Rubio Canyon

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Rubio Canyon Canyoneering Canyoning Caving
 For other features with similar names, see Rubio Canyon (disambiguation)
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Rubio Canyon Banner.jpg

Difficulty:3B II (v3a2 II)
Raps:‌4-12, max ↨100ft
Overall:3-6h ⟷1.6mi
Approach: ↑710ft
Red Tape:No permit required
Condition Reports:
14 May 2023

"Canyon still has some nice flow, 80 degrees out wet suit was not needed. Algae was very slippery.

(log in to submit report)
Best season:
Anytime;HOT in Summer


Rubio Canyon is a nice, short, very accessible canyon -- perfect for an introduction to the canyons of the area. The main attraction is a beautiful, tall, slippery waterfall named Thalehaha that can be observed beforehand on some of the approaches.

Some fun things to explore: Chris Brennan mentions the historical waterfalls & points of interest for Rubio Canyon during the Mount Lowe era. From top down: Leontine Falls (R2,3), Diane's Bath (R5), Thalehaha (Bridal Veil) Falls (R7), Roaring Rift Falls (R8), Suspended Lodged Boulder Falls, Mirror Lake Dam Wall (R9), Grand Chasm Falls (R10), Moss Grotto Falls (R11), Ribbon Rock Falls (R12), Bay Arbor Falls, Cavity Chute Falls, Maidenhair Falls. The original stairway went up from Maidenhair to Lodged Boulder Falls to Roaring Rift Falls. The bottom three falls have been covered with rock/silt as well as the lake.


There are three main routes for this canyon, one of which starts on a different trail from the other two, unless using one of the alternate connector trails.

Rubio shortcut

The shortcut route combines one of the shortest access hikes of all the San Gabriel canyons with a technical section of intermediate difficulty. It is the easiest variation both physically and technically, but it descends a slope with loose rocks so helmets are essential. The approach follows unmarked use trails with many variations and confusing side trails, so make sure you follow the GPS tracks to the letter. IF YOU FIND YOURSELF FACING EXPOSED CLIMBS AND EXPOSED TRAVERSES, YOU TOOK A WRONG TURN!

The trailhead for the Rubio shortcut is located in a residential area at the intersection of Rubio Vista Drive and Pleasantridge Drive in Altadena (34.2030, -118.1229) now marked on Google Maps. Plenty of parking is available on the adjacent streets. The trail is not immediately obvious as a trail to everyone because it is directly adjacent to the north noise wall of 1342 Rubio Vista Drive, but it can be recognized by the warning signs at its entrance. Follow this trail 0.5 miles to some concrete pillars that previously formed the foundation of the Rubio Pavilion. Shortly after this point, the trail will descend to the canyon bottom. Turn around and note what the trail leaving the canyon bottom looks like as you may need to find it in the dark.

Continue up canyon 750 feet to a waterfall RDC – this is the final rappel (34.2074, -118.1164). Continue up the large scree gully LDC for 450 feet, passing a couple of prominent side trails RDC along the way, to a large section of solid rock in the bottom of the gully (34.2072, -118.1150). Just before this rock face, take the prominent use trail that turns left to contour west up the ridge forming the RDC side of the gully. This trail continues 300 feet through tall grass to a collection of boulders on a relatively flat area overlooking a large waterfall to the north – this is the Lunch Spot (34.2077, -118.1157) and it overlooks Thalehaha Falls. At this point the trail can be difficult to find.

Continue up the ridge NE on a faint use trail for another 240 feet until the use trail starts contouring along the ridge to the left. Follow the trail as it goes downhill slightly and passes under some thick vegetation. Contour along the ridge for 60 ft and then up another 40 ft to the summit (34.2082, -118.1150). At the summit there should be a small clearing with three rebar anchors staked into the ground and an eroded trail heading steeply downward into the canyon - this is the drop-in above Thalehaha. Some choose to use the anchor for a hand line or rappel while others choose to downclimb this 100 ft slope. The eroded trail then takes a sudden left hand turn to contour along the ridge for 25 feet to two bolts on the rock face straight ahead. To reach these bolts it is necessary to cross a steep slope with many loose rocks. This nearly 100 ft slope leads all the way down to the canyon bottom and extra care should be taken to mitigate the danger of falling rocks. The top of Thalehaha is just down canyon of this point.

