Tenaja Falls: 150 Foot Tiered Waterfall in Cleveland National Forest

On my quest to document the waterfalls of Southern California I came across this gem that is pretty far hidden from the normal trails and roads that hikers take and getting to the trail head is half the battle as it includes 5 miles down a one lane road that is not really maintained. If you make it though you will be greeted with a majestic 150 foot waterfall that cascades over three different tiers before reaching a small pool at the base. Sure it is not Yosemite but for Southern California it is a pretty nice waterfall.

Tenaja Falls 11

Details

  • Display adventure pass
  • 5 miles down a poorly maintained one lane road, would recommend a car with decent clearance but most cars should be able to make it
  • Only 2 miles round trip with 400 feet of elevation

Tenaja Falls 10

Tenaja Falls 1

How to get there

If you are heading down the 15 South from Orange County then you will want to get off on Clinton Keith Road and turn right. After you pass the visitor center for the Santa Rosa Plateau then you will shortly see Tenaja Road which you will turn right on. After 9 miles you will see a turn for Cleveland National Forrest Road. This is the start of your 5 miles on the one lane road. Right when you get on it you will see a Tenaja Trail head, this is not the start unless you want the hike to be over 7 miles each way.

Continue on the one lane road but be careful as there is a lot of blind curves that you need to go around. After about 4 miles you will see the trail head for Fishcamp. From here you only have a mile left on the road before you see a dirt lot on your left and the start of the trail head.

Tenaja Falls 2

The Hike

When I was here on a Spring Saturday morning there was no one else here. I enjoyed the solitude but if you do not then bring a friend cause this hike really is off the beaten path. I saw signs for both poison oak and mountain lions. Luckily I only saw poison oak, but there was a decent amount if you got off the path.

Tenaja Falls 20

The hike winds through a shaded area before you reach a water crossing. There was an ample amount of rocks and the water was pretty stagnant so this was no big deal.

Tenaja Falls 7

After you cross the water there is a beautiful shaded grove that you can relax in or continue up to the left to start the elevation gain.

Tenaja Falls 9

From here the trail just continues to climb up until you reach a turn out about half way and can see the falls to your right. They are hard to miss as there are a lot cut outs where you can see others have gone off path to get a good view.

Tenaja Falls 4

You will continue along this path until you reach where it ends at the top of the falls.

Tenaja Falls

Tenaja Falls 15

While they don’t look huge in the picture they are actually decent size when you get to the top and there is a lot of room to fall far so be careful if you start to climb down the tiers. I climbed down to the first tier but there were not a lot of easy ways to keep going.

Tenaja Falls 14

From here you can pretty much relax and soak in the falls before returning the mile back to your car.

Tenaja Falls 17

I really did like this waterfall it was beautiful and the solitude of being there alone was amazing. Do not underestimate this hike and drive though. I anticipated it taking a lot less time for me to get to the trail head then it did. I would plan for at least 30 minutes from when you exit the freeway to when you get to the trail head so plan your day accordingly. If you are looking for something else to do in the area I highly recommend Santa Rosa Plateau, it is a beautiful place to relax and explore. Get directions below to the road that takes you to the falls and feel free to leave me a comment.

Get Directions

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  • Sami سامي

    I visited Tanaja Falls about a week ago when I was camping at Blue Jay, the waterfall was dry though :/ guess it’s better to come during spring or after a couple rainy days

  • Anthony

    Has anyone gone there recently?I want to know if there is currently water.

    • Adrina

      I am going today with a friend I will let you know how it goes!

  • Gissell

    I want a waterfall where I can swim in the bottom and it be SAFE. Not too crowded either. Any ideas?

    • With the California drought how it is currently, I do not have a great recommendation for that in Southern California currently.

  • Revolt714

    How do you get the adventure pass?

  • LuLu Vallano

    hey! any water right now?

    • I have no idea as I haven’t been in a while but I would assume it would be pretty low.

  • john

    Do not come here! You will be very disappointed!!! There is no water at all….even after a rain!

    • Thanks for the update, good to know

  • Danielle

    I went here the other day after it’s been raining a ton in Cali and it’s gorgeous. So much water.

    • That’s awesome, I only went on a dry year so I am sure it was impressive this year!

  • Riri Purba-Townsend

    Is this trail mostly shady? I have a sedan, i want to know if my car can make it to the parking lot of the trail and is it a dirt road to get to the parking lot?

    Thank u

    • There is not a lot of shade on the trail from what I can remember. I had no problem with 2WD but this was 3 years ago when I went so I am not sure how the road would be now.

    • Denny Manning

      There is some shade not a lot though. I have a hatchback and had no problems driving down or coming back up. It is a paved road, but it has potholes and dips. Just drive slow look out for oncoming cars because it is a one lane road, but you should be fine. I was there this past Friday

  • Denny Manning
    • Denny Manning

      This picture is from April 1

  • Aida Wakileh Eadeh

    Hi, we went there but we couldn’t see the waterfalls because we went to next fishermen camp and the we couldn’t teach the fall