Fall Creek Pt. 2

I had to go back to Fall Creek.  Last time I was here I had one of my toughest hikes.  This time I came in from the other direction, off of Big Tujunga Canyon Road, a half mile or so from Angeles Forest Highway.  The conditions were better but it was still pretty rough, almost as if the trail has now been abandoned.

1     2   I parked in a pullout off of Big Tujunga Canyon Road, which continues to wind it’s way west.

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Nice view from the top.  The trail, really an old road that no longer feels like one, is on the right side of this photo.

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8   The trail is in decent shape, that is there aren’t any scary, washout-type problems. It is terribly overgrown in places, however, and covered with loose rock that’s fallen from above.  Photo 5 – The deep gorge, from the other side of the canyon.

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Photo 2 – At one mile, look to the right and find a mini-waterfall right off the trail, hidden behind the thick brush.  Photo 3 – These concrete slabs are supposed to be bracing the road, but this batch has crumbled.

12     13   Photo 1 – Fragrant purple sage  Photo 2 – Beautiful flower, but I really like the tiny red bugs crawling on the petals.

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Across the canyon, awesome patterns layered into the rock.  One part looks a lot like a picture of a giant dinosaur skull.

18     19   One of my goals was to see Fall Creek Falls.  To one side was a tall, flowing waterfall, but this isn’t Fall Creek Falls.

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Looking up at the route I took the last time I was here, coming in from the east.  I was up there someplace, I couldn’t really make out a trail.  The flat patch of trees, shown in photo 2, was one landmark I did recognize.  This turned out to be Fall Creek Camp.

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As I scanned across the canyon I caught sight of the upper two tiers of the four-tiered Fall Creek Falls.

25     26     27   After descending for 1.7 miles I reached the bottom and the creek.  I initially tried to bushwhack the half mile to the base of the falls but that didn’t last long.  I found it way too overgrown.  Photo 2 – Moon Rock

28     29     30   I then backtracked and kind of pecked my way through all this crazy brush, trying to keep the trail.

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Typical of the route I followed, just super overgrown but usually I could make out a faint footpath.

32     33   I crossed over this piece of concrete – maybe a piece of the old road?

34     35   I came out the other side and found the road leading up into the hills.  Examining the map on my GPS I found I had lost the official trail right around the time I first reached the creek.  I wanted to get to the this road, I just took a shortcut through the bush.  I have no idea where the old road disappeared to, or if that short creekside section still exists.  This side of the road was also a rocky mess, just a taste of things to come.

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38   Photo 1 – Looking down at the creek area I had just gone through.  Photo 3 – As I climbed I spotted one of the lower tiers of the waterfall.

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Photo 1 – After approximately a quarter of a mile I came to a sort of junction in the trail.  The road continued up the hill.  To the right was the turn-off for Fall Creek Camp.  There was just barely a trail here.  One of my guidebooks locates Fall Creek Camp as being down by the creek nestled among boulders.  This is not correct.  Photos 2 through 4 – Looking up at the hills above I could make out two trails.  One was the continuation of the road I had been following.  The second was the trail I came in on the last time I was here which starts two or three miles east.  When I compared my GPS maps from the first hike and this day’s hike, I found I had turned around just 300 to 500 feet or so from this point, just a stone’s throw away. Still, looking at the crumbling trail supports on the first trail I took, I’m not sure I could have made it down to the camp safely.

43     44   I pushed on toward Fall Creek Camp.  I just made a beeline for the tall trees and followed the trail when it was there.  I crossed over a few knee high, stone walls.

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45     There were several non-native plants thriving in this hostile environment, such as the iris shown in photos 1 and 2.

48     50   The only thing left of the camp, which burned during the Station Fire of 2009, is the ruins of an outhouse.

49   Fall Creek Camp – Gone to Seed

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I returned to the road and kept climbing.  I had a nice view of the trail I came in on.  It looks a lot less messy from a distance.

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Photo 1 – Weird flower cluster growing in the middle of the trail.  Photo 2 – The road was completely overgrown but at least I knew I wasn’t going to wander off as I was booked in by the hillside and the cliff.  Photo 3 – After hiking another mile or so I came to a water crossing. I knew the road continued on but I just couldn’t find a clear way over to it.  I decided to turn back here.

56   Springtime and love is in the air for these two moths.

57   Another crazy hike.  I didn’t accomplish everything I planned to on this day but I’ve definitely had my fill of the Fall Creek trails.  Mother Nature can have them back now.

4 comments

  • This is a hike that I will be doing soon. Just so I’m clear, when you start off at Big Tujunga Creek Road and work your way 1.7 miles down to the creek bed (Big Tujunga Creek), then, instead of climbing back out on the other side of the creek, you’re supposed to turn left and bushwhack through Big Tujunga Creek to the junction of Fall Creek/Big Tujunga Creek? I’ve done some crazy bushwhacking and climbing/crawling on trails in the ANF, so that part sounds fun to me.

