2023 Was Eaton Canyon’s Busiest Year Ever. Will 2024 Be Worse?

A group of people on a rock

Eaton Canyon, with its 7 part-time and 4 full-time staff, stands out as the most heavily staffed Nature Center among all Los Angeles County Natural Area parks. This distinction can be attributed to the canyon being stupid popular, so much so it was the #1 most popular hiking destination in Southern California on AllTrails.com for half of 2023.

Determining the annual visitation to Eaton Canyon proves challenging due to the lack of reliable numerical data. Online traffic statistics from platforms like Google Trends and AllTrails.com are available, but their reliability is questionable as they do not specifically reflect the park’s visitation. Those webpages are prone to external rises and falls in traffic that may not reflect Eaton Canyon’s specifically. Additionally, factors such as changes in social media platforms, search engines, and the canyon’s fluctuating publicity further degrade the quality of this data.

So, another method will need to be used. There are a multitude of factors that impact visitation to Eaton Canyon including, but not limited to:

  • The time of year
  • Creek levels
  • Current weather conditions 
  • Current state of the economy
  • Whether or not there is a super bloom ongoing
  • Whether or not Eaton Canyon has gotten publicity recently
  • Whether or not other nearby hiking trails are closed due to wildfires or construction

To address this, an alternative method has been developed and explored, with the specific criteria kept confidential to preserve its future reliability. This method categorizes each month into six classifications: Empty, quiet, normal, busy, crowded, and Disneyland, indicating the level of popularity. The warmer the color, the more popular the park during that month. After some serious number crunching, this was the result:

Notable events like the May 2020 lockdown visitation surge, the June 2020 – May 2021 reservation system, and 2023’s impressive water year show up in the data using this method, validating its credibility and ability to capture fluctuations in Eaton Canyon’s visitation rates. It should be remembered that each month is presented as a whole, recognizing that busy periods may have quiet days and vice versa.

According to this dataset, May is indeed the most popular time of year at Eaton Canyon. The canyon’s busy season lasts from January through July, whereas the quiet season lasts from August through December. This correlates well with when the waterfall is flowing at its highest capacity throughout the year.

With another wet winter in the books, a possible super bloom later this spring, and Big Santa Anita Canyon still being closed from the 2020 Bobcat Fire, it is plausible that 2024 will beat 2023 for the busiest year on record at Eaton Canyon. That being said, August 2023’s Hurricane Hilary renewed creek levels in the canyon, keeping the typical spring-early summer visitation surge cranking through November

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