SGM: The Waterfalls

Location of Waterfalls
Definition of Tier
The Falls of Rubio Canyon
The Most-Easily-Accessed Waterfalls
List of Waterfalls By Height
   Locations and Reference for Heights
      Latitudes, Longitudes and Altitudes
Notes On Individual Waterfalls


This page attempts to list all the major waterfalls in the SGM, in descending order of height. This list is probably fairly complete for falls that are easily reached via hiking trail, since it contains every falls mentioned in Schad's and Robinson's hiking books. However, the list is undoubtedly incomplete for harder-to-reach falls. For example, a large number come from two small well-explored canyons, Rubio Canyon and Bonita Canyon, and there is no reason to believe that these canyons are unique in their waterfall content. If you know of more accurate data, or omissions, please email us.

Most of the heights given for waterfalls are clearly not very accurate, since most heights are only given to the nearest 10'. In addition, it is not always clear whether the height refers to the actual vertical drop, or whether it measures the length of the waterfall, as would be given by the length of a rope dropped from the top of the waterfall to its bottom. Fortunately, the height is within 10% of the length as long as the angle of the waterfall is less than 37° from being vertical. This has to be the case for single-tier waterfalls, or else the waterfalls would be a waterchute. Thus this confusion only comes into play for multiple-tier waterfalls with extensive shelves between the tiers.

Notes for some waterfalls give more information about them. When available, links to pictures or more information about each waterfall are also given. Chris Shaffer had put online some wonderful pages with pictures and information about many of these waterfalls, but abruptly took them offline without explanation, severely decreasing the number of online pictures. If these pages resurface, or if you know of pictures or other pages we haven't linked to, please let us know.

See also:

Location of Waterfalls

It is no accident that most of the waterfalls are along the front range, since recent uplift of the San Gabriel Mountains relative to the L.A. Basin on the Sierra Madre Fault System has created them. The falls have remained close to those faults in areas with lower rates of water erosion like the small drainages south of Mt. Wilson and Monrovia Peak. Other falls have "moved upstream" in areas with higher rates of water erosion, like along the Arroyo Seco, Big Tujunga Creek and the San Gabriel River. See unlabeled map, with the waterfalls marked by blue-green triangles. If you need help interpreting that map, see labeled map and for further help the map tutorial.

Definition of Tier

The number of tiers for each waterfall is listed when it is available. Ideally, a tier consists of a free-fall water drop, beginning when the water leaves the bed of the river or contact with rock and ends when the water hits rock or the bed of the river again. A multiple-tier waterfall is a series of single-tier waterfalls.

However, in practice the number of tiers is often hard to define, which also makes precise definitions of a waterfall's height and form generally impossible. A waterfall that has a single cascade that nearly follows the rock underneath the falls looks much like a single-tier waterfall, but the definition above would call in a multiple-tier waterfall. We'll call that a single-tier waterfall here, since that is what it looks like.

Also, a multiple-tier waterfall with many small tiers becomes a waterchute or simply a steep stream, and hence the boundary between those forms is imprecise. Many waterfalls combine both a chute and a single or multiple tier. However, since it is of interest to know the largest single free-fall drop, a separate entry is made for the largest single tier for a multiple-tier waterfall when known.


For reference, we've also given the "ratings" given by Ann Marie Brown in her book California Waterfalls for the 12 waterfalls that she has rated. This entirely-subjective rating is the ooh-ahh factor, which nearly always depends on the season and how much rainfall has occurred lately. She states that these ratings also "take into account the entire trip - trail conditions, scenery, setting, and overall view". Her scale, and the number of hikes with a given rating in all of California and in the SGM, are:

RatingMeaningNo. in
No. in SGM
10"Top 20 in California"230

Two waterfalls in the SGM are rated as spectacular. Since Brown has ranked 200 waterfalls in California, and this puts them in the top 62 of the 200, we clearly have some waterfalls worth seeing. However, be warned that our spectacular waterfalls have a short season, and may be much less than spectacular the rest of the year.

Yosemite of course has a lock on the waterfalls rated 10 by Brown for good reason. Yosemite's waterfalls are much higher and have much more water flowing in them. Yosemite has nine of the ten highest waterfalls in California, ranging from #1 Ribbon Falls (1,612') to #10 Vernal Falls (317'). Our best waterfalls are typically 50-100' high.

We've thought about adding our own ratings to the falls, but decided against it at this time for these reasons:

However, we'd be happy to post or link to your ratings, so email us if you have done so.

The Falls of Rubio Canyon

The falls of Rubio Canyon need further discussion:

  1. The table lists 13 falls from Rubio Canyon, including the two Maple Canyon Falls in upper Rubio Canyon, compared to the single falls per canyon for most other canyons. Hence either Rubio Canyon is very unusual in the number of waterfalls, or the other canyons have many missing large waterfalls. Because of the Mt. Lowe Railway, Rubio is undoubtedly one of the best-explored canyons, and hence it is likely that the table below is seriously incomplete for other canyons.

  2. Five and a half of the waterfalls in Rubio are now covered with debris, due to the actions of the Rubio Canyon Water Company.

  3. All of the Rubio waterfalls would be much more spectacular in terms of flow if water was not being diverted near the top of Rubio Canyon by the Rubio Canyon Water Company.

  4. Ann Marie Brown gives the five lower falls of Rubio Canyon a combined rating of 7, and doesn't include the upper five falls in her book.

