Fish Canyon Trail

On the 29th of June, a survey of Fish Canyon Trail (Facebook) was performed to get a feel for the condition of the trail and to ascertain how much work is needed to perform repairs. The trail is part of the San Gabriel Mountains Trailbuilders inventory of trails, official designation 2310W13 (North 34 degrees 09.901 by West 117 degrees 55.491 at 913 feet for the boundary of the Angeles National Forest) yet formal and systematic repairs have been suspended for the past 30 due to difficulties not under Trailbuilder control, however most of those access issues have been resolve to the point where maintenance may now be performed.

This survey report is intended for the volunteer work crews of the Trailbuilders and for other occasional volunteer work crews who will be doing repairs along the trail, hopefully during the up-coming Winter months. This survey report is also intended to be a summary report for the impacted city officials ( Irwindale, Duarte, Azusa) so that their offices are aware of what is expected and scheduled to take place along the historic hiking trail.

The Vulcan Mining/Materials (Corporate web site) corporation has allowed access to the public lands affording hiking along Fish Canyon Trail to the waterfall at the historic trail's end, establishing a very serious parking area for hikers at the end of the Encanto roadway (North 34 degrees, 09.394 by West 117 degrees 55.427 at 777 feet) which offers safety for hiker vehicles (Vulcan patrols their property for trespassers which includes the parking area) yet also provides safety for volunteer vehicles.

The hiking trail from the parking area to the boundary of the Angeles National Forest is on Vulcan property, and as such volunteer work crews are not authorized to work on the trail that is on Vulcan property. Presumably Vulcan would like to enlist volunteer efforts on that section of the trail however injury liability precludes Trailbuilder volunteers working on private property, so Vulcan would have to make arrangements with the public for repairs to be performed on their property should they desire them.

Vulcan Property:

Fish Canyon Trail

There are extensive photographs (over one hundred of them) listed below, starting from the parking lot which Vulcan has established going all the way to the waterfall at the end of the trail. While this section of the trail can not be repaired without separate agreements with Vulcan, what the repairs here consist of are primarily cutting back the extensive brush and other growth along the trail, some of which at times gets quite dense.

Vulcan has done some very wonderful work establishing trail signage which seeks to caution people against leaving the trail and walking in to the riparian area along which the trail initially follows. Work crews will need to remain cognizant of the fragile waterway in that during cooler months usage of gasoline-powered saws, fuel and oil must be securely contained within the Forestry-approved containers all through repair efforts.

Along Vulcan's private property section of the trail there was no poison oak visibly growing however within the off-limits riparian area of the Vulcan section, poison oak is certain to be growing, and growing very well.

ANF Property Boundary:

At the Northern end of Vulcan property a cyclone fence marks the boundary to the public property, and Vulcan has established a fairly large staging area with nature signs and corporate propaganda, all of which is patrolled by Vulcan security. The gate in the fence is controlled by Vulcan which is going to be a problem at times (see the section "Technical Problems" below.)

Just past the Vulcan property fence is a metal foot bridge crossing the riparian drainage, and there is tree growth which must be cut back utilizing hand-cutters. This is small diameter branches however it requires that work crews access the ground to cut and remove growth which is impacting the foot bridge.

The far side of the foot bridge has erosion which must be fixed. There is a gap in the landing of the bridge which needs to be filled in, and the approach needs to be graded and fixed, an effort taking an hour at most however the wooden box which holds soil on the far landing must be repaired as well.

From that point on all the way to the waterfall is primarily brushing and sluff removal with occasional rock slides, occasional poison oak, and occasional cactus, all of which must be removed along the entire length of the trail.

In just two places there are dead trees or large-diameter branches which must be bucked up and be removed from the trail, one of which is just above the riparian drainage. Hikers climb over the dead tree and walk around the tree branch. The Class "B" sawyers we have should be able to buck up and remove the large-diameter tree blocking the trail in about 2 hours, an effort which will require a sawer, a swamper, and two trail safety guards to stall hiker access during the saying and removal effort, if any.

Fish Canyon Trail

There is only one boulder which is being considered to be micro-blasted to split it in to smaller sections so that it can be removed from the trail and so that the rock which has piled up behind it can be removed. Two micro-blasts with one low-energy charges should break the boulder in to four pieces which should take about 30 minutes however the rock-fall behind it should require as much time for removal by hand.

There is a series of wooden steps which hikers come to next which hikers have been bypassing, taking a temporary "use trail" to the left of the wood steps. The Trailbuilders will need to decide whether to put access back through where those steps are and blocking off the temporary access, or whether to adopt the new access and remove the wooden steps.

From that point on there are a number of other wooden stair steps and two wooden, short foot bridges, all of which needs to be repaired. Mostly of note on some of those wooden steps is the placement of rebar which protrudes from the top of the wooden steps. Once repairs are performed, the rebar must sit flush with the wood, either by seating the rebar in to the ground or by cutting with a saws-all.

Along the trail there is sufficient brush growing that hikers are diverting their feet and walking along the down-slope of the trail causing erosion and constituting a potential hazard to themselves as they lean away from the brush.

