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Trail Canyon to Trail Canyon Falls and Tom Lucas Campground

Intermediate
 4.0 (1) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

Enjoyable trip into a rugged and wild area of the proposed Condor Peak Wilderness.


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Map Key

9.5

Miles

15.3

KM

Out and Back

3,611' 1,101 m

High

1,764' 538 m

Low

2,019' 616 m

Up

2,019' 615 m

Down

8%

Avg Grade (5°)

22%

Max Grade (13°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Birding · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Family Friendly Easy walk along steam suitable for families.

Overview

For most people the main destinations are the falls at 2 miles in. But there is much more to see further up the canyon where you can get away from the crowds.

Need to Know

Parking can be difficult on weekends along Big Tujunga Road and expect crowds going up to the falls. Very little shade along long portions of the trail which can be very hot in summer. Stream can go dry in summer but become a raging torrent in winter. There are no restrooms. Pack out all your trash. Check with the Forest Service if planning an overnight trip. Trail can be overgrown and uneven in places.

Description

If you are early enough, there are five parking spaces in the turnout to Trail Canyon Road #3N34. Otherwise park carefully along Big Tujunga Road. Do not block the gate or your car will be towed.

Hike up the road 0.2 miles to a junction with Gold Creek Road #3N29 on the left. Continue straight and head down to the old trailhead. Keep left then cross the stream and pass several cabins on Forest leased land. Many cabins burned in the 2009 Station Fire and these are the lucky ones that survived. In 0.7 miles the start of Trail Canyon Trail #13W03 is marked by a 8" x 8" post. The trail (initially an old road) goes up over a hill and back down to the stream then enters the main canyon bottom. This section of trail is well shaded and there are several crossings.

After passing a shaded picnic table and two more stream crossings it makes a long steady climb along the mostly bare west side of the canyon offering fine views to the south and of Mt. Lukins. The canyon makes a sharp bend to the west then north where the twin falls can easily be seen from the trail. There are unofficial routes down to the falls but are not recommended due to safety issues. There are several good viewing location from the top of the falls but be careful around loose rock.

Above the falls the canyon widens again and the trail makes several more crossings. Be sure to make the third crossing above the falls as there is a false trail that bears to the left. Passing through occasional shade of oak and cottonwood trees a single campsite with a metal fire ring (informally known as "Lazy Lucas") is reached about 1 mile from the falls. This is a good destination for less ambitious hikers.

The trail continues up the broad canyon to where it narrows again then drops down and follows along the solid rock streambed for about 100 yards. This section can be difficult in high water but the trail soon picks up again on the north side and traverses a dry slope of yucca, sage and chamise. Many maps and trail guides incorrectly show Tom Lucas Camp near this area but there is no trace of any camps.

After a few more stream crossings a long switchback is reached. The lower portion can be overgrown and hard to see in places but it soon opens up and crosses a ridge before dropping back into the canyon on the shady south side. The trail is generally easy to follow but there are numerous fallen logs to step over and a few to go under along with a few rough tread spots.

There is considerably more vegetation in this part of the canyon due to the high water table at the base of Condor Peak. After making one more stream crossing the trail passes through a forest of bay and oak trees then enters a broad meadow. The trail bears left at a fork and an informal trail on the right heads straight to Tom Lucas Trail Camp.

Once a very popular overnight destination that had three grills, three tables, sign board, restroom only the three grills remain. There was a site on the north side of the trail but someone moved the grill from the post and dropped it on the ground by the main camp to make an unofficial fire ring. This well shaded spot next to the stream is a great destination before returning back the same way.

The trail continues further up the canyon and through Big Cienega but is overgrown where it leaves the canyon bottom and climbs to the ridge top. Be sure to carefully look for the stream crossings on your return as there are many false trails from people missing them and going straight into the bushes.

Flora & Fauna

Shade from alder, cottonwood, sycamore and bay trees along riparian areas and intermittent live oaks elsewhere. Various species of buckwheat, ceanothus, sage, mallow, yucca dominate most of the route. Blackberries common in wetter areas. Watch for abundant poison oak. In wet years there are good displays of wildflowers.

Contacts

Shared By:

Alan Coles

Trail Ratings

  4.0 from 1 vote

#3932

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  4.0 from 1 vote
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Photos

Tom Lucas Trail Camp and meadow
Mar 17, 2021 near La Cres…, CA
Cottonwood trees along Trail Canyon Trail.
Mar 17, 2021 near La Cres…, CA
Trail Canyon Falls
Feb 25, 2021 near La Cres…, CA
Trail Canyon Falls
Mar 17, 2021 near La Cres…, CA
Trail Canyon Trail
May 8, 2018 near La Cres…, CA
Monument at Tom Lucas Camp
Mar 6, 2021 near La Cres…, CA

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