ADVENTURE HIKES AND CANYONEERING© Christopher Earls Brennen
IN THE SAN GABRIELS
Hike B14. Classic Canyon
- Hiking time: 3.5 hours
- Estimated hiking distance: 3.3 miles
- Elevation gain: 760 feet
- USGS Topo Maps: Condor Peak
- Difficulties: Three rappels down dryfalls, one 160ft high; some wading
- Special equipment: Rappelling gear with one 200ft rope, one 200ft pull cord, 30ft of webbing, 3 rappel rings
- ACA Rating: 3A II
Classic Canyon is a small lateral ravine that tumbles down the cliff wall of Big Tujunga Canyon a short distance downstream of the point where the Fall Creek fire road crosses the river. It is readily accessed from that fire road just a few hundred yards above the Big Tujunga. This is a short adventure hike that rappels down three dryfalls the last one being about 160ft high. It is a good intermediate descent for those advanced beginners wishing to move up to larger drops. Though it may contain flowing water after periods of rain, the canyon is usually dry except for a few pools. It is good for almost any time of year though should be avoided when the Big Tujunga is too full to cross.
More experienced groups could combine this with a descent of Fall Creek for a good day of canyoneering.
The trailhead for this hike is the dirt parking area (at 34o17.82'N 118o10.20'W and elevation 3090ft) by a locked gate on Big Tujunga Canyon Road, 0.5mi southwest of the junction with the Angeles Forest Highway.
This adventure begins in the same way as several others we have described. You proceed through the locked gate (34o17.82'N 118o10.20'W) and hike down the Fall Creek fire road until, at an elevation of about 2730ft and roughly 1.0mi from the start, you are contouring around the last big lateral canyon prior to the fire road crossing of the Big Tujunga. This is Classic Canyon and you could drop in where the fire road crosses the streamcourse but, to avoid an unproductive bushwhack, it is better to continue down the fire road for about 200yds to where there is a shallow low point in the road. About 50yds before this low point you will recognize a rock slide/scree slope dropping into the canyon from the road. You should reach this drop-in point at 34o18.23'N 118o9.93'W and an elevation of 2640ft about 40min from the start having covered 1.2mi.
First rappel in Classic Canyon Second rappel in Classic Canyon
It is just a short way from the bottom of the drop-in slope to the top of the first rappel, a 25ft sloping slot that could be downclimbed under dry conditions. The anchor is a single bolt in the rock to the right of the lip but, like all single bolts, this should be backed up, in this case to a stout bush on the right. The second rappel follows almost immediately at 2550ft and about 1hr from the start.
Third rappel in Classic Canyon
The anchor is a single bolt in a boulder on the left side of the lip and this could be backed-up to a log a little further back. You rappel down about 40ft to a pool that is easily bypassed on canyon right. This places you on a ledge between the first pool and a second a few feet lower. Off-rappel you can proceed past this second pool on canyon left and descend 12ft of sloping rock to the bottom.
The third, last and longest rappel is just a short way down canyon and you should reach this about 1.5hrs from the start. This is the 160ft vertical drop into Big Tujunga. There is a double bolt anchor in the rock on the right side of the lip and the descent has several short sections of free rappel. It places you in a wooded area on the south side of the Big Tujunga.
After the last rappel you will need to turn right up the canyon and hike back to where the Fall Creek fire road crosses the Big Tujunga. Even when Mill Creek is at low water it is difficult to avoid some wading; and at high water the necessary river crossings could be very dangerous. On the way you pass the point where Fall Creek drops into the Big Tujunga from the north. Under low water conditions it takes about an hour to hike upstream to the Fall Creek fire road crossing so you should reach this point at 34o18.31'N 118o9.61'W and 2370ft about 2.5hrs from the start having travelled about 1.9mi. From there it only remains to hike up the fire road back to the parking area at 34o17.82'N 118o10.20'W and an elevation of 3090ft. You will have covered about 3.6mi during the 3.5hr hike.
Last updated 10/12/07.
Christopher E. Brennen