Leontine extension

The Leontine extension adds 300 ft of elevation gain to the approach and 4-7 additional rappels, Leontine Falls which is taller than Thalehaha. This route is appreciably more difficult than either of the other two routes. Leontine Falls can be done as a two-pitch. From the bolts set way back canyon right, it is 35'-40' to the shallow pothole directly above Leontine falls (depending on webbing length and pothole fill). On the canyon-right side of this pothole are two new bolts (July 2015), making the 2nd pitch 100'. A 200' rope is just long enough to complete the second pitch. More new bolts have been installed (2017-2020) so all drops in the Leontine extension are now bolted.

The Leontine extension approach is identical to the Rubio shortcut up to Thalehaha overlook. Beyond that follow the shortcut approach either to the summit of the Rubio shortcut (the spot with three rebar stakes), or take the direct ridge approach (below) At the Rubio shortcut’s summit, do not descend the eroded trail and do not proceed on the trail that contours around the hill. Instead, backtrack 30 feet or so and continue on the use trail that ascends steeply up the ridge. Continue following the largest trail visible until you cross the next large gully. Do not take the trail that branches to the left and slightly downhill at 34.2084, -118.1142; instead continue up the ridge to 34.2084, -118.1133. After crossing the large gully at approximately 2800 ft elevation, the trail descends steeply into the canyon bottom to a shady spot just above a series of waterfalls leading to Leontine Falls (34.2094, -118.1135).

For the direct ridge approach to the Leontine extension, follow the trail up from the Thalehaha overlook, and every time you come to a choice right or left, take the climber's right hand trail. This will more or less keep you on the ridge until you drop down slightly on a small saddle with a clear view off the ridge on your right. At this small saddle 34.20794, -118.11420 the trail goes on the left side of the ridge with slight ups and downs quickly meeting the other main trail on the left. Continue climbing up and make another right turn (straight goes to the poison oak filled gully descent to the bottom of the Leontine). As ways up your reach a traverse and steep loose climb on a gravel slope with a clear view to your right. At the top of this steep loose climb there is a fork right or left, go left over a bush stump to the high point. This should be obvious, as within 50 feet the left trail starts going downhill, whereas the right trail peters out.

Via Echo Mountain

The Echo Mountain approach described by Chris Brennen doubles the elevation gain of the Rubio shortcut by adding 700 ft and requires a car shuttle (or long walk), but it is the easiest route technically because it avoids the hazard of the first loose entry rappel for the Rubio shortcut while only adding a short, easy two-stage rappel relative to the Rubio shortcut.

From the Cobb Estate

To begin the Echo Mountain approach, first place a retrieval vehicle at the trailhead described in the Rubio shortcut route -- this is the exit. Then, drive back to Lake Avenue and follow it north to its intersection with Loma Alta Drive (this is the Cobb Estate). Make sure to obey the signed parking restrictions, but parking can usually be found within 800 ft of the intersection even on busy days for this popular trail. Begin the Sam Merrill trail by walking east next to a large metal gate onto a poorly-maintained small road. Follow the road 450 ft until it bends left – continue straight at this point. After another 175 ft, the trail will turn left and head slightly downhill. Ensure that you are on a trail that is on a small canyon wall rather than being above the canyon. This is the Sam Merrill trail; follow it 2.5 miles to the ruins at Echo Mountain (34.2110, -118.1209).

From the Connector trail

Avoid the car shuttle or long hike back to the Sam Merrill trail entrance by using the Connector trail that climbs steeply up from the Rubio Canyon trail 0.1 miles from the trailhead (see map). The Connector trail climbs 600 feet in 0.4 miles and connects to the Sam Merrill trail. Then continue up the Sam Merrill trail 1.4 miles and 800 feet gain to the Echo Mountain summit.

