Southern California Adventure Hikes

These Hikes Are By Nature Potentially Dangerous – Read Adventure Hiking Page and Disclaimer

The map and table included below contain all the Southern California Adventure hikes from the different areas covered on this site.

One of the primary reasons we are drawn to the mountains is the potential for solitude and tranquility – but also the thrill of adventure. A place where one can commune with nature and the universe – but also experience the exhilaration inherent in exploration of the unknown. Southern California has many beautiful and rugged mountain ranges that afford numerous opportunities for adventure. Fortunately the majority of these areas have been conserved as National Forest or protected by some other designation. Because of this, and partially as a legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps efforts in the 1930’s, these areas have been provided with a surprisingly extensive system of maintained trails. Most hikes, especially those that are found in guidebooks and on web sites, are on these maintained trails. This makes sense of course, since many are quite beautiful, well-conceived, and immensely enjoyable.

Southern California Adventure Hikes IMG_0950

But these trail hikes cover only a relatively very small portion of the areas they traverse.  There exist other places of extraordinary beauty that can be accessed with some additional knowledge and conditioning. These can only be reached as adventure hikes and are in areas visited infrequently by man. Note that the tradeoff is that typically there is no trail, and thus no defined trail head,  so they are usually harder to find and sometimes difficult and dangerous to negotiate. But if this was not true, everyone would be there, right?

If you are truly searching for solitude in nature, for a taste of the pristine wilderness that once covered our entire earth, know that it is still to be found. Make sure to read the Adventure Hiking Page, which will explain some of the concepts and dangers of adventure hiking. Then peruse the hikes contained below, find one that appeals to you, and go for it. Fear of the unknown encapsulates most people in self-made prisons, and the sense of liberation and personal empowerment that can be achieved through adventure hiking is exhilarating.

Map of Southern California Adventure Hikes

Southern California Adventure Hikes

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Lower Holcomb Canyon Hike: 34.416958, -117.837269
Upper Eaton Canyon: 34.239295, -118.093393
Devils Punchbowl Punchbowl Creek: 34.413960, -117.858546
Long Valley Short Adventure Hike: 33.837290, -116.614162
Upper Hot Spring Canyon Falls: 33.657719, -117.450903
Allison Gulch Falls: 34.237108, -117.764894
Harding Falls: 33.710722, -117.618639
Cooper Canyon Falls with Optional Buckhorn Falls Hike: 34.347522, -117.910948
Mill Creek Canyon: 34.081881, -116.893363
Rubio Canyon Waterfalls Hike: 34.203024, -118.122899
Stoddard Canyon Falls: 34.173224, -117.674093
Ortega Falls via San Juan Loop Trail: 33.613540, -117.427099
Devils Punchbowl Devils Chair from Below: 34.421326, -117.838725
Graveyard Canyon: 34.237230, -117.812281
Dawn Mine Hike: 34.214655, -118.181074
Black Star Canyon Falls Hike: 33.764471, -117.678013
Grizzly Gulch: 34.282991, -117.539932

