The Waterfalls of Rubio Canyon

Written By Troy Sette and edited by Tom Chester

I [Troy Sette] spent a large part of 1997 doing research on the stairway that once climbed many of the falls of Rubio Canyon. For more information about all the Rubio falls in detail, see Pasadena History, by Hiram Reid, available in the Reference Room in the Pasadena library.

The Named Falls

There is confusion about the names of several of the Falls. Thalehaha Falls and Grand Chasm Falls are the names Hiram Reid uses. After Prof. Lowe lost the railway those falls may have been renamed to Bridal Veil and Rainbow Falls, but I prefer to use Reid's names.

John Robinson mistakenly uses the name Leontine Falls for the combination of Ribbon Rock Falls (the lower half) and Moss Grotto Falls (the upper half) in Trails of the Angeles. Since John Robinson's book has seen far more publication than Reid's, the falls in Rubio have been misnamed ever since.

In order from the top down, the named falls are Leontine, Thalehaha (Bridal Veil), Roaring Rift, Lodged Boulder, Grand Chasm (Rainbow), Moss Grotto, Ribbon Rock, Bay Arbor, Cavity Chute and Maidenhair Falls. The original stairway climbed Maidenhair to the top of Lodged Boulder Falls, and later was extended to the top of Roaring Rift Falls. See the topo map showing the location of Leontine and Thalehaha Falls.

Below Lodge Boulder, there used to be a pond called Mirror Lake created by a stone dam. Mirror Lake silted up many years ago. Also, there used to be a pool 20' x 40' at the base of Ribbon Rock.

Photographs Of The Falls

The links to the photographs are displayed in order of the location of the falls, from the top of the canyon:

Seeing The Falls

To get into the canyon above Leontine is an adventure in itself, and hence not a lot of people have seen the upper falls of Rubio. The hike down from Echo Mountain is rough. I recommend long pants and gaiters for the bushwhacking. It is nearly impossible to follow the pipe up as it runs straight up some steep loose rock near the waterfalls. Some people hike the incline. I have not tried this approach. You can also hike up to Leontine from Echo Mountain.

The route is difficult to explain; see the topo map showing the location of Leontine and Thalehaha Falls for orientation. (The topo map was supplied by Troy Sette from Topo! © 1997 Wildflower Productions. The credit no longer fit on the map when the map was made smaller in size, and hence is given here.)

About a mile or so above Leontine is where the water pipes start. There is a lot of water in the upper part of the canyon and the pipe takes this water from two locations. Just above Leontine is a short 15' rappel. I placed a bolt and some pitons above Leontine. Leontine is about a 120' rappel so if you go, bring about 300' of rope.

Just down from Leontine is another 10-15' fall which you can traverse on the West side. Down from this is a 10' which you have to rockclimb. Below this 10' fall is the junction of the E-W and N-S canyon. It is also another junction of the water pipe. The pipe makes a lot of noise here.

Down from the junction is a 4-5' boulder jump. About 150' below that is a 7' fall into a nice pool and then another 10' fall below the pool. Facing the pool, climb up to the water pipe and rappel from the pipe to the bottom of both falls. Hike down the canyon about another 200 yards to get to the top of Thalehaha Falls (also called Bridal Veil falls). I had some webbing and rappel ring at the top of this fall but it may be gone. Thalehaha is about an 80' rappel. Below Thalehaha is Roaring Rift falls.

At the bottom of this 30' rappel is the site where some of photos were taken of Mr. Lowe with Chinese lanterns in the background. From here you can look down Lodged Bolder falls. Up and to the right is an old anchor (I think from the stairway) which has a small piece of yellow webbing. Use this anchor to rappel 30', bypassing Lodged Boulder falls. This area is called Grand Chasm and you'll know why when you see it. The bottom of Lodged Boulder is now the top of the slide and is easy to get to. But go on a weekend when they are not working on the canyon and wear a helmet. It is very dangerous.

These falls were rarely seen by people after the 1930s because after the stairway was torn down you had to rock climb to get up the falls. It took three days of aid (???) climbing to get to the top of Thalehaha falls. Most of the Anchors on these waterfalls are mine.

Down from Lodged Boulder used to be the site of Mirror Lake above a stone Dam. The stone dam held water for Mirror Lake (more like a pond) which supplied water to the generators at Rubio Pavilion. The lake silted up many years ago. The dam was perched atop Grand Chasm Falls (also known as Rainbow Falls) which used to be another 50' rappel.

300' below Grand Chasm was the top of Moss Grotto falls and below that was Ribbon Rock. The last three falls are all under the scree slope now.

Maidenhair Falls is below the debris and still present. Maidenhair, Cavity Chute, and Bay Arbor Falls were small and have been mostly covered up for some time. Until the El Nino of 1997-1998, Maidenhair falls was only about 5' tall. Hiram Reid described Maidenhair to be 17'. Therefore it wasn't until this year that I was able to positively identify Maidenhair.

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Copyright © 1999-2000 by Troy Sette and Tom Chester.
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Comments and feedback: Troy Sette | Tom Chester
Updated 31 March 2000.