In the bustling urban sprawl of Southern California's major cities, one might not immediately think of nature's tranquil offerings like rivers, creeks, and waterfalls. Yet, the Southland is replete with these hidden natural treasures.
While we can't compete with the grandeur of Niagara Falls, Yosemite, or Oregon's Columbia Gorge, Southern California offers its own array of stunning cascading waters, all within a convenient drive.
The greater Los Angeles area is framed by the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains to the north, with additional mountain ranges weaving through the basin. These natural barriers offer a rich tapestry of snow-capped peaks, meandering rivers and streams, abundant hiking trails, and serene valleys adorned with waterfalls.
In the upcoming pages, join me on a journey exploring some of the most popular waterfall hikes in the region.
It is just one of many trails in the Chantry Flats area, but it stands out as my favorite for its breathtaking culmination at the waterfall. Discover more about this enchanting hike here: Sturtevant Falls
Eaton Canyon, a serene and shaded haven, is home to a picturesque 40-foot waterfall. This cascading beauty is most vibrant during spring and is tucked away in the San Gabriel Mountains, near Pasadena and Arcadia. Though easy in distance and elevation, the trail offers an adventurous twist with steep inclines, rock hopping, and multiple stream crossings leading to the stunning waterfall. Learn more about this hidden gem here: Eaton Canyon Waterfall
Above Pasadena, the landscape is rife with canyons and waterfalls, among which Millard Canyon is a standout, offering a swift path to a beautifully flowing waterfall.
Depending on your starting point, the hike can span either 4 miles or a shorter 2.5 miles.
This trail, winding along a creek, requires multiple stream crossings and some rock scrambling, making it a challenging yet rewarding adventure for older children and the young at heart.
Discover more about this scenic hike here: Millard Canyon Falls
Canyon Park, another Southern California hidden gem, offers a serene escape into nature with opportunities for picnicking, hiking, and exploring a waterfall. Nestled in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and managed by the city of Monrovia, the park's highlight is the trek to the year-round Monrovia Falls. Choose from three different trailheads, with the nearest one starting near the entrance gate for a moderate 1.7-mile hike. Learn more about this tranquil spot here: Monrovia Falls
This unexpected cascade is nestled within a deep valley of the park, located near the intersection of Avenida De Los Arboles and North Big Sky Drive, with free parking available off West Avenida De Los Arboles.
The park offers a variety of trails, from dirt access roads favored by bikers to foot trails with varying levels of difficulty. Discover more about this hidden oasis here: Paradise Falls
The Escondido Falls trail is a moderately challenging hike featuring lush trees, a meandering creek, and a stunning waterfall when in full flow. The lower tier of the waterfall, easily accessible, stands at 50 feet, while the more challenging upper tier soars to 150 feet, offering a breathtaking view. The hike to the base of the falls covers 3.8 miles with an elevation gain of about 400 feet, mostly shaded and alongside a creek, with several exhilarating creek crossings. Learn more about this delightful trail here: Escondido Falls
Our exploration aimed to uncover all four sections of the falls. Guides Ian and Kyle commenced our adventure with comprehensive safety instructions and an overview of the essential equipment.
Key safety tips include staying hydrated, wearing sunscreen, adhering to guide instructions, being vigilant for rattlesnakes, and wearing water-friendly attire. Discover the full details of this captivating expedition here: San Antonio Falls
The journey to Switzer Falls is accompanied by the soothing sounds of running water and birdsong, celebrating the area's vibrant natural beauty.
The trail begins at the Switzer picnic area in the Angeles National Forest, a mere half-hour drive from downtown Los Angeles. Discover more about this serene hike here: Switzer Falls
The Holy Jim Falls hike is a 2.9-mile out-and-back trail near Trabuco Canyon, California. It is generally considered a moderately challenging route, with an elevation gain of 600 feet (ca. 183 m).
The hike takes about 1.5 hours to complete, but I would allow more time to admire the views along the way.
For even more stunning waterfalls, head to Yosemite National Park and visit majestic falls like Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls, Bridalveil Falls, and Nevada Falls.