Southern California Waterfall Hikes

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

A beautiful waterfall is guaranteed to put a smile on anyone’s face. Although it is not well-recognized, Southern California, because of its steep mountain ranges, is blessed with literally dozens of magnificent waterfalls. Some of these waterfalls are well-known and are covered in many hiking guidebooks and on many hiking web sites. These are typically waterfall hikes that are accessible by a maintained trail. Many of those accessible by a maintained trail are also close to a parking area and thus require little effort to reach. Some are further and require some effort to reach, but because they are so publicized they are also often crowded as well. However, there are many more spectacular waterfalls that very few people ever experience.

southern california waterfall hikes IMG_2136A goal of The Hiker’s Way to discover and popularize some of these spectacular hidden gems. So while you will find most of the popular waterfalls here, many of the waterfall hikes on The Hiker’s Way truly are hidden treasures. Those waterfalls not reachable by a trail are also listed and recognized as Adventure Hikes so review Adventure Hiking page for those so noted. Note that as described on that page, some of the off trail hikes are very adventurous indeed. So please make sure your pick of waterfall hikes matches you current level of hiking ability and conditioning.

One of the facts to keep in mind about Southern California waterfalls, and our mountain streams in general, is that many of them are seasonal, and flow can vary greatly depending on season and the amount of precipitation received in a given year. Having said that, note that another important factor influencing the amount of water is the size and height of the mountain range. Taller and larger ranges receive more precipitation in general, including at times deep snow packs in the winter, and also are more likely to produce thunderstorms in the summer which can help replenish the water reserves. Many people are surprised when they find that there are many streams, and thus waterfalls, that flow year round in Southern California, and thus contain plenty of water even in the late summer and fall before the winter storm season. These are typically found in the larger ranges, especially the San Gabriel Mountains and the San Bernardino Mountains.

So peruse the map and table below and pick out one of these great waterfall hikes. You will find that the waterfall hikes contained here are provided with detailed descriptions including directions to the trail heads. Waterfalls provide necessary sustenance for your mind, soul, and body simultaneously.

Southern California Waterfall Hikes Map

Southern California Waterfall Hikes

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Trail Canyon Falls: 34.305164, -118.255239
Upper Hot Spring Canyon Falls: 33.657719, -117.450903
Allison Gulch Falls: 34.237108, -117.764894
Middle Fork Lytle Creek to Lower Fall Set: 34.253681, -117.540358
Harding Falls: 33.710722, -117.618639
San Juan Loop Trail: 33.613497, -117.427131
Etiwanda Falls: 34.165637, -117.523308
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
Holy Jim Falls: 33.676943, -117.517264
Eaton Canyon Falls: 34.178373, -118.096569
Ortega Falls via San Juan Loop Trail: 33.613540, -117.427099
Sturtevant Falls: 34.195660, -118.022471
Dawn Mine Hike: 34.214655, -118.181074
Solstice Canyon Hike : 34.037721, -118.781572
Black Star Canyon Falls Hike: 33.764471, -117.678013
Switzer Falls: 34.266147, -118.144304
Santa Ynez Canyon Trail: 34.078243, -118.567421
Grizzly Gulch: 34.282991, -117.539932


Table of Southern California Waterfall Hikes

Hike NameDifficultyLocationLength (RT)TimeElevationSummary
Middle Fork Lytle Creek to Lower Fall SetStrenuousSan 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.
Trail Canyon FallsModerateSan Gabriels - Big Tujunga Canyon Area4.2 miles3 hrs700'Well graded trail up a dramatic canyon to a lovely 40' waterfall
Holy Jim FallsEasySanta Anas - Trabuco Creek Area3 miles1.5 hrs700'Easy hike to lovely 18' waterfall in a beautiful mountain canyon, but a rough road to the trail head.
Upper Hot Spring Canyon FallsStrenuousSanta Anas - Ortega Highway Corridor6 miles4 hrs700'Boulder hopping/scrambling down an amazingly rugged and pristine canyon to reach several wonderful waterfalls
Mill Creek CanyonModerately StrenuousSan 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.
Etiwanda FallsEasy to ModerateSan Gabriels - Rancho Cucamonga Area4 miles2 hrs700' Well graded though shadeless trail to lovely tree-lined stream with multi-tiered waterfall 100' total height
Harding Falls Hike – Orange CountyStrenuousSanta 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.
San Juan Loop TrailEasySanta Anas - Ortega Highway Corridor 2.2 miles1.5 hours500'Great beginner’s loop trail featuring seasonal waterfalls, nice views down San Juan Creek basin, and old growth oak forest.
Cooper Canyon Falls – Buckhorn Falls HikeModerateSan Gabriels- Buckhorn Campground Area5 miles5 hrs1,000'The San Gabriel high country at its best - alpine scenery, old growth pines and cedars, lovely waterfalls.
Rubio Canyon Waterfalls HikeModerately StrenuousSan 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.
Eaton Canyon FallsEasySan Gabriels- Altadena Area4 miles1.5 hrs650'Nice hike up easy to follow but sometimes crowded trail to mostly year round flowing 40' waterfall.
Ortega Falls via San Juan Loop TrailStrenuousSanta 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.
Allison Gulch Falls HikeStrenuousSan 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.
Sturtevant FallsEasySan Gabriels - Santa Anita Canyon3.5 miles1.5 hrs650-Easy hike, but very popular and often crowded, into gorgeous Santa Anita Canyon to lovely 40' waterfall.
Stoddard Canyon FallsModerately StrenuousSan 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 HikeModerateSan 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.
Solstice Canyon HikeEasy to ModerateSanta Monicas - Malibu Area3 miles3 hrs950'Hike into a wonderful sea side canyon featuring great ocean views, old growth oak trees, interesting historical ruins, and a lovely seasonal waterfall.
Black Star Canyon Falls HikeModerately StrenuousSanta Anas - Silverado Canyon Area6.5 miles5 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.
Switzer FallsEasy to ModerateSan Gabriels - Arroyo Seco Area5 - 6 miles3 - 4 hrs750'Hike into a historic canyon to see a wonderful 50' tall waterfall in a beautiful wooded gorge with great views and numerous pools and cascades. Nice, popular trail with optional off trail segment up-stream to reach base of Switzer Falls.
Santa Ynez Canyon TrailEasySanta Monicas - Topanga State Park2.5 miles1.5 hrs250'Easy hike to a lovely sculpted sandstone gorge with a small seasonal 15′ waterfall.
Grizzly GulchModerately StrenuousSan 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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