - Start back. We retrace our steps, carefully climbing over rocks and dodging poison oak. We encounter another group climbing up. We are really enjoying ourselves but the trash, graffiti, and carved-up trees are saddening. We arrive back at the main falls at 11:27. Still lots of people here. We take more pictures now that the falls are in the sun.
and expansive views. We pass the four-way junction at 12:58. The valley before us is still muted by haze.
1:30 - Finish hike. It’s about 78 degrees, but it seems much hotter.
See Waterfalls of The San Gabriels at Dan's Hiking Pages