Rubio Canyon Trail: Altadena’s Forgotten Waterfalls

Share With Your Friends!

  • Miles: 1.29 Roundtrip
  • Time: 1.5 Hours Roundtrip
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Season: Late Spring
  • Elevation Gain: 254 ft
  • Max Elevation: 2082 ft
  • Trail Type: Out & Back
  • Parking Lot: Neighborhood Parking
  • Restrooms? Not Available
  • Dogs Allowed? Yes, on a leash

Rubio Canyon is very near and dear to me, as it holds long-forgotten history about the most fascinating time period in the San Gabriel Mountains, as well as a ton of waterfalls which only flow after extremely wet winters, such as the one we had in 2022-2023.

Please keep in mind this trail is difficult, as it requires treading through the creek for almost half the hike to get to the falls, and, at one point, boulder scrambling over ruins alongside precipitous 40-50 foot ledges. If you’re easily intimidated by heights or have poor balance, wait until you have more experience before tackling this hike.

Waterfalls found on this trail from first to last:

  1. Maidenhair
  2. Cavity Chute
  3. Bay Arbor
  4. Ribbon Rock & Moss Grotto (bottom & top tier)
  5. Grand Chasm (Rainbow)
  6. Lodged Boulder (Suspended Boulder)
  7. Roaring Rift – bottom tier of Thalehaha
  8. Thalehaha (Bridal Veil) 80ft and largest of all
  9. Leontine – Named after professor Lowe’s wife

The first 3 falls have unfortunately, been lost to history. However, there is a dry waterfall at the beginning of the trail which may be one of the first two falls.

**Note: All waterfalls after Ribbon Rock & Moss Grotto are located deeper in the canyon and cannot be viewed unless you climb up an extremely dangerous canyon wall, which I HIGHLY discourage.

At least one couple was rescued this year while attempting to scale up to the vantage point. Play it safe and don’t risk your life or the lives of the voluntary (SAR) search and rescue teams. Lastly, wear long sleeves and pants, as I was covered in ticks during my first visit in the summer of 2017.

Rubio Canyon Trail Map

powered by Advanced iFrame. Get the Pro version on CodeCanyon.

Rubio Canyon Trail Elevation Profile

Download Printable PDF Map

Rubio Canyon Directions

To be redirected to the Rubio Canyon Trailhead, click the link here.

The trailhead is located in a dirt alleyway between two private homes, so please be respectful. Thank you guys! 🙂

Check out these other LA hikes!

Rubio Canyon Trail

I had been not so patiently waiting for a wet winter, and when we finally got one, Rubio Canyon was my first hike. Notice how low the snow line is in the image below.

The last time we got this much rain, I was a high school sophomore in 2005.

Rubio Canyon Trailhead

Immediately, the scenery transforms into a luscious canyon, with White Alders lining the banks of Rubio Canyon Creek. The last time I visited this place was in 2017, and I clearly remember the canyon being much drier.

Notice the bend in the image below.

That bend is where I believe the Rubio Pavilion was once located. The pavilion, shown below as part of my collection of vintage shots, was built by Professor Thaddeus Lowe, as a one-of-a-kind attraction for visitors.

Rubio Pavilion Vintage Shot

Before reaching the bend, however, I passed a dry waterfall, which I believe may be one of two falls: Maidenhair Falls or Cavity Chute Falls.

Here’s a shot of Maidenhair Falls from 1998 by the awesome hiking blog, Dan’s Hiking Pages. Check it out and see what you think. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any shots of Cavity Chute Falls.

The Great Incline

The shot below shows the most dangerous part of the trail. To continue the hike, I had to scramble up stone ruins, which I believe to be the remnants of the Great Incline.

You can either head right or left (both are the same trail). The right side, which is dangerously close to the ledge, is slightly easier to climb, as it’s less steep. However, the left route adjacent to the canyon wall is a much more vertical climb and measures about 6-8 feet.

Pick your poison and watch your step.

Rubio Canyon Ruins

Here’s another one of my vintage shots showing what the Great Incline used to look like.

From the pavilion, visitors had the option of taking either the gradual Mt Lowe Railway (trolley at the bottom left) or riding up the Great Incline via the White Chariots to Echo Mountain, now known as the Echo Mtn Ruins.

Do you like exploring ruins? Check out the Abandoned Nazi camp in the Santa Monica Mountains.

The Great Incline vintage shot

Fun fact: although the chariots were white, I found this vintage shot of a red chariot.

Before the existence of color photography, color had to be manually added to the picture. I believe the red chariot below was probably due to an error, which is why I had to add it to my collection.

white chariots of the great incline

Echo Mountain ruins before they were ruins.

