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SoCal’s Scenic Waterfall Loop Will Take You To 11 Different Waterfalls

Southern California is known primarily for its sunny weather, soft sandy beaches, tall palm trees and laid-back lifestyle.

But did you know that SoCal also has impressive waterfalls too?

Not many people do.

From majestic waterfalls that drop over 500 ft to crystal-clear pools that are perfect for swimming in, SoCal has it all.

Finding the best waterfalls can take A LOT of research so that’s why we’ve put together this handy guide which has done all the hard work for you.

We’ve put together the ultimate waterfall road trip in Southern California that takes you to 11 of the region’s best waterfalls.

And the best bit is that the road trip actually forms a loop which will save you a lot of time and avoids having to visit the same area twice!

We’re starting in Los Angeles but feel free to start anywhere you like along the route.

1. Eaton Canyon Falls

Eaton Canyon Falls is a stunning waterfall located in the city of Pasadena.

It’s well-known for its beautiful 40-foot cascade that flows directly into a refreshing pool below. 

The waterfall is actually a part of the Eaton Canyon Natural Area which is popular for hiking, bird watching and just wandering amongst nature.

To reach the falls, you start at the Eaton Canyon Nature Center. This is where you’ll be able to park your car and grab a trail map. 

Insider Tip: I’d recommend arriving early to ensure you get a parking spot as this hike is pretty popular, especially on weekends.

The hike to the falls is about 3.5 miles round trip, which is ~1.5 hours of walking, and is generally considered easy to moderate. 

Therefore it’s great for families and people of all ages. 

Along the hike, you’ll need to cross a few streams so be prepared to get your feet a little wet. 

The trail offers a mix of both sun and shade along the way and you’ll be wowed by the impressive views of the canyon and local wildlife. 

Spring is a great time to do this hike as you’ll usually be able to see wildflowers blooming.

2. Cooper Canyon Falls

Cooper Canyon Falls is a hidden gem located in the Angeles National Forest, not too far from the city of Los Angeles. 

This waterfall is known for its beautiful setting and the refreshing pool at its base, where the water drops about 30 feet. 

To reach Cooper Canyon Falls, you need to start at the Buckhorn Campground which is the beginning of the trailhead. 

The hike to the falls and back is about 6 miles round trip and is rated as moderate so it’s a bit challenging but definitely worth the effort. 

This takes most people just over 3 hours to complete.

The trail takes you through a beautiful forest with tall trees that provide shade along the way. It’s really scenic.

You’ll also cross a few streams and navigate over some rocky areas so be sure to wear some sturdy shoes.

During the hike, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife and the many different types of plants that grow in the area. 

The best time to visit is in the spring or early summer when the water flow is strongest due to all the melting snow. However, the falls do flow all year round.

3. Stoddard Canyon Falls

Stoddard Canyon Falls is located near the city of Upland in Angeles National Forest.

It is known for its natural beauty and the peaceful surroundings of Stoddard Canyon. 

To get there, you’ll want to start from the trailhead on Mount Baldy Road which is just a short drive from Upland. 

The hike to the falls is relatively short (~20 minutes each way) but can be challenging due to steep and sometimes slippery paths. 

Along the way, you’ll descend into the canyon and walk through a lush forest that is filled with a variety of lush plants and the sounds of nature. It’s really peaceful.

The waterfall itself is a beautiful sight with water cascading down into a small pool below. It reaches around 40 ft.

You’re actually allowed to swim in the pool beneath the waterfall which allows you to cool off after the hike. 

The waters here are crystal clear so it’s a great place to relax and take in the views.

Because this trail is lesser known, it’s often less crowded compared to other hiking spots in Southern California which is another plus. 

4. Bonita Falls

Bonita Falls is a stunning waterfall located near Lytle Creek in the San Bernardino National Forest. 

This stunning waterfall is known for its impressive 100-foot drop which actually makes it one of the tallest waterfalls in Southern California. 

