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


  • 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

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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.

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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

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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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