From the Old Lowe Railway Trail

Avoid the car shuttle or long hike back by using the Old Lowe Railway Trail that climbs steeply up from the Rubio Canyon trail 0.4 miles from the trailhead. The old Lowe Railway Trail climbs 1300 feet in 1.1 miles directly to the Echo Mountain summit.

Drop in

After taking a break at the ruins on Echo Mountain, go back 300 ft on the Sam Merrill trail and head down the NE side of the ridge where signs to the dance floor or tennis court indicate. Find use trails that continue the 400 ft descent to the canyon bottom.


Rubio is a fairly standard class 3 canyon with rappels up to 100'.

Summary (from Leontine extension):

R1: 24' - DCR 2 bolts

R2: 44' - DCR 2 bolts 10 feet back from edge with short webbing NOTE: 36' rappel with 10' long webbing

R3: 102' - DCR 2 bolts

R2 and R3 consist of Leontine Falls. The bottom of R3 is seasonally a large shallow pool. New bolts were placed on the 2nd stage of Leontine in July 2015.

R4a 30-80' - In high flow (very rare for Rubio) build an anchor off a tree high up DCL, or bolts on the rock buttress DCL as the downclimb to R4b is sketchy with water flowing over it.

R4b: 30' - After a brief 2 step down climb, you reach 2 bolts DCL 15 feet back from large chockstone boulder define the drop. - As of Nov 2015, one of the bolts is loose, but the cone is well set so it's not going to fail (Oct 2020: this will be replaced soon) - This rappel can be bypassed by traversing the slab canyon right to a large dead tree and down-climbing at the tree. UPDATE: DEC 2021 the dead tree washed away, but there is a eyelet bolt for a handline down the slab where the tree used to be located.

Immediately after R4 canyon left is a escape gully that is routinely used by hikers wanting to see the Leontine Falls. The trail is well worn all the way bay up to the approach trail. It does have lots of poison oak!

R5: 12' - Downclimb either directly on the face DCR or chimney down DCL - Rappel using eyelet bolts on buttress DCR - UPDATE: DEC 2021: The steel pipe was washed away by the flash flood: There is a steel pipe for assistance in downclimbing but be aware that the pipe can easily shift position, even fall over completely - This is also a good place to practice a meat anchor rappel and partner assist downclimb.

---Echo Mountain creek branch (Castle Canyon) enters the main Rubio Canyon shorty after R5. Looking up that way there is a forest of poison oak on the left side---

Immediately after the Echo Mountain branch is a 6 foot downclimb on either side of a large boulder. 100 feet further is R6a

R6a: 60' - DCR 2 bolts 2 stage rappel; rap 23' 1st stage to Diana's Bath, walk (wade) over to the pour-over, and down shallow angle ramp to another pool which often has knee deep water, for a total of 58' combining R6a and R6b.

R6b: 25' - DCL 2 bolts for the shallow angle trough, down climb DCL, or slide the trough when dry. When wet this slide is sketchy, because the pool is too shallow and rocky at the bottom including a large boulder directly at the base. DO NOT slide without checking.

---Rubio Shortcut drops in here, between R6 and R7 ---

R7: 100' - DCR 2 large glue-in eyelet bolts with short webbing. This rappel is Thalehaha falls. Thalehaha is often very slippery; most groups are almost guaranteed to have someone fall on his/her side while rappelling. Make sure to remind everyone not to let go with their brake hand lest this happens.

R8: 35' - DCR 2 large glue-in eyelet bolts

R9: 27' - DCL 2 bolts. Care should be taken on the pull down as a block could get stuck. Reasonable downclimb for a skilled rock climber when completely dry.

R10a: 44' - DCL 2 bolts - Drop goes down blocky staircase, and then down a 20 feet ramp to a large flat pothole. Care should be taken on the pull down as the block could get stuck - Alternatively, an eyelet bolt and pinch point canyon center 25' with much better pull line and no issue with block.