  5. In late October, 1999, rumours were being advanced that some official agency has closed Rubio Canyon to hikers due to safety concerns, including an article in the L.A. Times on 10/26/99 and an adhesive tape Trail Closed marker on the Forest Service Entrance sign. In addition, someone had also unsuccessfully attempted to pull off the permanent trail unsafe, hike at own risk sign that has been there for some time.

    In truth, Sue Swinson, the Assistant Forest Supervisor, says that she knows of no such closure.

    In any case, even if Rubio Canyon were officially closed, it would probably be solely for liability reasons, just like the Sam Merrill Echo Mountain Trail was closed for a while after the Mt. Wilson Fire. Clearly, though, if you hike Rubio, you hike at your own risk and can't complain if you get injured while hiking on the debris pile, which is only found above the lower three falls, or if you get hit by any debris brought down-canyon during a rainstorm.

    Unfortunately the steel cable used to help climb the first small falls below Maidenhair Falls is now uselessly laying below the falls on the streambed.

The Most-Easily-Accessed Waterfalls

Some of the best waterfalls are easily accessed. The round-trip miles and altitude gains for these hikes are given in the table below, in order of mileage. Fish Canyon Falls was formerly a 5 mile round-trip with only 900' of elevation gain, but due to the Azusa Rock Quarry, it is now a much more difficult, not recommended hike.

FallsRound-trip MilesAltitude Gain (')Height (')
Pasadena Glen Falls0.5??~15+
Monrovia Canyon Falls0.8??50
Millard Canyon Falls115050-60
Lewis Falls125050
Bailey Canyon Falls1.2350??
San Antonio Falls1.525080-100
Eaton Falls335035-40
Sturtevant Falls350050-60
Switzer's Falls*2.5-5300-60050

* The minimum trip for Switzer is to the top of the Falls, and the maximum corresponds to also going to the bottom of the Falls.
+ The 15' elevation is an estimate from Dan Simpson; the 35' waterfall is further back in the canyon, and probably needs technical equipment to reach it.

List of Waterfalls By Height

It has certainly been confusing at times trying to compile this list of waterfalls. There are often multiple waterfalls on the same stream close together, sometimes there are multiple waterfalls on the same stream quite far apart, and sometimes different names are used for the same falls. We have attempted to clarify some of this confusion in notes on individual waterfalls for those entries marked with an asterisk. For relative certainty about what waterfall is being referenced, see also the general location and reference for the quoted heights of the falls or Latitudes, Longitudes and Altitudes.

Waterfalls without any height estimates at all are given alphabetically in the lower part of the table.

Height (')
Upper Leontine Fallss* 3210-220
Lower Bonita Falls 1160
Bottom Tier of Upper Leontine Fallss* 1120
Leontine Falls* ??105-120
Chapman Falls (aka Alpine Falls)s* ??118
Thalehaha Fallss* 180-112*
Upper Bonita Falls ~4100
Lower Maple Canyon Fallss* 197
San Antonio Falls*8380-100
Fish Canyon Falls* 480
Lower Fall Creek Falls ??70
Punchbowl* 170
Bonita Canyon #1 >260
Wolfskill* 160
Millard Canyon Falls8??50-60
Sturtevant Falls*9150-60
Middle Bonita Falls ??50
Lewis Falls (aka Soldier Creek Falls)8250
Switzer's Falls8150
Lower Monrovia Falls*8250
Falls Gulchs ??50
Upper Maple Canyon Fallss* 139
Trail Canyon Falls9130-50
Fish Canyon Falls (Upper Tier)* ??40
Upper Fall Creek Falls ??40
Eaton Canyon Falls*7+??35-40
Cooper Canyon Falls*8??30-35
Pasadena Glen Falls* 2~35
Lower Buckhorn Falls* ??30
Hermit Falls*6??30
Bonita Canyon #2 ??25
Placerita Canyon Falls
(aka Los Pinetos)
Saucer* ??25
Lower Devils Canyon #1*8??20
Lower Devils Canyon #2* 120
Bouquet Canyon Falls 120
Upper Big Tujunga Falls 120
Redrock Canyons ??20
Royal Gorge 218
Grand Canyon Falls* ??18
Cienaga Canyon ??15
Maidenhair Falls ??15
Lower Switzer's Falls* 115
Fish Fork Falls* 112
Upper Buckhorn Falls* ??10
Falls of Unknown Height (Alphabetically)
Adams Falls ????
Bailey Canyon Falls ?? 
Bay Arbor Falls ?? 
Bear Creek ????
Cavity Chute Falls ?? 
Devil's Punchbowl ????
Upper Devils Canyon* ????
Side Canyon to Lower Devils Canyon* ????
Falls Canyon* ????
Upper Fish Fork Falls* ??>12
Glenn Canyon Falls* 3?
Grand Chasm Falls ?? 
Lodged Boulder Falls ?? 
Mill Creek Falls ?? 
Mt. Lewis Falls* ??~30?
Upper Monrovia Falls ?? 
Moss Grotto Falls ?? 
Ribbon Rock Falls ?? 
Roaring Rift Falls ?? 
Upper Soldier Creek Falls ?? 

s Seasonal Falls. The distinction between a seasonal and year-round falls often depends on the total amount of rainfall in the last several years, and so should be interpreted with some caution.
+ Brown: would rank a "9 or 10" without graffiti.
* See Notes On Individual Waterfalls.

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Copyright © 1999-2006 by Tom Chester, Jane Strong and Paul Ayers.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to us at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester | Jane Strong | Paul Ayers
Updated 2 May 2006.