Holy Jim Falls: Hiking in Orange County

Widely regarded as one of Orange County’s top trails, Holy Jim Falls is one of the waterfalls that I had just never got around to doing. I love to go to the less traveled hikes and stay away from the super popular ones but I figured I might as well see what all the hype was about and set out to log Holy Jim Falls.

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  • Distance: 4 miles, out-and-back
  • Total Elevation Gain: < 700 ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking:  Adventure Pass

At 4 miles and only ~600 feet of elevation, Holy Jim Falls is not a particularly difficult hike. I think the most difficult thing about it and what I would caution before anyone makes the drive out, is the 4 miles of rough dirt road to reach the trail head. We took my friends Jeep and didn’t have any problems, however I would not attempt it in a normal car as there were a lot of big pot holes that you could mess your car up with. After 4 miles you will reach the parking lot for the hike but the road continues for residents who live in the community up there. When we arrived on a Saturday morning it was pretty busy and we had to park further back on the road. We put out our Adventure Pass then hit the trail.

The trail itself spends the first half mile just walking on a road past many houses and cabins. Some had people there and some looked completely abandoned. It must be strange to own one of these and to see people walking by all the time but it was a unique little community.


After the half mile we got to the official trail head which took us out of the houses and into the wilderness for a much nicer trek away from all of the signs of the city.


The first thing you notice when hiking this trail is how beautiful all of the surrounding plants, water and trees are. Look at the plant overhang in the below picture.


When you hike this lush trail it does not seem like something you would find in the heart of Southern California, there were even a couple of parts where I felt like I was in a tropical setting. That being said, like any tropical setting make sure to bring bug spray. This path goes along the water the entire way so you need to make sure you are protected from all the bugs.

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You will also want to bring shoes that can get wet and have good traction as there are a couple of water crossings that need to be made, most have rocks that allow you to easily cross them though.

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After about a mile and a half you will reach the end of the trail and the base of Holy Jim Falls. This waterfall is not very big at only around 20 feet but it is still a nice end to the hike. The water was flowing pretty good through it and I can see it being a nice place to have a picnic with your family.

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After relaxing for a little bit we headed back down the trail the way we came. On the way up we only passed 3 people on the trail and there were no people at the waterfall with us; however, when we headed back we passed about 20 people heading up so it seems like earlier is better.

Holy Jim Falls was a nice easy hike to a good waterfall; however Southern California has a lot of better waterfalls such as Bonita Falls, Etiwanda Falls, Falls Canyon and Black Star Canyon Falls (when it actually has water which is not often). You can see my full list of waterfalls here. Let me know if you have been there and enjoyed it in the comments.

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About JoshMc

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