The Big List of Southern California Waterfalls

I have written extensively on my favorite hikes here, but this list is of the lesser known amazing waterfalls that are all over Southern California. When I tell people this, they always tell me they had no idea, and that is what I am looking to fix. Even if you don’t like hiking, who doesn’t like walking to a beautiful waterfall on a nice Southern California spring day? Here are my favorites, but really there are a ton more in Southern California; check out the resources at the bottom for more. All of the links under the pictures should tell you how to get to each one of the falls (half of the links point to other sites). Without further ado, here are the great Southern California waterfalls.

Escondido Falls

This is one of my favorite waterfalls in Southern California. It’s a pretty big waterfall with a beautiful cascade that comes down the mountain in front of you. Read about Escondido Falls here

Sturtevant Falls

As one of the best waterfalls close to LA, Sturtevant Falls is a really popular weekend adventure spot. Be sure to get there early so that the parking lot doesn’t fill up. Read about Sturtevant Falls here

Big Falls

Big falls forest falls

The is the largest waterfall in Southern California and it is a sight to behold when it is flowing. Read about Big Falls here

Heart Rock Falls

This waterfall in Crestline has a perfectly hewn heart right next to the waterfall. The heart is large and impressive to see in the wild. Read about Heart Rock Falls here

Etiwanda Falls

Etiwanda Falls 14

This waterfall is not as big as the others, but it is a nice hike in the Inland Empire. Read about Etiwanda Falls here

Sapphire Falls

View of Sapphire Falls

Another Inland Empire waterfall, Sapphire Falls was really popular about five years ago. There are multiple tiers but you have to use a rope to climb up and it is not easy. Read about Sapphire Falls here

Bonita Falls

Bonita Falls

At only 2 miles round trip, this waterfall is one of the larger ones. I have been here dozens of times and it is a nice early morning hike. Read about Bonita Falls here

The Three Sisters

One of San Diego’s best waterfalls, but it does require a somewhat intense hike to get there. Read all about Three Sisters Falls here.

Fish Canyon Falls

Fish Canyon Falls 18

The newly reopened trail to Fish Canyon gives you access to this waterfall that was only possible to see a few times a year previously. It is an impressive one that should be on your list. Read more about Fish Canyon Falls here

San Antonio Falls

San Antonio Falls

On the way up to Mt Baldy, you can see the waterfall right along the trail. Read about it here.

Tahquitz Canyon Falls

Tahquiz Falls

This waterfall is in Palm Springs and it is on a preserve that you have to py to hike on. It is a beautiful waterfall that is worth the price though. Read about Tahquitz Canyon Fall here.

Cedar Creek Falls

As San Diego’s most popular waterfall, Cedar Creek became a popular party spot before they instituted a permit system. I have never seen it when it was flowing but I imagine it is impressive. Read more about Cedar Creek Falls here

Black Star Canyon Falls

This is probably my second favorite waterfall on this list. The waterfall appears as two separate falls, one cascading into the other. It is impressive to see and requires a pretty tough hike to get there. Read more about Black Star Canyon Falls.

Holy Jim Falls

Holy Jim Falls

Another popular Orange County hike, Holy Jim Falls is about 30 feet tall. The drive in and the shaded hike are nice though. Read about Holy Jim Falls here.

Tenaja Falls

Tenaja Falls 14

This hike is way off the beaten path, down a one lane road that most people don’t go on. I was completly by myself when I did it, but it was a really nice little hike and waterfall. Read about Tenaja Falls here.

Monrovia Canyon Falls

Monrovia canyon

This hike, about 45 minutes from LA, makes you feel like you are no longer in Southern California. The entire area is beautiful and the fact that it has a waterfall is just icing on the cake. Read more about Monrovia Canyon Falls here and here.

Eaton Canyon Falls

A beautiful waterfall, but probably one of my least favorite hikes on this list. It is a really popular trek so it always feels like you are with dozens of people as you hike in. Read more about Eaton Canyon Falls here

Solstice Canyon Falls

This waterfall is located at the end of the 2-mile round trip hike to the Solstice Canyon Ruins. I am a fan of this hike because it has ruins and a waterfall, making it a lot of fun to explore. Read more about Solstice Canyon Falls here.

Ortega Falls

Ortega Falls is located right off Highway 74 near Lake Elsinore. It only really flows after a good rain, but when it is flowing it a beautiful waterfall. I have been many times when it is bone dry though, so save this one for a good storm.

Hermit Falls

Read more about Hermit Falls here.

Switzer Falls

Read more about Switzer Falls here. (Also Image Credit)

Chiquito Falls

Read more about Chiquito Falls here. (Also Image Credit)

Dana Point Harbor Falls

Read more about this waterfall, but it only really happens after a heavy rain in the Dana Point Harbor.

Video

Here is a video I made talking about some of these waterfalls.

Resources for more waterfalls

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  • Waterfalls make a great destination when hiking with kids. Thanks for putting together this comprehensive list. Hoping to check out one (or more) with the kids this spring.

    • They make a great destination for big kids like myself as well haha. Glad you like the list! Let me know which one you end up check out

  • Thanks for the mention! I lived in San Diego for 6 years and never did Cedar Creek..when I went to go, it was closed because a kid died there jumping off the rocks. Maybe I’ll go next time I visit!

    • No problem, I want to get down the three sisters falls one of these days, it looks awesome!

  • Traci Lehman

    Wow! This is a really BIG list! 🙂 Thanks for the shout out!. I will take me years to hit all these.

  • Great list, but you left out Chiquito Falls! http://socalhiker.net/2011/03/chiquito-falls-trail/

    • Thanks for the update! I added it in

  • Bikram

    Thanks for nice post.
    http://www.waterfalldayspa.com.au/

  • George Ranks

    There is another really great waterfall just past Bonita Falls called Third Stream Falls. No one ever seems to list it, but its one of my favorite in Southern California.

    http://southcaladventures.blogspot.com/2012/04/third-stream-falls.html?q=lytle+creek

    • Thanks George that looks like an awesome one!

  • Matt

    Forgot about the best keep secret falls in OC. Blackstar Canyon Falls.

    • Ya, that is one of the best waterfalls, however it is hard to recommend as it hasn’t had good water flow for years with all the droughts!

  • Ashley Ann

    Aztec Falls Lake Arrowhead

    • Thanks for the comment, I will have to check it out!

  • Pamela Sue Fiore

    Hello Josh, I saw a picture on the Internet, I think while I was on Pinterest. There was a photo of beautiful, colored waterfalls in California. I am now trying to find those again, since I stumbled upon your posting here, I figured you might have the answer for me.(?) Thank you, Pam F. 9/23/15

    • Thanks for the comment. Unfortunately I have no idea what the colored waterfall would be. If you can give me more information I may be able to help though.

      • Pamela Sue Fiore

        Josh, I’m so sorry for not thanking you for your response. I just now saw it. I’m going out to California and finding it myself. Happy New Year

        • Sweet, good luck!

          • Pamela Sue Fiore

            Thanks!

  • Demetri Uzinski

    Hi, Reluctant to share, but after 30+ years the falls and wilderness I enjoy is in Hope Valley, CA.
    Near intersections of Highways 88 and 89, this secluded and seasonal waterfall from snow melt in the Hope Valley are very secluded and pristine. You actually follow a cow trail off a forest service road, less than 1mi a true hidden gem of the Eastern Sierras.

    • Thanks for the comment, I will have to check it out!

  • Mike Biello

    Nice, I’ve seen all of those. I also find really secret falls in SoCal on my page The Zen Hiker on Facebook. Im love finding places not discovered before.

    • Thanks for the comment, I will have to check it out!