Canyoneering in California

Drive just 20 minutes from downtown Los Angeles and you’ll find yourself in Rubio canyon. A with a series of waterfalls that cascade across the San Gabriel mountains, it’s the perfect spot to try canyoneering! Now, for those like me who are new to the sport, a simple explanation of canyoneering is when you rappel into a canyon, down waterfalls using ropes, harnesses and other technical climbing gear.

I sucked up my long-time fear of heights to join up with Travis McDaniel, co-owner of Alpine Training Services (ATS), for an exciting afternoon of canyoneering. ATS has been offering instructional courses and guided canyoneering, rock climbing, mountaineering, photography, and kayaking adventures throughout the Western U.S. for the last 11 years. They are also one of the largest film rigging companies in Hollywood and have worked on shows like The Amazing Race, the Biggest Loser, and The Bachelor. Today, they deal with what maybe one of their most challenging clients…Julia.

After dividing our gear and packing our waterproof bags, we hiked 45-minutes along a trail that went from scenic, with impressive views of the LA city skyline, to steep.

Canyoneering in California

Nature’s Stairmaster had me hiking up a nasty incline, past narrow passages, patches of poison oak, landslide paths and loose rocks. It sure got the blood pumping and was a great way to prep for the heart-stopping decent in my near future.

Canyoneering in California

Travis clipped me into a series of safety ropes and showed me the basics of how to repel. First decent was the ‘big one’; a 100ft waterfall named Tha-La-La.

I peered trepidaciously over the side of the waterfall. Bad idea. The drop was drastic and if anything went wrong, I would surely plummet to my death, cracking my skull open and turning even my hardest bones into talcum dust. One who doesn’t like heights, should never look down. I did. Panic stricken, I wasn’t sure I could go through with the descent. The only problem is that once in the canyon, there’s no easy way out…but down. A calm Travis, who has no doubt seen plenty of wide-eyed terrified tourists in his time, assured me that the equipment can hold a “stupid amount of weight.” The key is to keep one hand on the break line, breathe, trust the equipment and enjoy.

I gave myself a little pep talk and slowly lowered myself over the edge, keeping my feet out in front of me. Walking down the waterfall proved to be difficult because of the freezing cold water rushing towards me and the slippery rock face. True, I did stumble, slip and scrape myself a few more times than I’d like to admit and yes – I did
blurt out a steady stream of expletives you can’t say on TV (we were filming this as an Urban Adventures segment for Outside Television) – but I was slowly starting to get the hang of it. Travis yelled some more words of encouragement as I lowered myself down.

Once closer to the bottom, I allowed myself to enjoy the scenery and was impressed at the distance I’d rappelled. As a pool of freezing cold water washed over me, so did a great feeling of accomplishment. I dropped into thigh-high water, unclipped my carabineers and threw up my hands in celebration. I was alive!! Whoo hoo!! Having just completed the first and largest of the six waterfalls, it would only get easier from here.

If you’re looking for a fun day trip that will challenge you mentally, physically and give you one hell of an adventure, canyoneering may be for you! The most amazing thing is how close this wild stretch of rugged nature is to downtown Los Angeles! Be sure to bring lots of water, snacks, a lunch and a dry change of clothes for after. You will get wet!

Canyoneering in California

To book a canyoneering adventure go to, an online booking engine that offers fun activities all over the US.,California