In other areas of the trail the growth is heavy enough to block visibility f the trail ahead, a problem which is only significant when there are trail runners of bicycles. As this trail is not multi-use and is designated for foot only, we do not need to worry about bicycle or pack animal access, and because the trail is a fairly short one, trail runners will likely be few, however we need to improve visibility in some of the high-growth, densely grown areas.

Also because horses, mules, and llamas are not expected to be on the trail, the traditionally-mandated width of the trail to allow cargo is not needed, and the overhead clearance for seated horse riders is not needed. Volunteers can focus on the tread and prioritize repairs and maintenance for feet hiking only.

Along the trail there are a few signs which have spray paint or felt marker graffiti which must be removed. There is also a corrugated metal sheet with graffiti which must be cleaned off. Also along the way are some metal debris which should be cut up and be removed.

Only at two points along the trail are there what is considered to be potential safety hazards which the Trailbuilders will need to examine with their engineers to see if there are any reasonable mitigation efforts.

Fish Canyon Trail

The first are narrow (4 inches by one foot) wooden steps which drop down quickly from the trail which basically leads almost straight down for about 10 feet. The second is at the end of the trail where one must walk along an exposed granite ledge which is about 16 inches wide to access the actual plunge pool. That ledge can be widened by about 8 inches using a hammer drill to break up and remove the highly fractured San Gabriel granite assuming widening is determined to be desired by the Trailbuilder engineers.

Historical Features:

Because this trail is historical, repair crews will need to attempt to retain the current lay of the trail, not diverting it in the least. At the same time the existing wooden steps and wooden foot bridges should be retained exactly where and as they are, with only repairs being performed to re-seat the wooden steps and with the safety of the bridges being improved as needed.

The one area where the temporary use trail has been established might be an exception. We may wish to remove the steps that are no longer being used unless we decide to re-establish the original path which uses the steps.

The exception is the metal debris along the trail which, despite being historic, are still within a riparian drainage and presumably should be removed since it's pollution.

Repairs And Schedules:

The glut of work that is needed is to cut back the brush and to shovel off the rock and dirt that has come down along all 2 miles of the trail which is on public land.

The time it takes to perform all of that work for the entire length of the trail depends upon how many volunteers we have on any given work day, however assuming 6 volunteers for each time out, my first estimate is that 12 or 14 work days would be needed.

Fish Canyon Trail

For extensive cactus and poison oak removal, additional days would be needed, separate from the normal work days if only because protective behavior must be utilized for that part of the repairs. Highly experienced, professional Trailbuilder volunteers is needed for that, wearing protective PPE to mitigate extensive contamination from plant toxins, and to work with the puncturing cactus.

A single day is needed to buck up the dead tree obstructions.

Repairs for the trail might conceivably begin this Winter, 2014 however prior to that some of the work required which is outlined in this report may get done much sooner, with the dead tree obstruction taking priority.

Tools And Equipment:

Shovels, McLeods, and loppers are the only tools needed for the vast majority of the work that needs to be performed however to rework the wooden steps and re-set them, pickaxe will be needed.

For the specialized work, chainsaw, fire extinguishers, fire shovel, medical equipment, and possibly the low-energy, low-speed micro-blaster to split a boulder would be needed.

Technical Problems:

The Vulcan Mining/Materials corporation continues to violate previous agreements with the impacted Foothill cities, and among the most detrimental difficulty with the corporation is their stated plans to block access to the trail after 7:00 p.m. in Summer months and after 5:00 p.m. in Winter months, and the corporation plans to have people's vehicles towed by the local police department if people are unable to remove their vehicles after Vulcan locks their gates (which they have kept in order to continued to control access to the trail.)

This difficulty is not insurmountable yet it means volunteer work crews will have to complete repairs for the day early enough to pack up tools and equipment and be at the parking lot significantly ahead of the time of the proposed locking of Vulcan's gates.)

Another potential technical difficulty may be the overwhelming popularity of the trail once it is well known that access has been re-opened. Working on a trail which is well-used is a common practice with the professional trail crews however many times all work stops while hikers pass the work sites so we might expect prolonged pauses in repair efforts during the Summer months.


This is a summary survey report intended for internal use, and the opinions, comments, and the statements within this web page may not be those of anyone but the author.