Table of Southern California Adventure Hikes

Hike NameDifficultyTypeLocationLength (RT)TimeElevationSummary
Lower Holcomb Canyon HikeModerateCanyon; ScenicSan Gabriels - Devils Punchbowl Area5 miles3 hrs500'Beautiful secluded canyon with perennial stream
Upper Eaton CanyonStrenuousCanyon ; ScenicSan Gabriels - Mt Wilson area7 miles5 hrs1,500'Drop into the pristine alpine wilderness in the upper reaches of this famous canyon, miles from the crowds far below - and above.
Devils Punchbowl Punchbowl Creek HikeModerately strenuousCanyon; Scenic San Gabriels - Devils Punchbowl Area7 miles5 hrs1,200Dramatic sculpted sandstone and spectacular geologic formations, with waterfalls and pools in season, all deep in the bowels of the Devil's Punchbowl far from the crowds on the defined trails
Middle Fork Lytle Creek to Lower Fall SetStrenuousCanyon; WaterfallsSan Gabriels - Lytle Creek Area6.5 miles5 hrs1,500'Magnificent alpine canyon featuring perennial stream, old growth pines and cedars, and spectacular waterfalls - but rough ride to trail head.
Long Valley Short Adventure HikeEasy to moderateCanyon; ViewSan Jacintos - Tram Area2 miles1 - 2 hrs500'Hike to then boulder hop a short way down a wondrous alpine gorge, then hike back and climb up to a spectacular viewpoint, all within 1 mile of the tram.
Allison Gulch Falls HikeStrenuousCanyon; WaterfallSan Gabriels - East Fork San Gabriel River Area10 miles6 hrs2000'Boulder hop up a rugged gorge from its confluence with the East Fork San Gabriel River to the rarely seen 80' tall Allison Gulch Falls.
Upper Hot Spring Canyon FallsStrenuousCanyon; WaterfallSanta Anas - Ortega Highway Corridor6 miles4 hrs700'Boulder hopping/scrambling down an amazingly rugged and pristine canyon to reach several wonderful waterfalls
Harding Falls Hike – Orange CountyStrenuousCanyon; WaterfallSanta Anas - Modjeska Canyon Area7.5 miles6 hrs1,500'A hidden Shangra-La of sparkling pools and lush forest, leading to a majestic 60' twin-tier waterfall.
Cooper Canyon Falls – Buckhorn Falls HikeModerateCanyon; WaterfallSan Gabriels- Buckhorn Campground Area5 miles5 hrs1,000'The San Gabriel high country at its best - alpine scenery, old growth pines and cedars, lovely waterfalls.
Mill Creek CanyonModerately StrenuousCanyon; WaterfallSan Bernardinos - Mill Creek Area7 miles5 hrs1,750'Easy access to spectacular alpine scenery reminiscent of the Eastern Sierra, culminating in a dramatic sequence of waterfalls.
Rubio Canyon Waterfalls HikeModerately StrenuousCanyon, Waterfall; ViewSan Gabriels - Altadena Area3 miles4 hrs1,100'Easy hike to first fall, but then adventure hike on unmaintained trail with some hazardous scrambling to get to viewpoints of spectacular waterfalls.
Ortega Falls via San Juan Loop TrailModerately StrenuousCanyon; Waterfall; ViewSanta Anas - Ortega Highway Corridor 5 miles3 hrs750'Great easily accessed adventure hike uses San Juan Loop Trail to drop into San Juan Creek then up the stream bed to 35' Ortega Falls.
Devils Punchbowl Devils Chair from BelowModerately strenuousCanyon; Scenic San Gabriels - Devils Punchbowl Area4.5 miles4 hrs800'View the dramatic Devils Chair formation from below, deep in the bowels of the spectacular geologic formations of the Devils Punchbowl, after entering the Punchbowl from the confluence of Punchbowl Creek with Big Rock Creek. All off trail with boulder hopping up stream and several areas of Class 3 and 4 scrambling.
Graveyard CanyonEasy to moderateCanyonSan Gabriels - East Fork San Gabriel River Area5 miles3 hrs900' Interesting and easily accessed hike up a sandy stream bed with gentle grade deep into a dramatic canyon below Rattlesnake Peak.
Stoddard Canyon FallsModerately StrenuousCanyon; WaterfallSan Gabriels - Mt Baldy Area4 miles4 hrs1,100'Relatively easy hike to first fall, but then adventure hike with no trail and some dangerous scrambling/climbing to access spectacular waterfalls.
Dawn Mine HikeModerateMine, WaterfallSan Gabriels - Altadena Area6 miles4 hrs1,500'This entertaining hike up wooded Millard Canyon in the San Gabriel front range features great waterfalls, a lovely seasonal stream, and a super cool abandoned gold mine.
Black Star Canyon Falls HikeModerately strenuousCanyon; WaterfallSanta Anas - Silverado Canyon Area6.5 miles6 hrs900'Hike to a wonderful 65' tall waterfall in a beautiful wooded canyon. Easy fire road for first 2.5 miles or so, but then off trail boulder hopping up the stream bed .8 mile to reach Black Star Canyon Falls.
Grizzly GulchModerately strenuousCanyon; WaterfallSan Gabriels - Lytle Creek Area6 miles5 hrs2,300'Hike, boulder hop, and climb short sections into a wild, pristine, and intensely unique gorge featuring stunning white cliffs.
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