R10b: 40' - DCR 2 bolts. Can be combined with R10a approx. 90', but last person should split this rappel up, otherwise the pull may be difficult / impossible if block gets caught - Alternatively, combine with the eyelet bolt and pinch point anchor, pull is quite reasonable at 75'

R11: 42' - DCR 2 bolts. DCL there are 4 bolt studs with no hangers.

R12: 10' - 2 bolts from boulder in center. Most bypass this rappel on a shelf RDC and downclimbing 5 feet, because the rappel has sharp edges and can easily damage your rope. UPDATE: DEC2021 these bolt were sheared off in the Dec 14th flash flood.

Special risks include:

Rock Fall

The first sloping rappel on the Rubio shortcut route has a lot of loose debris that has a tendency to fall while people are rappelling. Ensure that people at the bottom, including the belayer, are positioned safely.


  • Except after strong rains, nearly all of Rubio requires only knee-deep wading. Thalehaha and Leontine falls can both present a large amount of spray and showers, so canyoneers should be prepared to get wet. Both the Leontine extension and via Echo Mountain routes involve one short section of waist-deep water (in the wet season).
  • Flash flood danger is low, but exceptional rain events have caused lethal flooding in the past. In high flow Rubio typically has many rocks moving with the flow down the waterfalls, which makes it too dangerous to descent the Thalehaha and the Leontine from the normal bolted anchors. Alternative anchors well off the side of the falls must be used in high flow.



All rappels in the Rubio shortcut, via Echo Mountain routes and Leontine have double bolts (2020).

Gear Recommendations

Standard gear to navigate a class 3 canyon, non-cotton socks, potentially a wet suit or rain jacket October-April.


For the Rubio shortcut and Leontine extension, you should recognize the base of the final rappel from the approach; simply reverse the approach back to your car.

For the via Echo Mountain route, scramble over boulders down canyon until a prominent trail leaves the canyon bed RDC about 800 ft from the final rappel. Make sure not to miss this turnoff or a very unpleasant 140 ft (vertically) scramble awaits you at the bottom of the canyon. Follow this trail to the street where your retrieval car is parked. After leaving the canyon bottom, this trail is fairly flat. If you find yourself hiking steeply uphill, retrace your steps and take the other fork of the trail. The trail reaches a 6-8" diameter pipe intersecting the trail. Continue towards the pipe around the bend to the concrete foundation blocks mentioned in Brennen's beta. This is the correct exit route.

Red tape

No permits are required during sunup to sundown. Most of the trip is located in the Angeles National Forest. The usual exit from Rubio Canyon enters on private property owned by the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy (AFC). Due to vandalism, the AFC has closed the property from sundown to sunup. Real time cameras are installed to alert them to people on the property. To obtain permission to pass on AFC property, simply alert Tim Martinez,, that you will be exiting at night. Give the date and number of individuals. Please stay on the established trails and avoid stepping on native plants. Keep the noise to a minimum as you exit since you will be walking between two private homes. For current trail status, you can also check this website:

Beta sites

Trip reports and media



Information provided by automated processes. KML map by (unknown). Main photo by (unknown). Authors are listed in chronological order.

In all habitats live animals and plants that deserve respect, please minimize impact on the environment and observe the local ethics. Canyoneering, Canyoning, Caving and other activities described in this site are inherently dangerous. Reliance on the information contained on this site is solely at your own risk. There is no warranty as to accuracy, timeliness or completeness of the information provided on this site. The site administrators and all the contributing authors expressly disclaim any and all liability for any loss or injury caused, in whole or in part, by its actions, omissions, or negligence in procuring, compiling or providing information through this site, including without limitation, liability with respect to any use of the information contained herein. If you notice any omission or mistakes, please contribute your knowledge (more information).


Incident:Awkward rappel start with slip and fall in Rubio Canyon 2020/01/20trueNo loss2020-01-20
Incident:Stuck hiker airlifted in Rubio Canyon 2017/03/04falseNo loss2017-03-04
Lost hiker in RubiotrueInjury2013-03-18
Stuck rope in RubiotrueNo loss2013-02-12
Sixty foot fall on ThalehahatrueInjury2012-02-21