Rubio Canyon Waterfalls Hike
Summary for Rubio Canyon Waterfalls Hike
Moderately strenuous Adventure Hike – Read Adventure Hiking Page
3 Miles Round Trip
3 – 4 Hours
Easy hike to first fall, but then adventure hike on unmaintained trail with some hazardous scrambling to get to viewpoints of spectacular waterfalls.
Rubio Canyon is famous for its waterfalls, and justifiably so. This adventure hike takes you up the canyon about 1 mile to the base of the first fall set, Moss Grotto/Ribbon Rock Falls, then over the ridge to the top of that fall, and to the base of the second large fall, Grand Chasm Falls. Then up a steep trail to an overlook with a spectacular direct view of 80′ Thalehaha Falls, and then onward and upward to an overlook of 100′ Leontine Falls. Note that Rubio Canyon drains a relatively small area, and water flow varies dramatically with season and precipitation totals, so that these falls may be dry or almost dry in the summer or fall, but can roar dramatically in the winter or after storms. The water company here also diverts some of the water – note the pipes in the canyon as you hike. The upper falls usually have some water though, and the waterfalls here can be quite spectacular in season.
The canyon has a long and storied history as a principal component of The Mount Lowe Railway complex, and was once the site of a railway partway up the canyon, a resort called Rubio Pavillion, and a complex series of wooden stairways that allowed Victorian-era visitors to walk to many of the waterfalls – in fact all the way to the base of 80′ Thalehaha Falls. Now only traces of foundations and a few odds and ends are all that remain of this amazing engineering achievement, victims of the folly of man, and of the floods and fires that occur naturally over time in these and all mountains.
Directions to Trailhead for Rubio Canyon Waterfalls Hike
Map of Rubio Canyon Waterfalls Hike with Downloadable GPX File
Detailed Description for Rubio Canyon Waterfalls Hike
Park your car on the street somewhere near the intersection of Rubio Vista Rd and Pleasantridge Dr where the trail head is located between two houses. Try to be considerate of the residents as this is smack dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Now you proceed up the trail. Shortly you will encounter a junction where a trail heads up the ridge to the left – don’t take this but stay straight ahead into the canyon.
After traversing the trail for a short distance you will round a ridge and see the beautiful wooded stream bed below. Soon the canyon narrows and shortly you will meet the stream bed as you head deeper into this beautiful rugged gorge.
At only about 1 mile from the start you will encounter the first major waterfall, which is a lovely two-tier fall with a pool in between. History has provided a name for each fall – the top fall is 20′ Moss Grotto Falls and the bottom tier is 25′ Ribbon Rock Falls.
The trail continues in front of the fall and crosses the stream. Directly across the stream you will traverse up a slope of loose rock. Part way up this slope approximately 200 feet or so you will see to the left a steep use trail that can be used to get to the top of Moss Grotto Falls, and also to the base of the second major waterfall, Grand Chasm Falls.
Go up the steep use trail about 100 yards and over a small ridge at which point you can descend back to the stream bed, now above the twin-tier waterfall mentioned above which is now to your left. Upstream to your right a short distance is the second major waterfall in the canyon, lovely 25′ Grand Chasm Falls. You can fairly easily get to the base of this waterfall and its shallow pool now.
It is also possible to climb carefully up the left side of Grand Chasm Falls here by starting up the slope 100′ or so before the falls ending on a granite outcrop above the falls to the left. Here you can catch a view of the next major waterfall in this dramatically narrow and rugged stretch of the canyon, a 30′ beauty, but to descend into the gorge here would be difficult and you might get trapped down in the narrow gorge so just enjoy the view.
You will now wish to return back the way you entered this section of the canyon, that is to ascend the slope and then descend back to the scree slope on the other side. Now continue up the scree slope, approviamtley another 100 yards, where you will encounter a solid granite segment in the gully you are ascending. Just to the left of this you will want to watch for a use trail that ascends the slope towards the rocky ridge. Soon you will know you are on the right path as you hike through an unusual flora for this area, a hillside covered with lush and beautiful Fountain Grass, as you can see in the photo.
The trail continues up rather steeply to rocky outcrop, beyond which you are suddenly rewarded with a straight on view of spectacular 80′ Thalehaha Falls. You are now high above the gorge and will want to treasure this view, one of the best waterfall vistas in the range.
Once you have had your fill of the lovely view, note that the trail continues on up the ridge ahead. You will ascend laboriously, and switchback through some brush, eventually arriving at a point where canyoneers drop down a dangerously steep gully into the canyon to rappel down Thalehaha Falls. You will note in the GPS map above a went about halfway down, but unless you really know what you’re doing don’t attempt to descend here. Instead continue on ahead, and after another 20 minutes or so of effort you will arrive at another rocky outcrop with a partially obstructed view of the over 100′ tall Leontine Falls. I have not done it but apparently people also descend down the gully in front of this outcrop into the canyon as well. After satiating your visual desires, retrace your steps and descend back through this beautiful and historic canyon to your vehicle.
Video of Rubio Canyon Waterfalls Hike
Thalehaha Falls on 4/27/2014. Note that the 2013-2014 rainy season was exceptionally dry, and the flow in the falls was rather low but this vantage point still offers a dramatic vista, and you can imagine how spectacular these falls can be in times of greater flow.