To get there, you’ll start from the Bonita Falls Trailhead which is easily accessible by car. It’s located just off the I-15 near the small community of Lytle Creek. 

The hike to the falls is relatively short at around 1.5 miles round trip but it can be a bit challenging due to the rocky and sometimes slippery path. 

It takes most people around an hour to complete.

Along the way, you’ll cross a creek but there are plenty of stones and logs to help you cross without getting your feet wet.

The trail is surrounded by beautiful natural scenery which offers a great opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and maybe even spot some local wildlife. 

Once you reach Bonita Falls, you’ll be greeted by the breathtaking sight of water cascading down a rocky cliff into a clear pool below. 

Please note that an Adventure Pass is required for parking.

5. Big Falls

Big Falls is an impressive waterfall located in the San Bernardino National Forest, near to the town of Forest Falls. 

It’s one of the tallest waterfalls in Southern California and actually features a series of 5 cascades that drop over 500 feet in total!

It’s incredible to see in real life.

To get there, you’ll start at the Big Falls Trailhead which is easy to find at the end of Valley of the Falls Drive, just past the small town. 

The hike to the viewpoint of Big Falls is pretty short as it’s a 0.7 mile round trip which takes around 30 minutes to complete.

It’s ideal for families and people of all ages as the hike is fairly easy going.

The path to the falls is well-marked and takes you through a beautiful forest filled with giant redwood trees which provides some welcome shade from the hot sun.

As you reach the waterfall, you’ll notice the natural mist that has formed due to the crashing water. It’s really refreshing, especially after the hike.

It’s recommended that all hikers stay on the designated trail and don’t venture off path as the area around the falls can be dangerous.

The short hike will lead you to an incredible viewpoint which will give you the best views of the waterfall.

Please note that an Adventure Pass is required for parking.

6. Tahquitz Falls

Tahquitz Falls is a beautiful waterfall located in Palm Springs. You’ll find it within the Agua Caliente Band of the Cahuilla Indians reservation. 

This stunning natural attraction is known for its 60-foot waterfall that cascades into a clear, cool pool below. 

To reach Tahquitz Falls, you’ll start at the Tahquitz Canyon Visitor Center which provides maps of the trail. You do also need to pay an entrance fee here.

The hike to the falls is around 2 miles round trip and is considered to be fairly easy so it is suitable for most hikers. 

The trail winds through the desert canyon and offers views of native plants, wildlife and impressive rock formations along the way including a huge sacred rock.

There are several rock bridges that have been put in place to help you cross the streams without getting wet.

The sound of the waterfall can be heard well before it comes into view. 

It’s super exciting to finally turn the last corner and see the gushing water crashing into the pool below!

Swimming is allowed in the falls if you fancy a refreshing dip before hiking back.

Please note that there is a $12.50 entry fee for this waterfall which includes an optional tour guide.

7. Three Sisters Falls

Three Sisters Falls is a captivating series of waterfalls located in the Cleveland National Forest, near the town of Julian. 

This natural wonder is known for its three distinct cascading falls which give the site its name. It’s truly breathtaking!

To get there, you’ll need to take a hike from the trailhead on Boulder Creek Road which is accessible by car. 

The hike to Three Sisters Falls is about 4 miles round trip but it is considered challenging due to its steep and rugged terrain. It commonly takes between 3 and 4 hours to complete.

I’d recommend wearing sturdy shoes and be prepared for a bit of scrambling and using ropes in certain sections. 

The best time to visit is in the spring or just after a rainstorm as this is when the waterfalls will be at their fullest. 

Along the way, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. 

Once at the falls, you can enjoy the sights and sounds of the water cascading over rocks into pools below. 

Please note that an Adventure Pass is required for parking.

8. Cedar Creek Falls

Cedar Creek Falls is a breathtaking waterfall located in the Cleveland National Forest which is near San Diego. 

It features an impressive 80-foot waterfall that plunges into a large, clear pool below.

