When it comes to perceptions, southern California has more than its fair share. For some it’s the land of sand and surf as immortalized by the Beach Boys, while for others it’s home to America’s cinematic royalty and for some it’s all about the shopping on Rodeo Drive. It seems just about everyone has an opinion on what makes Los Angeles, well, Los Angeles, but what doesn’t come to mind in this arid, desert-like community are waterfalls. And yet some two-dozen cascading falls can be found in the mountains surrounding Los Angeles. Ranging in size from the short, rocky tumbler of Temescal Canyon to the 200’ high Escondido Falls of Escondido Canyon, southern California waterfalls are as varied in dimension as the landscapes in which they occur. Some are a short hop from the trailhead, while others take a little more work to access, but all provide a tranquil respite from the pressures of the big city just down the trail. Many of the waterfalls flow year round despite Los Angeles’ paltry rainfall of barely 15” a year, but some falls do dry out during late summer and fall. The best times to view falling water in the Los Angeles area is during the late winter and early spring rainy season. With additional water coming from snow melt in the higher elevations, some trails may require fording streams. Caution should be exercised when crossing streams or washes as the water may be flowing faster than it appears and is often quite cold. But no matter what time of year you visit, a hike to one of Los Angeles’ waterfalls is always a walk worth taking.
WATERFALL TRAILS - Click the green buttons below for hike details.
A delightful 40' water fall greets hikers at the end of this 1.8 miles trail through the Eaton Wash and into Eaton Canyon. The trail is mostly hard packed dirt fire road for the first 3/4 of the trip making it an ideal trek for beginners or parents with small children. Water flows over the falls year round, but late winter and spring offer the most dramatic views. Summer brings crowds to wade in the pool beneath the falls while fall and winter offer more solitude. The Eaton Canyon Nature Center at the trailhead provides opportunities to learn more about the natural wilderness that surrounds Los Angeles.
Removed from the high rise towers of downtown Los Angeles by a mere 20 miles, hiking to the falls is like taking a step back in history. Gold discovered in 1850 created a small flurry of interest around the canyon, but no ore of any consequence was removed from the area. The canyon was later slated for logging, but the establishment of the Angeles National Forest preserved the canyon in its natural state. If you are looking for a true wilderness hike, you may find the rustic cabins and heavy crowds a bit disconcerting, but the historic nature of the canyon, the foliage and the water features make this a trip worth taking.
The Grotto is an almost otherworldly tumble of rocks and boulders that form a semi-circular cave at the lower end of a canyon below Sandstone Peak. During the rainy season, a small waterfall forms from the above creek bed and cascades down the inner recesses of the Grotto. The boulder field surrounding the Grotto provides plenty of opportunity to boulder and crawl around in unexplored spaces. Adventurous hikers can even make their way around the inside of the Grotto itself to get up close with the waterfall when it is flowing. Along the way, hiker's are treated to some fantastic landscapes of Sandstone Peak and the surrounding mountains plus some dizzying views down into the canyon.
A moss-covered, horseshoe shaped cliff is home to this 40' cascade located on the western fringe of the San Gabriel Mountains. Though the trailhead is only about 30 minutes from North Hollywood, the secluded nature of this hike is evident well before you turn into the parking lot. The hike is an easy moderate with only about 700' in elevation spread out over two miles. The first leg of the journey is along a fire road that gives way to a single-track trail. The second part of the hike crosses and recrosses Golden Creek via footbridges and several easy fordings. The path along the creek is lush and provides a decent canopy most of the year. The last section climbs the canyon walls to the head of the waterfall with great views of the canyon below.
For novice hikers, families or those just seeking some easy solitude, this 30' two-tier waterfall may just be the answer you've been looking for. Nestled in the beautiful Monrovia Canyon Park, this waterfall has several different trails with a variety of features and vistas that end right at the base of the falls. The shortest hike is only .75 mile from the parking area at the Nature Center. The trail is relatively level and follows the small creek flowing from the waterfall. Due to an underground spring, the falls flow consistently throughout the year. The continual supply of water also makes for a lush, dense riparian environment with a thick overhanging canopy to provide plenty of shade.
Who doesn't like a waterfall? Well, this hike has not one but two different cascades, one of which is a two-tiered drop! And along the way, hikers are treated to some stunning vistas of the interior San Gabriel Mountains as they pass through a unique bit of Southern California history. Best of all, the trek is mostly completed under a dense canopy of oak and alders on the banks of the Arryo Seco, providing plenty of shade from the blistering California sun on an easy grade over 1.7 miles one-way.