Hikers are fortunate to have a vast array of scenic waterfall trails in Los Angeles
Here are 12 waterfall trails in Los Angeles area that offer stunning views and also provide a much-needed cool down at the end of your journey. These waterfall hikes are perfect activities to make the most of L.A.’s brief rainy season. While these waterfalls are visible in the summer, keep in mind that they tend to have a much smaller flow during this time.
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1. Eaton Canyon Falls, Altadena
Despite its unusual name, Moist Canyon, don’t miss out on visiting the Eaton Canyon Natural Area, a local favorite. While you might find the number of leisurely-paced families a bit of a hindrance, it’s an ideal place if you’re bringing your kids, especially those over five.
It’s a good idea to wear shoes that can handle a bit of water, as the trail, which is less than three miles long, includes several stream crossings. The number of crossings can change with the seasons, but generally, there are about nine.
Your hike starts at the Nature Center parking lot. Follow the main Park Road Trail for 1.5 miles through a scenic area filled with trees and rocks, where the path gently slopes upwards. The highlight of the hike is a stunning 50-foot waterfall that cascades into a rock basin.
For those seeking a more challenging hike, the trail connects further on with the Mt. Wilson Toll Road, leading to an eight-mile trek to the Mt. Wilson Observatory. If not, you can retrace your steps back.
2. Solstice Canyon, Malibu
Discover a charming hike in Malibu that takes you through the remnants of two historic properties, leading to a 30-foot waterfall. This waterfall, though modest in height, is surrounded by a series of inviting natural pools, perfect for exploration.
Starting from the park entrance on Corral Canyon Road, embark on the Solstice Canyon Trail. This gentle, shaded path first brings you to the Keller House, a stone hunting cabin built by the original owners of the canyon. About half a mile further, you’ll encounter the ruins of the Roberts Ranch House. The area is lively with the sounds of fellow hikers and makes for an ideal picnic spot.
To complete your hike, take the Rising Sun Trail back. It’s a bit more challenging with some uphill sections, but you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean through the canyon.
3. Stoddard Canyon Falls, Mt. Baldy
Stoddard Canyon Falls is a hidden gem near Los Angeles, located on the way to Mount Baldy. It’s known for its beautiful waterfall and inviting swimming hole. If you’re eager to see the waterfall at its most vigorous, plan your visit earlier in the season. However, for those looking to enjoy the swimming hole, the best time is towards the end of summer, around August or September. The hike to the falls is quite short, making it an ideal spot to refresh yourself after a warm summer hike up Mount Baldy. Just remember to bring your essential gear for summer hiking, especially if you plan to get in the water!
4. Millard Falls, Altadena
If you’re close by and short on time but still want to enjoy nature, Millard Falls is a great choice. It’s almost as easy to get to as Eaton Canyon Falls, but it’s usually less crowded. Located just on the outskirts of Altadena, CA, north of Pasadena, it offers a very short hike. The round trip to Millard Falls is only one mile and mostly flat. However, be prepared to cross the creek a few times and navigate through some overgrown areas.
5. Hermit Falls, Monrovia
Hermit Falls begins at Chantry Flat but diverges from the main forest service road quite early. Look for a narrow dirt trail on the right that leads downhill and brings you to the top of the falls. Hermit Falls is more famous for cliff jumping than the waterfall itself. To see the waterfall, you need to jump into the water. There are two spots for cliff jumping, but be aware that both can be very dangerous. Rescues are not uncommon here, so if you decide to jump, do so at your own risk.
6. Escondido Falls, Malibu
This waterfall is one of the largest in Southern California, featuring a stunning two-tiered, 150-foot cascade over limestone rocks adorned with bright green moss. Your journey begins on Winding Way East, a private road in the Malibu hills. This route takes you uphill past homes with ocean views. After about half a mile, the road slopes downhill, and you’ll find a marked path on the left. This is the Escondido Canyon Trail, an adventurous route that involves crossing streams.
