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Guide To Waterfalls In Southern California

April 13, 2013 6:00 AM

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(credit: City of Crestline)

(credit: City of Crestline)

(credit: City of Crestline)

(credit: City of Crestline)

Southern California may not be the first place people think about when they think about waterfalls, but locals in the know have been seeking out these local cascades for decades. Many of the waterfalls are seasonal and best viewed in the spring but a few do cascade year-round.

(credit: Sharlene Earnshaw)

(credit: Sharlene Earnshaw)

Holy Jim Falls

Distance to waterfall: 2.8 miles round trip
Live Oak Canyon Rd
Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679
US Forest Service Adventure Pass required
More Info

Folks take a wash-boarded dirty road back into Orange County’s Cleveland National Forest to experience the easy but beautiful hike to the popular Holy Jim Falls which runs year-round. The trail slowly gains elevation as it follows a creek into the heavy brush of the canyon. The hike features several small and simple creek crossings.

(credit: Flickr user simonov)

(credit: Flickr user simonov)

Fish Canyon Falls

Distance to waterfall: 9 miles roundtrip or 3.2 miles roundtrip via the Vulcan Materials shuttle
Encanto Pkwy
Duarte, CA 91010
More Info

Fish Canyon Falls are a series of four connected falls which drop 80 feet in the beautiful wilds not far from the Azusa Rock Quarry in the San Gabriel Valley. Access to these falls is either via a nine-mile (round trip) hike with an elevation gain of 2,280 feet or via an easy 3.2-mile hike through the canyon through Vulcan Materials Company’s property. No need to trespass, Vulcan Materials offers a free shuttle to the trailhead from 7 to 11 a.m. on select Saturdays in the spring.

(credit: Flickr user simonov)

(credit: Flickr user simonov)

San Antonio Falls

Distance to waterfall: 1.2 miles round trip
Mt. Baldy Road
Mount Baldy, CA 91759
US Forest Service Adventure Pass required
More Info

This waterfall is at its best when the snow starts melting on Mt. Baldy. The falls are approximately 100 feet in length and reached via a trail used to summit Mt. Baldy near the Manker Flats Campground. The hike begins at 6,100 feet and gains 250 feet during its easy climb through the forest.

(credit: Flickr user bjornman)

(credit: Flickr user bjornman)

Big Falls

Distance to waterfall: less than 1/2 mile round trip
Highway 38
Forest Falls, CA 92339
US Forest Service Adventure Pass required
More Info

This set of falls is said to be the tallest in Southern California, totaling approximately 500 feet. Though all 500 feet are not visible from the overlook, the 150-foot main tier is lovely and easily accessible. From the trailhead walk down the creek area about five minutes, cross the wash, and head up the trail for about 1/10th of a mile until you reach the overlook.

(credit: Flickr user msun523)

(credit: Flickr user msun523)

Escondido Falls

Distance to waterfall: 4.2 miles round trip
27200 Winding Way
Malibu, CA 90265
More Info

At 150 feet, Escondido Falls is the highest in all of the Santa Monica Mountains. As with most falls in Southern California, this mossy gem is at its best after a rainstorm. The walk begins along a paved road for the first mile, with views of gorgeous homes and the sparkling Pacific Ocean, before hikers reach the official trailhead. At the Escondido Canyon Trailhead, follow the trail upstream, as it crosses the creek and grassy fields along the way.

(credit: Flickr user William McCamment)

(credit: Flickr user William McCamment)

Tenaja Falls

Distance to waterfall: 1.4 miles round trip
Rancho California Road (FS 7501)
Cleveland National Forest
Lake Elsinore, CA
US Forest Service Adventure Pass required
More Info

A 150-foot waterfall in Southern California? Yes, you can watch water plunge 150 feet down a granite face if you visit Tenaja Falls after the area gets a good soaking. There is one crossing of the San Mateo River which may require some boulder scrambling or wet feet, but the rest of this short hike is simply a matter of tackling the 300-foot elevation gain. This waterfall is seasonal and best viewed after a nice rain.

(credit: Flickr user Trey78)

(credit: Flickr user Trey78)

Sturtevant Falls

Distance to waterfall: 3.7 miles round trip
Chantry Flats Road
Angeles National Forest
Arcadia, CA 91006
US Forest Service Adventure Pass required
More Info

There aren’t many waterfalls in Southern California that run year round but Sturtevant Falls in Angeles National Forest manages to plunge 60 feet year-round. The falls are accessed via an easy and popular hike in Big Santa Anita Canyon which does involve some stream crossings. The hike begins with a descent of 350 feet which means you will have an ascent at the very end of your hike when returning to the parking lot. Don’t be discouraged, the falls are worth the trip!

(credit: Sharlene Earnshaw)

(credit: Sharlene Earnshaw)

Heart Rock Falls

Distance to waterfall: 1 mile round trip
250 N Hwy 138
Crestline, CA 92325
More Info

This falls may not be the tallest at only 20 feet, but the heart-shaped depression next to the falls makes it certainly unique. This is an easy hike for families and those spending time in Lake Arrowhead or nearby Crestline. The Seeley Creek Trail near Camp Seeley is your path to this romantic falls which is usually running.

Sharlene Earnshaw is the Editor-in-Chief of Trekaroo, a website dedicated to travel with kids.

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