Top 11 Waterfall Hikes In Southern California

waterfall hikes in southern california

Situated on the West Coast of the United States and popular for its warm, vibrant atmosphere, and spectacular geographical features, South California is a charming region boasting an endless array of awe-inspiring options. From the eye-catching Pacific coastline and its pristine beaches to historical museums, attractive parks, exciting zoos, cozy resorts and restaurants, and a vibrant nightlife, this place is truly a melting pot for everything fun and entertaining. Explore mind-blowing art that would make any artist’s heart skip a bit and the famous Hollywood studios, the birthplace of your favorite movies. To enjoy a memorable adventure, read on to know more about the top waterfall hikes in Southern California.

Travel Advisory

Trip101 recommends assessing the risks before hitting the hiking and trekking trails. Please be especially aware of the difficulty levels, the locations’ ground conditions, as well as the seasonal risks.

1. Eaton Canyon Falls

Eaton Canyon
Source: Photo by user Al Pavangkanan used under CC BY 2.0

Is the heat in Southern California proving too unbearable? Well, it is your lucky day because there’s a lovely place where you can swim or relax in a natural swimming pool—Eaton Canyon Falls. This is a 3.5-mile (5.63 km) out-and-back trail that is usually buzzing with hikers, people jogging, and even people bringing their dogs for a walk. Locals and tourists come here to enjoy a quiet, romantic getaway by the amazing 40-foot (12.19 m) waterfall, which has a spectacular pool where people come to have fun. From the top, you’ll get wonderful views of the San Gabriel and Santa Monica mountains.

Eaton Canyon Falls

Address: Pasadena, CA

2. Sturtevant Falls

Sturtevant Falls
Source: Photo by user Mitch Barrie used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Enjoy an epic experience as you hike on this lovely 3.3-mile (5.31 km) trail hidden in the lush, green Angeles National Forest—Sturtevant Falls Trail. Featuring a spectacular cascading 50-foot (15.24 m) waterfall, this is one of the easiest and most intriguing hikes in the area, where you can bring your family for outdoor fun. It starts with a steep decline before ascending, then brings you to a tranquil stream flowing toward the waterfall. This hike will take you past the picturesque creek and a host of wonderful old resort cabins for campers, honeymooners, and adventure seekers to enjoy their privacy.

Sturtevant Falls

Address: Forest Rte 2N40, Arcadia, CA

3. Paradise Falls

Paradise Falls and pond
Source: Photo by user Howcheng used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Explore this rare phenomenon that is tucked away in the romantic Wildwood Regional Park, in Thousand Oaks, boasting a wide array of eye-catching features—Paradise Falls. This is a spectacular 40-foot (12.19 m) waterfall hanging in a gorgeous terrain, which can be accessed via a 2.7-mile (4.35 km) trail loop that takes you downhill to lovely caves. Make a little stop and pose for some photos in those charming caves. After enjoying a lovely, dramatic hike through the desertlike park, under the blazing sun, it will feel relaxing and rewarding to finally sit by the massive pool below the beautiful Paradise Falls.

Paradise Falls

Address: 928 W Avenida de los Arboles, Wildwood Regional Park, Thousand Oaks, CA

4. Tangerine Falls

Tangerine Falls IV
Source: Photo by user Amber & Eric Davila used under CC BY 2.0

Are you planning to surprise your beloved by taking them for a date in the woods? In California, there are so many charming places where you can enjoy a romantic getaway, but at Tangerine Falls, you would get a unique, mind-blowing experience. Tucked away in Montecito, this area has a nice trailhead that is about 2.2 miles (3.54 km) and takes you to the base of the waterfall—Tangerine Falls Trailhead. Although the hiking trail is steep and difficult to climb, it is filled with a lot of eye-catching features. During spring is when this beautifully cascading 100-foot-tall (30.48 m) waterfall blooms.

Tangerine Falls

Address: E Mountain Dr, Montecito, CA

5. Escondido Falls

Escondido Falls
Source: Photo by user Kenneth Moore used under CC BY 2.0

Are you a hiking enthusiast or a traveler seeking to explore nature but don’t know where to go for adventure around California? Well, in Malibu, Los Angeles, there’s a fantastic gem that might be what you’re looking for to light up your day—Escondido Falls. There is a scenic hiking trail that meanders across creeks, leading you to the amazing waterfall. The trail takes you across lovely forests, wildflowers, and a variety of breathtaking geographical features. The climax of this hike is when you get to the spectacular falls comprising three distinct tiers. You can be sure that this hike will leave you with the best memories of Southern California.