Echo Mountain House

Back to the trail! Another sketchy section included a 6-foot boulder scramble to the ground, but without the “death ledge” as my friends in the biking community call them.

Two things to keep in mind regarding the image below:

1. If you look to the left and behind you from where I was standing when I took the shot, you can see the Incline Railway trailhead. You can hike up to the Echo Mtn. ruins via this overgrown trail (I forgot to take the shot, don’t judge me).

2. After climbing down the boulder, I began venturing off the trail by trekking upstream.

Your feet will get wet. It’s virtually impossible to make it to the falls without walking inside the creek, at least when I visited.

Here is a shot showing the section of the hike where I began trekking off-trail.

Rubio Canyon off trail

Luckily, there is only one way to and from the falls.

I couldn’t believe I was finally looking at Ribbon Rock & Moss Grotto flowing. I waited 6 years for the opportunity.

The area surrounding the falls included a pretty large clearing and a plethora of rocks and debris.

Ribbon Rock & Moss Grotto

In fact, the bottom tier (Ribbon Rock), had been almost completely buried for the first part of the 21st century. You can see what that looked like right here. The falls aren’t as large as they used to be over a century ago.

However, most of Ribbon Rock has been uncovered in recent years.

Ribbon Rock & Moss Grotto Vintage Shot

Ribbon Rock & Moss Grotto

Want to explore another nearby waterfall? Eaton Canyon Falls is the most popular falls in LA and is only 10 minutes away from Rubio Canyon!

These shots were taken in Feb 2023. 

Ribbon Rock And Moss Grotto

Aerial view of Ribbon Rock & Moss Grotto.

Near the top of the canyon is Thalehaha Falls & Roaring Rift Falls, the latter being the bottom tier. At 80 feet tall, Thalehaha is the largest of all the falls.

Thalehaha Falls

Looking down from Grand Chasm Falls to Ribbon Rock. Can you see the three of us standing at the very bottom?

Although I don’t have a current picture of Grand Chasm (Rainbow Falls), I have another vintage shot for you. Check it out.

Grand Chasm (Rainbow) Falls

Read More: Best Waterfalls in Southern California.

More to Explore!

[favorite_button]
Santa Ynez Falls: Ready For Boulder Scrambling & Wading?

Santa Ynez Falls: Ready For Boulder Scrambling & Wading?

Total Miles: 2.27 Time: 1 Hr Difficulty: Moderate Best Season: Spring Elevation Gain: 206 ft Max Elevation: 798 ft Type of Trail: Out & Back Parking Lot: Street Parking Dogs: Not Allowed Restrooms: Not Available Trail Popularity: High Pics Taken On: Feb 8, 2024...

[favorite_button]
Escondido Falls: Malibu’s Best Hike

Escondido Falls: Malibu’s Best Hike

Total Miles: 3.49 Time: 1.5 Hrs Difficulty: Easy Best Season: Spring Elevation Gain: 507 ft Max Elevation: 328 ft Type of Trail: Out & Back Parking Lot: Fits ≈ 15 cars Dogs: Allowed On A Leash Restrooms: 1 Porta Potty At The Parking Lot Trail Popularity: Extremely...

[favorite_button]
Ferndell Nature Trail To Griffith Observatory Loop

Ferndell Nature Trail To Griffith Observatory Loop

Total Miles: 2.75 Time: 1-1.5 Hrs Difficulty: Easy – Moderate Best Season: All Year Elevation Gain: 632 ft Max Elevation: 1140 ft Type of Trail: Loop Parking Lot: Street Parking Dogs: Allowed On A Leash Restrooms: Available At The Observatory Trail Popularity: Very...

[favorite_button]
Riverside Trail To Vista Viewpoint: Picturesque LA Views

Riverside Trail To Vista Viewpoint: Picturesque LA Views

Total Miles: 2.46 Time: 1 Hrs Difficulty: Easy - Moderate Best Season: All Year Elevation Gain: 407 ft Max Elevation: 1062 ft Type of Trail: Out & Back Parking Lot: Fits ≈ 50 Cars Dogs: Allowed On A Leash Restrooms: Available At The Parking Lot Trail Popularity:...

Hello, There!

I’m Phillip, and just like you, I feel very passionate about California and the outdoors. After many years of exploring amazing and hidden places, I thought I’d share them with you. Life goes by fast so get out there and enjoy it.  

Sign Up For Bonuses

Want to stay up to date with all the latest hikes? Join our community by clicking the link button below!

Join Us On Insta!

Legal Info

We only recommend what we use. This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. However, no company pays us to share these products with you. If you decide to purchase a product via one of our links, we will recieve a small compensation, which in turn, helps us to keep making videos and posts to share with all of you.