Los Angeles might be one of the World's largest cities but it is in no short supply of rugged adventures. What is surprising to know about southern California is that a half an hour drive can not only get you out of town, it can get you to some of the country's best adventure spots. Mountain biking meccas, mountaineering challenges, extreme hikes and canyoneeering spots are only a hour's drive away from the world's worst traffic. Today, I'd like to present you with one of the more unique urban adventures; Pasadena's Rubio Canyon
Rubio Canyon; an adventure with a view of the LA skyline
      Rugged adventures are close to home in Southern California; Rubio Canyon is located right in Pasadena and its as epic as it gets; 90 foot waterfalls, massive double repels and an approach that takes you through old-town. It was rather ironic that you could see the LA skyline while carefully descending down a vertical cliff. This is one of the best spots in So-Cal for Canyoneerng.

What is canyoneering?

     Before I go any further, let me define canyoneering for you. Canyoneering is like reverse rock climbing. Instead of starting at the bottom of a rock face and climbing up and hiking down, you hike to the top and repel your way to the bottom. The advantages of canyoneering over rock climbing are that you don't need as much gear, physical fitness, or technical know-how. However, like any adventure sport, it is dangerous if you don't know what you are doing. You will be repelling a lot which means that you hook yourself into a rope at the top of a cliff and gently descend down using proper techniques. Get the appropriate training for canyoneering before going off into the wild. Also, you need to know exactly everything there is to know about the canyon because once you go down into it, there's only one way out. So if you don't bring enough rope for a larger repel, you're pretty much screwed.
A 90-foot waterfall you will encounter on this canyon

      Having said all that, I have found canyoneering to be a wonderfully adventurous sport; its a great way to experience all the thrills of rock climbing while seeing places that very few are able to see.

Canyoneering Rubio canyon is a great adventure but it requires the utmost knowledge of both the sport of canyoneering and the obstacles of Rubio Canyon itself. Please do not attempt this canyon without the knowledge or someone who knows the route.

For more detailed information about this canyon, please visit the online guidebook at http://www.dankat.com/advents/rubio.htm

The Approach

      The trail to the top where you descend into Rubio Canyon starts in Pasadena at the park on the corner of Loma Linda and Lake Avenue. You should leave a shuttle vehicle on the corner of nearby rubio vista road and pleasant ridge road (http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=rubio+vista+road+pasadena+ca&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=30.130288,86.220703&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Rubio+Vista+Rd,+Altadena,+Los+Angeles,+California+91001&ll=34.204952,-118.123605&spn=0.007666,0.02105&z=16&iwloc=A)) This place gets pretty busy on the weekends so show up early! The Sam Merrill trail is the one to look for and be forewarned, it is a zoo. This 2.5 mile trail will take you to the top of the very popular "Echo Mountain" which used to be a mountain resort. The foundations are still there and you can also observe several thousand bumbling tourists and trail runners in their natural habitat. The place is a wreck; I'm sure every single person who's ever bought at bottle of spray paint has felt the urge to climb up here and sign their name. Stay not a minute longer than you must to catch your breath; the good stuff is to come.

I'm sure the resort was actually a sight to see at one point
The Canyon

      Rubio canyon is located east of the concrete remains of the resort. Finding the trail to it is a little trickey. Head back to the Sam Merrill Trail and look for the large, rusted cog and the picinc benches. Look for the "Castle Canyon" trail sign and follow that little trail. There is a faint trail that takes you around the resort area and behind the mountain. This is a faint trail but you should be headed down a steep section into Rubio Canyon. Once you dip down into Rubio Canyon, there should be no more ascending.
      The first mile or so of the canyon involves a fair amount of bushwhacking and climbing through dense vegetation. Bring some good pants and a good pair of gloves because some of the bushwhacking is intense. About the time you get tired of the first slog, you will reach the first descent.
The first repel
      Remember, after that first repel, there is no turning back. If the weather starts turning bad, you might want to consider heading back. The first repel is a double repel so use a 200ft rope. After the initial waterfalls, you will come up upon Thalehaha Falls, which is the tallest and most dramatic waterfall of which you will descend. This is a good 90 foot falls, so make sure you're rope is long enough to handle it. Additionally, you can't see the bottom from the top, so if you have any doubts on the length of your rope, this is a bad place to test it. Descending Thalehaha Falls can be slippery too, take it slowly and mark your route well.

Be prepared for double repels, don't pull your rope until you are sure!
      From here, it is pretty much a staircase of repels. The first is a double repel that is pretty straightforward followed by another two falls. They can be done as a double repel, but there is another bolt after the first repel and it will make rope retrieval easier if you use it. The last repel is another double repel down another very scenic waterfall.

Out of the Canyon

      After the final repel, you simply follow the river until you get to a water treatment plant. A dirt road parallels the river from here popping you out in a neighborhood. The road will be East Loma Linda road and all you need to do is hang a right and follow it until you reach Rubio Crest road. Turn right here and make your way back to the car.

Final Note

      This guide serves only as a basic overview of Rubio Canyon and you should go with someone who knows the route. Canyoneering can be dangerous so don't be a fool. Also, remember, canyons are dynamic; big storms can change the shape or structure of waterfalls and canyons so be prepared to make some changes. Enjoy yourself out there and don't take any chances.

Read. Plan. Get Out There!