Hidden Falls

March 03, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

This felt like a low-use trail to me, definitely less traveled than any trail I've been on in Catalina State Park.  It's hard to say what "wild" means but I got the feeling there weren't many people through here and, paradoxically, both the sound of birds and the quietness were more noticeable.  But maybe the remote feel really comes from the creatures who live there, the result of easy access to a spring and waterhole plus fewer humans.  

Whatever that feeling is - whether the presence of animals or the absence of humans - it was confirmed in two ways: finding a strong animal scent, and spotting a large critter as we neared the falls.

The trail leads to a high waterfall also known as "dripping springs" from an easily accessible area of the park, if you take the left fork.  You start out by taking Canyon Loop Trail in the counter-clockwise direction (or, from the very east end of the parking lot) to the turnoff for Sutherland Trail.  Up the stairs, continuing to the next rise, past the first bench, then along Sutherland for perhaps another 3/4 of a mile to a second bench.  At the second bench, take the spur trail to the right.  Very easy to find - I followed the same general directions that I got online.  Within a few hundred feet the trail descends then settles into comfortable flatness (see posted photo).

 We reached the "Y" about a mile after turning onto the spur trail, and chose right.  This led to a shelf above the main canyon (the one that parallels Canyon Loop trail), then down steeply where it ends in a series of substantial pools surrounded by boulders and large sycamore or eucalyptus trees (white bark & thick trunks was all I noticed). 

I had recalled from the online directions that the right fork led to the falls, so after reaching the pools I was looking around to see a 70-foot waterfall.  There wasn't much sign of anything of the sort, but up canyon I could see a cleft in the tall cliffs, so we boulder-hopped upstream, thinking there might be a falls hidden there.  We didn't spend much time exploring the possibility of a waterfall around the corner. Partly, this was because a heavy animal scent pervaded the area.  It was neither skunk nor javelina but I got the feeling of not wanting to linger there.  

We climbed back out of the canyon and went back to the "Y" (about a 1/4 mile), then turned right.  Since we hadn't seen any falls, I was hoping I was mistaken about which fork led where.  This trail was also single-track, but sloped moderately up much of the way.   We were clearly headed to the back of another small canyon, with a faint stream running to the left on the other side of thick brush.  Large boulders lay amidst the vegetation on both sides of the trail.

After about ten minutes of walking, I heard a loud rustle and caught a glimpse of a large, brownish-red creature bounding away to my left.  Its tail gave it away as a coatamundi, even as he rushed away from us.  It scampered up a boulder and stopped, maybe 30 feet from us.  I grabbed the camera and hit zoom.  I could mostly see his back through the brush, but then he turned and looked over his shoulder, staring directly at me with a look of alarm.  I tried to snap a shot but he bounded off again.  I got a very clear glimpse of his raccoon-like face.  Seeing this guy was exciting, as I've only seen them before at night and in silhouette.

We continued along the trail another 1/4 mile or so, and saw the tall gray cliffs ahead which were obviously falls.  At trail's end is a pool which had an assortment of animal tracks leading to its edge.  Beyond that were large boulders and brush, which I climbed up partially.  You could probably bushwhack up and get just below the falls, but I was hesitant to do so since I was sensing a lot of happy critters who didn't want their watering hole invaded. The falls were a clear, gentle ribbon of translucent water that were entirely silent.  We figured any dramatic whitewater would only come after a heavy rain.

We walked back the way we came, taking a few photos along the trail.  At the junction with Sutherland we turned right and took the quick way back to the car, rather than doing the whole loop.  Highly recommended short hike for beautiful scenery and a the likelihood of having two canyons all to yourself.

 

 

 


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