Hour to Kill: Eaton Canyon Falls Trail

Have an hour to kill in the SGV? Hike the popular waterfall trail in less than an hour with this secret weekday entrance.

Los Angeles is a beautiful place, and it's not afraid to flaunt it. Case in point: Eaton Canyon. The Pasadena area park is one of the most accessible and easygoing trails where you'll truly feel like you've slipped into the wilderness. This waterfall hike isn't without its faults: crushing weekend crowds, defaced rocks, occasional litter. That said, it's one of the few spots in LA where you can follow the sound of running water through a forest. Plus, on weekdays only, you can cut out the most boring part of the hike and park just barely over a mile from the waterfall. Avoid the crowds and set out on this weekday version of a serene hike to a waterfall and back—all within an hour.
Good for: A barely-break-a-sweat hike, frolicking under a waterfall
If you're going to: Dim sum in the SGV, spending the afternoon in Pasadena
For that moment when: You want to escape the city without straying too far from the 210.
In case you're hungry: Lavender & Honey Espresso Bar, a bagged lunch 
Getting there: Driving's your best bet; the entrance gate is closest to 2273 Pinecrest Dr. Parking is only available on weekdays, and make sure to look out for the red curbs. Alternatively, you can take the 264 bus to Altadena and Allen any day and take a half-mile, slightly hilly walk east on Pinecrest—though you might be better off just taking the longer hike from the nature center (1750 N Altadena Dr) at that point.
Photograph: Victor Leung

Flip through our photos for the easiest way to hike to the waterfall.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

On weekdays only, you can park for two hours along Pinecrest Drive—plenty of time for the roughly 1.75-mile round trip.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

Don't let the scary signs and barbed wire fool you: The narrow gate to the left is open for public use during daylight hours. Starting from here skips the uneventful, wide trail that begins at the nature center. If you decide to stay past sundown, you'll have to follow the trail a mile south to the main gate.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

The vista from the gate is gorgeous, though that top-down view means you'll be ending your hike with a sunny uphill walk. On the way down, follow the dirt and paved trails and cross the bridge.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

When you get to the fork, take the low road on the right, lest you find yourself climbing 1,300 feet to the Henninger Flats. Follow the low trail until the road forks again and head right in the direction of the bridge. You'll find a few gravelly shortcuts before the switchback, but they can be a bit unstable.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

After crossing underneath the bridge, you'll find yourself on a shaded forest trail that careens along—and through—the creek.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

You'll have to cross the creek pretty often, so make sure to wear comfortable, waterproof shoes and socks. Some of the crossings are easily marked.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

At other spots, you're left finding your own way across. You might want to bring along a walking stick if you have a tough time with slippery rocks.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

The hike can change depending on season. If you go in the summer or fall, the creek will be drier and easier to cross, but you'll also find less shade and fewer leafy trees. Go in the winter or spring and you'll find a lush forest floor with wetter river crossings.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

With that whole safety spiel out of the way, even novice hikers should feel comfortable. The trail—please, please don't go off trail—can get rocky and split into a few branches, but all sections of the fairly level route lead to the same place. If you're ever confused about which way to go, just follow the river or the narrow canyon walls.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

Once you hit this sunny clearing, the waterfall isn't much farther around the bend.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

The trail becomes increasingly boulder-filled as you approach the waterfall. You'll start to hear the sound of rushing water—and maybe a screaming baby and a barking dog.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

If you've planned it properly, the waterfall area shouldn't be too crowded, not at all like the spring break-esque scene on weekends.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

If you need to cool off before heading out, well, here's a waterfall. As for that hike back, look to the opposing traffic for hints to find the best return route.

Got a few more hours to kill?