Saturday, January 16, 2016

Fish Canyon Falls Hike - January 16, 2016

Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest, January 16, 2016
As I have been endeavoring to hike to Fish Canyon Falls every month for a year, I’m eager hit the trail for my eleventh month to begin 2016. I started in March and have been thoroughly enjoying experiencing Fish Canyon through the seasons. And it was one year ago this weekend that the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders restored the trail from a major slide that covered the trail on November 17, 2014.

For the last couple months I’ve enjoyed the falls flowing again after its summer dryness. And I’ve heard that the recent rains have bolstered the flow. Today’s forecast is for temps in the mid-60s and cloudy skies with 10 percent chance of rain. I arrive at the trailhead and the rising sun is peaking below the clouds. It's nippy. There are six cars in the lot.

Heading north from the trailhead on the Fish Canyon access trail into Vulcan’s quarry
7:43 - Begin hike. I stroll through the quiet quarry and transition into the riparian section. There is nothing in bloom except some California buckwheat. The sound of water is peaceful. I cross the bridge into the national forest at 8:00. It’s cool and damp and the stream flows briskly. Rains have washed debris unto the trail in places.

Riparian setting along Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
I saunter along taking time to appreciate the seasonal changes to the vegetation. Winter grasses are greening up. Deciduous shrubs and trees are mostly leafless now. Plants that were parched in the arid months, like coastal sagebrush and spikemoss, have returned to life. New vines of wild cucumber sport their tiny white flowers. There is virtually nothing else in bloom aside from occasional occurrences of everlasting, cliff aster, and the ever dependable sunflower, and a few weeds like mustard, filaree, sow thistle, and cape ivy (horrifically invasive and abundant). Some willows still have a remnant of yellow leaves adding a splash of color. And some poison oak, sycamore, and big-leaf maple also contribute a little lingering fall colors. Toyon berries add highlights of red. The tree of heaven jungle is a curtain of leafless sticks. There is one lone periwinkle blossom. Domestically planted jade at the Polly’s cabin site is blooming in profusion. Further along, I some brilliant blue flowers high above me. It is spreading larkspur (Delphinium patens), one of my favorites. It typically begins its bloom around March and adds wonderful color to the spring floral display.

Heading north on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
The clouds are breaking up and hazy sun begins to grace the canyon. There is a steady stream of hikers passing me by, including several large groups. I guess a lot of people had the idea that the recent rains would make it good to hike to Fish Canyon Falls today. I am really enjoying the beauty of this canyon; I never get tired of it. And it seems like I am always discovering new things. The trial is relatively clean of litter and I'm thankful for hikers who pick up trash along the way. It’s hard to grasp why people discard their garbage in such a beautiful place.

Washout on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest, January 16, 2016
Nearing the spiral staircase, there is a large rock and earth slide that has significantly damaged the trail. I had heard from a hiker who encountered it a week ago. It’s still reasonable passable with some care, but it will take concerted labor to restore it. I take a side jaunt to Darlin Donna Falls and it’s flowing nicely. I continue along enjoying the delightful streamside setting.

9:54 - Main creek crossing. It’s been great to see it flowing for the last several months after months of dryness. I am no doubt the slowest hikers on the trail today (as has been my custom in Fish Canyon) but I’m sure no one is enjoying the canyon more than I am. How many hikers stop to smell the bay and sagebrush, to admire the tiny blossoms of Douglas nightshade, to listen to the creek flowing and the birds chirping, to value the texture of bark, and appreciate the diverse patterns and colors of rock?

Heading north on Fish Canyon Trail approaching the falls, Angeles National Forest
I enjoy the rugged scenery as I climb the canyon’s east wall. I stop to greet the large population of the rare Dudley densiflora in anticipation of its dense flowers in the late spring. Lots of hikers are coming and going, and in some narrow sections the traffic gets a little congested. Deep in the canyon below, water flows and tumbles down cascades and chutes worn in the bedrock. As I approach the falls, I am are greeted with the melody of falling water and happy voices.

Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest, January 16, 2016
10:30 - Fish Canyon Falls. Always a wonderful sight…80 feet, three tiers, one of the most beautiful falls in the San Gabriels. The falls are in the full sun now and are the strongest I’ve seen all season. Both the upper and lower pools are full. Lingering yellow leaves on the black willow tree add rich color to the setting. There are lots of people here. After about 20 minutes of standing on the big rock and enjoying the setting from afar, I climb down to the pool. I chat with different ones, take photos, and just relish this special place. Dan Simpson at Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest, January 16, 2016 I always love seeing the diversity of people hiking to Fish Canyon Falls: various ethnicities, families, young couples, singles, middle aged, elderly. When I see teenagers and young adults making the trek to the falls, I’m encouraged that the upcoming generations are gaining an appreciation for nature and the outdoors. There is hope for our planet!

Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest Vinca aka periwinkle (Vinca major) on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
Riparian setting along Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest Hikers heading north on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
12:03 - Leave the falls. I retrace my steps down the trail. The sun has conquered the clouds and provides some welcome warmth and lightning. My pace is a little faster but I still take time to appreciate the nuances of the canyon. Lots of hikers are still coming and going. As I stroll through the streamside section below Polly’s cabin, I spot a Mylar balloon hanging in a tree across the creek. I cross the creek among a thick patch of invasive cap ivy and retrieve the balloon. I continue downstream a tad before finding a place to cross back over to the trail. I never get tired of the canyon’s beauty.

Bridge between Vulcan Materials Fish Canyon access trail and Angeles National Forest
I cross the bridge at 1:40 and meet a man and his two young sons. The boys seem to be enjoying their interaction with nature. I introduce them to the wonderful aroma of coastal sagebrush and one boy immediately shares the experience with another couple hikers coming up the trail. There is hope of the planet! I wander along the access trail through the quarry to conclude another fine visit to Fish Canyon.

2:05 - End hike. There are about 45 cars in the parking lot and it is 67 degrees. My Fitbit recorded 13,180 steps for the hike (for 5.4 miles plus walking around at the falls).

Common sunflower (helianthus annuus) on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
Epilog - I love Fish Canyon. What a pleasure to sample it through the seasons. After the parched months, each visit increases in beauty, and there is a sense of delightful expectation as we head toward the fabulous springtime and its floristic show and wonderful waterfall. I’m eager to see how the forecasted El Niño rains will impact my beloved canyon in the months to come. icon

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See Fish Canyon Falls Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages (including a link list for my other blog posts for Fish Canyon)

Plants See Plants in Fish Canyon at Dan's Hiking Pages
(including links to various plant resources)

icon  See Waterfalls of The San Gabriels at Dan's Hiking Pages

NEXT > BLOG POST: Fish Canyon Adventure - February 20, 2016
NEXT > PHOTO ALBUM: Fish Canyon - January 24, 2016
PREVIOUS > PHOTO ALBUM: Fish Canyon - December 30, 2015
PREVIOUS > Fish Canyon Falls Hike - December 24, 2015


  1. LOVE Fish Canyon! I think I saw you as you were leaving but you were almost in your car driving away. I learned about this place from your blog years ago and have been going at least once a month to enjoy the solitude. I noticed the larkspur last week acc shared with fellow CNPSers about our early Spring, but I had NO idea these blooms started around the beginning of January!!!! Blue Dicks and Sweet Peas are also starting to bloom there!

    1. Thanks for the note, Camino Girl! I was delighted to see those early blooms of Delphinium patens. I saw a spectacular display of them in the exact location on my hike with Michael Charter last March:

      Maybe we’ll meet on FC Trail one of these days. Be sure to introduce yourself if you see me...I always where the same “uniform” and look like my picture. :-)

  2. Also want to remind readers that this is a Flash Flood area and they've already had one this year. Please be careful if you're caught on this trail in the rain.

    (Mountain weather is unpredictable.)