Long-awaited rains have come to the Los Angeles area, not only providing much needed water but also bringing waterfalls to life from San Diego to Santa Barbara. Among So Cal hikers, waterfall hikes rank as the most popular destinations. Here are some well known and some not-so-well known waterfalls, great places to cool off and enjoy nature in action.
Cedar Creek Falls
This popular but controversial waterfall in eastern San Diego County plunges some 80 feet into a large swimming hole. Hikers who prepare well for the exposed, down-then-up hike will certainly enjoy the waterfall itself and also some terrific mountain views.
Elsmere Canyon Open Space
The dry Santa Clarita Valley isn’t the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of waterfalls, yet a charming 15-footer can be found in the back of Ellsmere Canyon, a stone’s throw from the 14 Freeway. Even if there is no water, the short, shaded hike is a cool and peaceful getaway any time of year.
This Orange County waterfall is taller than its more famous neighbor, Holy Jim. The short scramble to the waterfall is heavy with poison oak, so be careful–long pants and sleeves are recommended.
Hot Springs Canyon
In Orange County’s most remote corner, an off trail scramble brings hikers to the top of 25-foot Upper Hot Springs Falls. Those with reliable gear and know-how can venture down the rock cliffs to the base of the falls, but even those who don;’t want to risk it will be sure to enjoy the solitude.
Finally opened after the Station Fire, this short but challenging hike is an understandable favorite of L.A. outdoor enthusiasts. Known for its trademark boulder wedged near its top, 50-foot Millard Canyon Falls can be reached with half a mile of off-trail scrambling up the canyon, offering a taste of adventure accessible to hikers of all ability levels.
Santa Paula Canyon
Though it’s sadly been ruined by graffiti and trash, the first of several waterfalls in Santa Paula Canyon remains a favorite of local hikers. Starting with an attractive stroll around the grounds of Thomas Aquinas College and concluding with an off-trail scramble up Santa Paula Canyon, the hike provides variety and solitude. Hopefully future hikers will respect the area’s natural beauty.
Saucer Branch Falls
This little known waterfall can be found in a tributary of Millard Canyon, upstream from the more famous waterfall. Hikers who don’t mind a little bushwhacking and poison oak dodging can make a short side trip from the popular Dawn Mine hike to visit this one.
Waterfall? Palm Springs? In Tahquitz Canyon, you get both. Runoff from the mountains high above help create the unlikely sight of a 60-foot waterfall in a desert canyon. This hike also serves as an example of how dedicated people – in this case the Agua Calliente band – can clean up a formerly abused site and return it to its natural state.
Third Stream Falls
Though it’s not well known and hard to reach, Third Stream Falls is a favorite among those in the know. The 30-foot cascade is not the only attraction of this hike, which explores some of the most rugged country of the San Gabriels, on the range’s eastern slope.
Wind Wolves Preserve
As distantly associated with hiking as Los Angeles may be, Bakersfield is even less so – yet the giant Wind Wolves Preserve on the southern slopes of the San Joaquin Valley offers some great outdoor opportunities. Highlights include wide-ranging mountain and valley views, geology, spring wildflowers and a small seasonal waterfall.
If these ten waterfalls don’t whet (or is that wet?) your appetite for exploration, consider one from the two lists included below. There’s ample proof that Northern California doesn’t monopolize the state when it comes to great waterfall hikes.