Three Hikes to Natural Waterslides

Eaton Canyon, CA

Climb high and then plunge deep on this hike in Southern California

Just a half-hour from Los Angeles, in Angeles National Forest, this four-mile hike to Eaton Canyon leads to a 35-foot heart-pumper of a waterslide. Take Eaton Canyon Falls Trail from the nature center and start up an easy 1.1-mile climb along a fire road to the Mt. Wilson Toll Road Road. Descend to single-track below through a narrow gorge with oaks and alders hugging the sides. At 1.5 miles, the falls come into view. Passing this way in 1877, John Muir likened the cascade to "a silver instrument in a velvet case." The falls' watery roar grows ever louder as you cross two more streams. Get psyched: A short-and-steep rock chute ends with a free fall down the cascade.


Try Pizza Joe's Gondola Pizza [an open calzone with eggs, ham, cheese and olives].

The Way

From Los Angeles, take CA 110 north for eight miles. Turn onto S. Arroyo Pkwy., drive 1.3 miles, and turn right onto E. Colorado Blvd. In 2.6 miles, turn left at N. Sierra Madre Blvd., then left at N. Altadena Dr. Turn right into the Nature Area.

West Clear Creek, AZ

Hike through a winding canyon, then cool off in a whitewater spa

From Bull Pen Ranch trailhead in Coconino National Forest, pick up West Clear Creek Trail [#17] the trail leads upstream into the deep, narrow gorge which medium-sized West Clear Creek has cut into the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau. The downstream end of the trail attracts large numbers of anglers, picnickers, and other streamside recreators attracted by the clear pools, slickrock water slides, and tree-shaded riparian areas tucked away between red rock canyon walls. Want all the water but none of the crowds? Take the social trail to water at mile three, and bushwhack through shoreside vegetation and rock hop upstream for an hour to 10-foot Supal Falls. Click here for map and more information.


End a hot day with salsa picante at Las Margaritas in Camp Verde.

The Way

Drive 40 miles south of Flagstaff on Interstate 17. Leave the highway at the AZ 179 exit and turn east under the freeway. Drive about 9 miles on FR 618 to FR 215 and turn east about 3 miles to the Bullpen Ranch trailhead.

Meadow Run, PA

Pass between waterfalls and mossy boulders for this long, gentle slide

Starting with the 35-foot Cucumber Falls at the trailhead, this 4.2-mile loop in Ohiopyle State Park near Pittsburg provides a day full of water, including a 100-foot-long waterslide carved by the Youghiogheny River. Eastern hemlock, beech, maple, and mountain laurel shade the dirt path as it weaves between moss-draped boulders and a leafy smattering of rhodendrons. At mile 2.8, you'll arrive at the Meadow Run waterslide with its long corkscrewing waterway; it terminates with a dunk into a three-foot-deep pool. Wear cutoff jeans to protect your rump and shorts against the skin-scouring sandstone creek bed.  Close the loop in the spray of Cucumber Falls.


Eat like a local at the Firefly Grill, which claims the best cheesesteak outside Philly. Wash it down with a fresh-squeezed lemonade.

The Way

From Pittsburg, take PA 28 north to PA 8 north [exit 5B]. After 20 miles, turn right to enter Ohiopyle Park on Dinnerbell Rd. Park near sign for Cucumber Falls.

Courtesy of Backpacker Magazine

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