Summary for Graveyard Canyon Hike
Easy to Moderate Adventure Hike – Read Adventure Hiking Page
5 Miles Round Trip
Interesting and easily accessed hike up a sandy stream bed with gentle grade deep into a dramatic canyon below Rattlesnake Peak.
Graveyard Canyon drains a large area on the south face of 5826′ Rattlesnake Peak. This hike enters Graveyard Canyon from its confluence with the East Fork of the San Gabriel River and is accessed easily because of its location along the East Fork Road and the plentiful legal parking there. This is technically an adventure hike because there is no trail, but the stream bed is surprisingly easy to hike for a trail less canyon because of its gentle grade, flat sandy bottom, and lack of brush. This description follows the stream bed for 2.5 miles into the canyon, but based on the topography and map data it appears that you could probably continue for at least another mile before the canyon ascends much more steeply. However you can see by looking at the GPS topo map below that eventually the canyon begins to ascend very steeply, and in theory this canyon would lead you to the summit of Rattlesnake Peak.
Graveyard Canyon was near the origin of the major Willams Fire in 2012, and the entire area was burned in that fire. I happened to be backpacking way up the East Fork at that time, and you can see a video here of the Williams Fire. The slopes above the canyon still show the results of the fire, and there are quite a few dead trees but otherwise the canyon bottom has recovered nicely since it drains a large area and thus receives substantial water flow at times. This is actually a good opportunity to see the recovery of the forest after a major fire, and the canyon is rather interesting in that respect. The canyon is also very quiet and features some great rock formations on its sides carved by the stream over time, and also some very interesting and diverse rocks in the stream bed, including some exceptionally pure and snowy white quartz. The hike begins at a gate near the road side parking area with a bathroom building along East Fork Road in the Angeles National Forest at GPS coordinates 34.23723, -117.812281.
Directions to Trailhead for Graveyard Canyon Hike
Map of Graveyard Canyon Hike with Downloadable GPX File
Detailed Description for Graveyard Canyon Hike
After you have parked in one of the legal dirt parking area near the bathrooms or along the road make sure to display your adventure pass. Note that the mouth of Graveyard Canyon is crossed by a bridge, and that a few yards past the bathrooms there is a traffic gate, beyond which the remains of a road lead down to the East Fork boulder field.
Go around the gate and down, then under the wide bridge to your left and up Graveyard Canyon. Here the mouth is wide and sandy, but soon narrows.
The stream bed is always easy to follow and as mentioned above, surprisingly flat. Although in the course of this hike you gain 900′ or so it doesn’t really seem like it because the grade is so gentle and consistent. Note the great carved sections of green and black rock along the canyon sides, a testament to the enormous force of water over time.
There are some interesting side canyons with great sculpted rock as well, so watch for these.
As mentioned above, one of the more interesting features of the canyon is the great variety of different rock types represented in the stream bed. Keep an eye out for some pink granite and some particularly pure and snowy white quartz. As you can see in the photo, one budding collector has found a particularly lovely specimen, while her dejected companion searches diligently for her own prize.
You can continue on as far as you desire. Note that our hike ended – as you can see on the GPS track above – as we went 100 yards or so up one of the side canyons and encountered what will be a nice little waterfall and grotto in the spring, but you could continue in the main canyon until the terrain becomes too rough for your tastes. After you have gone as far as you’d like, now simply retrace your steps back to your car.