    Do you know if you can take the stream (Mill Creek) from Hidden Springs Picnic Area all the way to Big Tujunga Creek, and then to Monkey Canyon, and then to Fall Creek? I typically don’t take trails and follow streambeds, but sometimes get hung up around waterfalls.

    If you haven’t done the Royal Gorge before, that is a great one. If you’re interested, I can tell you about it (but look out for mountain lions and bears).

    • Hi Chris,
      After 1.7 miles the fire road seemed to end. I noticed a footpath which crossed over the creek and took that. This path curved to the left and met the road on the other side. When I checked my GPS it seems that the road is supposed to continue on and eventually curve back, just like the footpath but longer. If you can find and stick with the road that would be interesting but I didn’t see it. Because I went through the heart of the mess on the footpath, I am left to wonder if there is an opening which leads up into Big Tujunga Creek. I know that looking down on it, after the heavy vegetation where the road ends the route up the creek heading east seems very clear. If you like a good bushwhack you might consider heading west at the point where the road ends, at the bottom, and making it out to the base of Fall Creek Falls. The path looks quite overgrown.

      I didn’t notice a route to Big Tujunga Creek from Hidden Springs Picnic Area, but wasn’t really looking. Sorry about that. Checking my map (Harrison’s Mount Wilson) it looks like the flow of the water crosses under an area between the picnic area and the spot where I picked up the trail just north. I only remember a steep drop off between the two.

      I am intrigued by the Royal Gorge hike. For some reason I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it. I have hiked up the Arroyo Seco to the debris dam near Paul Little Camp, but not up to Oakwilde Camp. On my map (Harrison Front Country) it looks like the only route from CA-2 down to the Arroyo Seco leads to Gould Mesa, which is downstream from Paul Little, and the turn-off for Oakwilde. Is this accurate? Do you hike down to Gould Mesa, up to Paul Little and then up to Oakwilde?

      Thanks Chris, and good luck with future hikes!

      Silent Hiker

  • Hi, so I’ve done a bit more exploration since my previous post. I took the 1.7 mile downhill “old” fire road to the creek bed and hung a left downstream (although it was very dry in this section). Yes, there is some serious bushwhacking as you head downstream, and more than one path you can take, but you’re in the canyon so all paths lead to the same place. I never did find the base of Fall Creek, probably because it was dried up and I couldn’t make out where the waterfall would be, but my intent was to make it to the east beginning of the Big Tujunga Reservoir, and I was successful. As you head west towards the reservoir, the creek surfaces and goes underground numerous times, and sometimes you just need to walk through it downstream. Anyhow, it was beautiful, and when you hit the reservoir, don’t get too close as the mud becomes like quicksand.

    Then I made my way back to the junction of the fire road, and for anyone else who decides to try this, make sure you know exactly where your exit is, or it is easy to miss. My landmark was a huge boulder in the middle of the path, and then the exit is about 50 yards east of that.

    However, I then continued upstream into the “The Narrows” and took that for about 45 minutes. The creek had plenty of water as you go upstream, and more bushwhacking is required. I ran into a couple of hunters, fully decked out in camouflage, gaiters, and expensive bows/arrows. They didn’t seem too happy I was there, and I wasn’t too happy to see them, either. I called it a day and got back to my car about 7-1/2 hours from when I started.

    As for the Royal Gorge, I recommend doing the loop in which you begin at Switzer Picnic area. As you climb out of the picnic area, you reach a junction where you can take the left fork and head downhill towards the Switzer Falls/Bear Canyon, or the right fork which is the Gabrielino Trail. Take the right fork. After about a mile, you will then begin a descent into Long Canyon. This descent is not maintained since the Station Fire, so you will have some obstacles to get around. When the trail meets the creek bed in Long Canyon, I found it more fun just to stay in the creek bed and boulder hop. Eventually, you will meet back up with the trail at the top of Long Canyon Falls. Head to the right downhill, and you meet up with the Arroyo-Seco stream (pretty much dried up right now, but flows well in Winter/Spring). When you get to the bottom of Long Canyon Falls, if you turn right (downstream), you can take that all the way to JPL (you will pass Oakwilde, Brown Debris Dam, Paul Little, etc). However, do not go downstream… go upstream. This is the Royal Gorge, and it is not a trail. There is some minor bushwhacking, a couple of log jams (easy to climb over), and a waterfall. So, from the bottom of Long Canyon Falls, it is about 1 hr and 20 minutes until you hit the bottom of the Royal Gorge Falls (about 8-10 feet). It is dried up right now, but even if it’s flowing, it is easy to climb up. If you start on the far left, you can climb up foot-holds that are like a stair case, and easily get on top of the falls. Then continue upstream all the way to Bear Canyon, and turn left. Then you will reach the junction where you can either go to Switzer Falls or begin the ascent out. The entire loop is about 12 miles.

    • Thanks for all the great info, Chris! One of these days I’ll map out a hike based on your suggested route. Stay safe!
      Silent Hiker

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