* Vulcan property, trail sign, high growth along the trail
* Vulcan property, high growth along the trail
* Vulcan property, high growth along the trail
* Vulcan property, hikers have been pushing back some of the growth
* Vulcan property, more dense growth along the wet areas of the trail
* Vulcan property
* Vulcan property
* The boundary, the fence between Vulcan and the Angeles National Forest
* Metal bridge needs tree branches to be cut back
* Far landing of the foot bridge needs to be filled in, there is a gap
* The incline immediatly after the foot bridge is where treat repairs begin
* Dead tree branches along the way need to be bucked since they are heavy
* Brush makes hikers walk along the side of the trail
* A boulder which is being considered for splitting and removal
* Rock fall along the trail can be removed by hand, most of it is light work
* Abandoned stairs -- Temporary use trail on the left
* Much of the trail is narrow, McLeod is needed to widen trail to normal width
* Tree branches which need to be bucked up and removed
* Much of the trail has areas where hikers hold their arms aloft to avoid brush
* A look down in to the drainage from the hiking trail
* Much of the trail is like this, fairly wide tread with McLeod for brush
* Walking over rock fall
* Another look in to the drainage below under the trail
* Another look at the trail, clumped brush hanging over the trail
* Another look at the water below, a constant reminder we have environmental
* Another look at the hikkside above the trail which is fairly common
* Some areas enter in to shaded parts of the trail, poison oak!
* A set of wooden steps which needs considerable repairs
* Another look at the wood steps. These are not as badly displaces as others
* Rebar! Sticking out of the wooden steps. This one is bent over, others are not
* Much of the trail is like this, brush motivating people to walk on the edge
* The trail enters in to dense jungle :) Visibility along the trail drops
* Metal sheeting which needs writing to be removed or painted over
* Another set of tree branches which need to be bucked and removed
* Another look in dense section which has lowered visibility
* Another look in dense section which has lowered visibility
* Writing on nature signs must be removed with solvents
* Another look in dense section which has lowered visibility
* The dead tree blocking the trail which needs to be bucked up
* The dead tree blocking the trail which needs to be bucked up
* Other broken-off branches near where the tree is down need to be trimmed
* This stump is protruding and has low visibility and needs cutting
* Poison oak along the trail requires thoughtful removal
* Two tree trunks which should be cut back further though not in the trail
* Cactus along the trail needs to be removed thoughtfully
* The next set of wooden stairs which needs to be re-seated
* These wooden steps have rebat protruding up from the steps!
* More erosion from walking along the wide of the trail to avoid brush
* Tree branches in among the brush which must be removed
* Tree branches in among the brush which must be removed
* More cactus which needs to be removed thoughtfully
* More cactus which needs to be removed thoughtfully
* Some of the bushes have caused hikers to walk widely around them
* A general look at the trail, poison oak
* Another general look at the trail conditions
* Overhead brush needs to be cut and removed while retaining its shade
* Trail diverting around brush
* A loko at the general trail conditions in the distance
* More overhead clearing though we do not need to fit mounted horses in this
* Some brush areas obscure the trail footing entirely, making hikers guess
* Potential boulder digging up and removing, depends how much hillside removed
* Lush poison oak, and there is blackberry
* At times the trail dips at drainages and rises again
* General trail conditions, narrow and with brush
* Significant erosion from where people have been slipping off the trail
* Dense brush obscuring the trail
* Move overhead brush which might need to be trimmed while retaining shade.
* There are a few white markers along the trail
* The first wooden bridge one comes to. Note the white marker
* Small children had some difficulty along the trail at times
* A general look at the trail and the general canyon area -- looking back
* Dirt slides like this one must be removed up against the up-hill rock face
* Another boulder which needs to be removed, perhaps with micro-blaster
* There is another wooden bridge under all that dirt
* A better look at the wooden bridge which is difficult to see
* More wooden steps, most of these are in good shape
* Poison oak and the start of a difficult wood step section
* Hikers scramble down these steps
* A possible re-route of the trail to bypass steps is covered in poison oak
* A closer look at the wood steps which go down the hillside
* Rock fallwhich should be removed
* More poison oak and close trail conditions
* Narrow trail, brush on one side, rock face on the other side
* Narrow trail, brush on one side, rock face on the other side
* Narrow trail, brush on both sides
* Some parts of the trail have one-way traffic only, hikers stack up at times
* The trail crosses the drainage at one point (which is dry at this point)
* Some of the slick rock which hikers walk across and children scramble across
* More area where hikers generally hold their arms aloft
* Narrow trail with brush
* There are some exposed rock sections like this one
* A look in to the canyon
* Narrow trail and rock face crowding hikers
* Narrow trail and rock face crowding hikers
* Narrow trail and rock face crowding hikers
* Narrow trail and rock face crowding hikers
* Rock and dirt slide making a narrow trail crowding in to brush
* Brush obscuring the trail
* Brush and tree branches, leaves choking down the trail
* Almost to the waterfall, the trail continues to be narrow
* Another potential boulder to fracture and remove to make the trail strait
* First look at the waterfall rock escarpment -- dry, however
* Brush crowing hikers to the edge and beyond, slide and erosion
* Another high-density look at the waterfall rock escarpment
* Some historic rock wall work is still present and working! After decades!
* Narrow section where widening requires chipping out the rock face
* First look at the plunge pool under the main falls
* Rock platform under the main falls
* There are a number of wet pools of water lower along the canyon
* Illegal and very danger fires are set by people who need to be punished
* More people who need to be punished -- painting the rock
* A wider look at the falls area
* A better look at the next pool of water just below the main falls
* High density photograph of the falls
* High density photograph of the falls
* We could widen the tread here and probably should
* A look ahead shows how the canyon along the trail is laid
* Berries good to eat!

Site map is at: Crystal Lake site map

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