About a mile in, you’ll come across the Lower Escondido Falls. At 50 feet, these falls are impressive and a great spot for a break. For those who are less confident on their feet, this can be a satisfying endpoint. However, for the more adventurous, continue upwards on a clear path to the right of the falls. It’s recommended to stick to the official route as the alternative can be dangerous. This section involves a steep climb to the Upper Escondido Falls. A guide rope is available to assist you, but watch out for slippery rocks. The trail leads you beneath part of the lower waterfall and over more boulders until you reach the main attraction: a majestic, tiered cascade flowing over mossy rocks.
On a warm day, the pool at the base of the falls is a perfect reward.
7. Cooper Canyon Falls
Cooper Canyon Falls, nestled deep within the Angeles National Forest, is a remarkable destination for waterfall hikers, even with its popularity. To reach the trailhead, you’ll drive for about an hour on Angeles Crest Highway, finding it at the end of a campground. The path to the waterfall includes a short, somewhat tricky scramble down, but there’s a rope to assist you, so be cautious. The water at the falls is crystal clear, and it’s encircled by a lush, green area with large rocks that are perfect for sitting and enjoying a relaxing afternoon.
8. Paradise Falls in Wildwood Park, Thousand Oaks
Wildwood Park boasts a fantastic trail system, offering four different paths that start from the Avenida de los Arboles entrance. For a sunny walk, choose the Moonridge Trail, which meanders through scrub plains.
About a mile in, the Moonridge Trail meets the Tepee Trail. Turn left here, and soon you’ll find a recreated tepee and a view overlooking the Arroyo Conejo canyon. A short quarter-mile walk from this point leads you to Paradise Falls, a striking 40-foot waterfall that remains impressive even in drier seasons. While it might be tempting, it’s best not to swim here due to water quality. Instead, enjoy a lunch break before continuing on the Wildwood Canyon Trail to head back towards the entrance.
Your exploratory spirit will be rewarded about half a mile along this trail when you reach the Indian Cave Trail. This short detour leads to a cave, a tunnel through the rocks big enough to walk through, believed to have been used by the Chumash Indians. The final part of your hike is along the Indian Creek Trail, an excellent route for bird-watching, particularly during migration seasons.
9. Switzer Falls
Switzer Falls is a highly popular hiking destination in the San Gabriel Mountains, but there’s a lesser-known aspect to it. When you reach Switzer Falls, where you’ll likely find other hikers, don’t just stop there. Continue hiking up above the waterfall on the right side. Be cautious as the trail can be narrow, slippery, and a bit risky. Follow the stream feeding into Switzer Falls until you discover a second, more secluded waterfall. This hidden gem is nestled in a narrow canyon, so it might be cooler there, even on a sunny, warm summer day.
Remember, Switzer Falls is a “backward hike,” where you descend to your destination and then hike back up to the exit. It’s important to save enough energy and water for the return journey. The hike is also quite exposed, so it can get very warm, especially if you’re hiking out in the middle of the day during spring or summer. Don’t forget to bring a sun hat for protection!
10. Trail Canyon Falls, Tujunga
Trail Canyon Falls, situated in Big Tujunga Canyon, offers an accessible yet moderately challenging hike to a waterfall. You have the option to hike both to the bottom and the top of the waterfall. However, be cautious if you choose to hike to the bottom, as the path can be steep and slippery, with loose dirt and rocks. It’s important to tread carefully to ensure a safe and enjoyable hike.
11. San Antonio Falls, Mt. Baldy
San Antonio Falls is the prominent waterfall visible at the start of the ski hut trail to Mount Baldy, located along a fire road. To reach it, you only need to walk 0.6 miles on a flat, gravel road starting from the Mount Baldy Ski Hut trailhead. Upon reaching the viewpoint, you have the option to hike down to the base of the waterfall. Keep in mind that the waterfall tends to dry up once the snow on Mount Baldy melts, so the best time to see it in its full glory is during winter and early spring.
12. Black Star Canyon Falls
Black Star Canyon Falls, located further into Orange County, is a noteworthy destination, especially after a good rainy season. This unique waterfall features two cascades flowing out of the canyon. Even without water, it’s an impressive hike. Adventurous hikers can climb up into the lower cave, but this should be done cautiously and at your own risk.
The trail to Black Star Canyon Falls is quite different from your standard dirt hiking path. It’s an adventurous route that follows the canyon’s contours, with frequent ups and downs, providing a fun and unique hiking experience compared to more typical trails.