ADVENTURE HIKES AND CANYONEERING© Christopher Earls Brennen
IN THE SAN GABRIELS
Hike C4. Colby Canyon
- Hiking time: 2 hours
- Estimated hiking distance: 1.5 miles
- Elevation gain: 470 feet
- USGS Topo Maps: Condor Peak
- Difficulties: One small assisted descent (or rappel)
- Special equipment: 40ft of webbing (or rope and harnesses)
- ACA Rating: 2A I
Colby canyon is an attractive small canyon on the southern slopes of Strawberry Peak. The maintained trail to that summit begins by climbing the east wall of Colby Canyon on its way to Josephine Saddle. However, well below that saddle it crosses the Colby stream again. This hike proceeds up the maintained trail to that crossing and then descends along the canyon bottom back to the starting point. It an easy and short adventure hike that is recommended for the beginner. There is only one place where some assistance is needed in order to descend a small waterfall. Otherwise this is a gentle and attractive canyon with a year long stream. The hike can be done at any time throughout the year.
Drive up the Angeles Crest Highway from La Canada/Flintridge to a point about a mile beyond where the Angeles Forest Highway branches left at Clear Creek and about 0.5mi beyond the Switzer Picnic Area turnout. The road descends briefly and, at the bottom where it contours through Colby Canyon, you will find a large dirt parking area on the right and signs for the Colby Canyon trailhead (34o16.17'N 118o8.43'W and elevation 3480ft).
From the parking area (34o16.17'N 118o8.43'W and elevation 3480ft), hike up trail into Colby Canyon. After following the stream for a short distance the trail climbs the east wall of the canyon and this provides some attractive views of the wooded canyon below. Soon the trail enters a side branch (called Daisy Canyon) and ascends for a short distance before contouring back into Colby. After 25min, you arrive again at the stream in Colby Canyon. Here, at 34o16.45'N 118o7.97'W and an elevation of 3950ft, you begin your descent along the canyon bottom.
About 100yds downstream of the stream crossing, you arrive at a steep, 15ft waterfall. Here there are two choices. You can either rappel down into the pool at the base using stout bush anchors on the left or you can follow a trail on the left that climbs about 10ft to a small ridge and then contours into a gully that is readily descended. Another 100yds or so and you will encounter a chute-like waterfall of about 30ft consisting of several cascades and intermediate pools. There is a use-trail up and around this on the left. Then, about 80min from the start, the canyon makes an abrupt right turn after which there is narrow, rocky section. A short distance along this there is a 10ft waterfall, the only one on this hike where some assistance is needed. Use a length of webbing around the two bushes about 8ft up the rockface on the right in order to assist the downclimb on the left or, alternatively, to rappel down the waterfall. I suspect you could also bypass this obstacle by returning to the abrupt right turn and climbing up a shallow gully to a saddle, the other side of which allows you to descend back to the stream at a point downstream of the small waterfall.
A short distance downstream, the use-trail along the canyon bottom becomes more evident. This is a very pretty stretch of small canyon and you should pause to enjoy it. Soon you arrive at the point where the maintained trail leaves the stream to climb the east wall of the canyon. About 2hrs after setting out, you will arrive back at the trailhead (34o16.17'N 118o8.43'W and elevation 3480ft).
Last updated 7/30/99.
Christopher E. Brennen