Escondido Falls

Address: Escondido Canyon Trail, Malibu, CA

6. Three Sisters Falls

Hidden away somewhere near Descanso in California is a spectacular 4.2-mile (6.76 km) out-and-back trail that comes with an endless list of amazing options—Three Sisters Falls Trail. This trail allows you to enjoy spellbinding views of Sunshine Mountain at the very start before you disappear in the thicket of lush, green oak trees. The trail has a steep descent cutting across a collection of blooming ceanothus and lovely spring flowers and comes to emerge with thrilling views of the gorge below. Your destination is the wonderful waterfalls surrounded by a large slab of granite and green shrubs.

Three Sisters Falls

Address: Boulder Creek Rd, Santa Ysabel, CA

7. Cedar Creek Falls

Cedar Creek Falls
Source: Photo by user Byron Hetrick used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Located off Thornbush Road in Ramona, the way to Cedar Creek Falls is a gorgeous backcountry trail boasting a plethora of mind-blowing attractions. If you’re someone looking to seriously burn some calories as you enjoy sightseeing, then this is the activity for you. It is a challenging path to walk, especially for beginners, as it is steep and some places have loose soil where you can slip. You’ll get to enjoy picturesque views of San Diego River Gorge and fantastic sights of beautiful hills on this route.

Cedar Creek Falls

Address: 15519 Thornbush Rd, Ramona, CA

Website: Cedar Creek Falls

Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)

8. Big Falls

Enjoy the charming atmosphere of the Pacific coast as you take on this scenic 4.4-mile (7.08 km) hiking trail found in Arroyo Grande—Big Falls Trailhead. This is one of the most sought-out trails because it’s easy to trek and boasts an incomparable beauty. As you cut through the Santa Lucia Wilderness in Los Padres National Forest, you’ll pass impressive forests of oak trees before you descend to a magical oak grove. You may come across fellow hikers, honeymooners, and lovely birds on this hike. Afterward, enjoy a refreshing swim in the pool at the base of the waterfalls.

Big Falls

Address: 3994 Upper Lopez Canyon Rd, Arroyo Grande, CA

Website: Big Falls

9. San Antonio Falls

San Antonio Falls, November 2010 - panoramio
Source: Photo by user Kevin.Daniels used under CC BY 3.0

Explore the beautiful geography around Mount Baldy when you set out for an adventure on this 1.3-mile (2.09 km) trail found in the San Antonio Canyon at the foot of the mountain—San Antonio Falls Trail. It is a relatively easy, out-and-back trail that takes you to the beautifully cascading San Antonio Falls. The trail is nicely manicured and takes you past beautiful cabins, after which you’ll be able to see the waterfalls from a distance. As you make your way down to the creek, be wary of sliding. At the base, you can find a nice spot to relax and enjoy the pristine views.

San Antonio Falls

Address: Mt Baldy Rd, Mt Baldy, CA

Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)

10. Switzer Falls

Switzer Falls
Source: Photo by user Engineerjohn used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Located along Crest Highway in Tujunga is a scenic hiking trail that takes you not only through historic ruins but also to one of the most amazing waterfalls in Southern California—Switzer Falls. The trail covers about 4.5 miles (7.24 km) of spectacular beauty, with eye-catching features such as a babbling brook and a breathtaking gorge. Although the hike is a bit steep, you stand to enjoy a magical experience traversing this hilly terrain. Before you are at the waterfalls, you will find where the trail kisses the river.

Switzer Falls

Address: 701 Angeles Crest Hwy, Tujunga, CA

Explore the scenic beauty of Southern California

From the wide range of pristine beaches along the magnificent Pacific coastline to the breathtaking canyons, gorges, creeks, and mountains, truly there’s a huge array of attractions that this region has to offer. There’s also an outstanding number of waterfalls, as described above, that make this part of California even more appealing.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Stephen Kinyanjui is an IT graduate who previously worked as an IT Assistant in a BPO company. He has an insatiable desire for traveling and adventure. He’s an artist who loves drawing and...Read more

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