To visit Cedar Creek Falls, you’ll want to start your journey at one of two trailheads: either the San Diego River Gorge Trailhead or the Saddleback Trailhead. 

Both routes are incredibly scenic and lead to the falls, with the hike being about 5 to 6 miles round trip, depending on the starting point. 

The trail is considered to be of moderate difficulty, as there are some steep and rocky sections, so wearing good hiking shoes is a must. 

It’s also very important to carry plenty of water, especially during warmer months, as the trail can be hot and exposed with little shade. 

The best time to visit is in the spring when the waterfall is most likely to be flowing after the winter rains. Avoid peak summer as it gets VERY hot.

Swimming is allowed in the pool beneath the falls so it’s a great spot to cool off after the long hike. 

Just a heads up, you do need a permit to access the trail. You should get one online beforehand as they don’t sell them on-site.

9. Ortega Falls

Ortega Falls is a hidden waterfall that few people know about. It’s located in the Santa Ana Mountains, near Lake Elsinore. 

This beautiful waterfall features scenic cascades and pools which look especially striking after a rainstorm when the water flow is at its peak. 

To get there, you’ll want to take the Ortega Highway (Route 74). The falls are located just off the road so they’re easy to access without a long hike. 

There’s a small parking area on the side of the highway, and from there, it’s a short walk down a steep, rocky path to reach the falls.

The path to Ortega Falls is about a quarter of a mile, but it can be slippery and uneven, so wearing sturdy shoes is important. 

The falls are the perfect place to take photos, have a picnic or simply just enjoy the natural beauty of the area. 

It’s worth noting that water flow can vary greatly depending on recent rainfall, with the best time to visit being late winter to early spring. During dry periods, the water doesn’t flow.

There are no facilities like restrooms or water fountains so come prepared. 

Please note that you need an Adventure Pass for parking.

10. Escondido Falls

Escondido Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Southern California. You’ll find it in Malibu. 

This 3-tiered waterfall is famous for its stunning 150-foot drop, making it one of the tallest waterfalls in the area. 

To get there, you’ll want to start at the trailhead on Winding Way, a road just off Pacific Coast Highway. 

The hike to Escondido Falls is about 3.5 miles round trip and is relatively easy so it’s ideal for families and beginner hikers. It takes around 1.5 hours to complete on average.

The path begins on a paved road which leads to a dirt trail. This then winds through a lush canyon filled with tons of oak and sycamore trees. It’s shaded most of the way.

Along the way, you’ll cross over streams and pass by smaller waterfalls before reaching the main attraction. 

The lower falls are easily accessible and are a beautiful sight to behold!

The upper falls do require a bit more climbing but it’s totally worth it. They are truly spectacular after a rain. 

It’s important to wear sturdy shoes and bring water, as the trail can get slippery and there are no water sources along the way. 

The best time to visit is in the late winter or early spring when the water flow is strongest. 

11. Paradise Falls

Paradise Falls is a beautiful waterfall located in Wildwood Park, in the city of Thousand Oaks. 

It features a scenic 40-foot drop into a large pool below which also features a rock grotto.

To get there, you can park at the Wildwood Park parking lot and follow the signs for the trailhead. 

The hike to Paradise Falls is about 2.8 miles round trip which takes around 1.5 hours to complete. The paths are well-maintained and suitable for hikers of all levels. 

Along the way, the trail offers views of rolling hills, oak trees and a variety of plant and animal life. 

The path to the falls does include a few hills but it’s mostly easy walking. 

When you reach Paradise Falls, you’ll find a peaceful area that is perfect for picnics, photos and enjoying the sound of falling water. 

Swimming is not allowed in the pool but there is plenty of space to relax and take in the scenery. 

It’s best to visit during the cooler months or early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day.

Sophie Davis

Born and raised in the Bay area of California, Sophie is a California native. She joined our team in 2023 to create travel guides on California.

Learn more about the Traveller's Elixir Team.

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