Now is the time to hit the highway and hike your hearts out to find some of the most glorious waterfalls in California.
Unrelenting winter rains and a super snowpack (200 percent of normal) means that these misty marvels will be flowing well into summer in the Golden State.
Most waterfalls are at their peak from May to July. Don’t miss this year’s spectacular display of boisterous cascades and pouring plunges.
Here are a few “must see” waterfalls.
Northern California offers some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the state.
Hedge Creek Falls
4121 Dunsmuir Ave, Dunsmuir, 96025
Stop at Dunsmuir and take a 10-minute stroll to watch these falls tumble off a rocky cliff. See it from an inside-out perspective by clambering into a carved-out hollow behind the falls’ curtain.
Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, 14412 Kennedy Memorial Drive
Whiskeytown, 96095. Info: www.nps.gov/whis/planyourvisit/waterfalls-of-whiskeytown.htm.
This 220-foot waterfall crowns a waterfall triumvirate that includes Crystal Creek, Boulder Creek and Brandy Creek Falls. A 3.4-mile round-trip hike leads to the lower cascades of Whiskeytown Falls. Stone stair-steps ascend to overlooks where you can glimpse the falls’ upper reaches.
Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Visit the McCloud Ranger Station, 2019 Forest Road on the north side of Highway 89 on the east side of McCloud. Directions to the Trailhead: Use Highway 89 for 15 miles east of the I-5/89 junction and 5 miles east of McCloud and turn south on Road 40N44.
Northeast from Redding, three waterfalls drop on the McCloud River. Middle McCloud Falls is the showstopper with its commanding 50-foot plunge. See all three falls in a moderate 3.6-mile hike.
24898 Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, Burney, 96013
The park is northeast of Redding, 6 miles north of Highway 299 on Highway 89 near Burney. Info: www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=455
At McArthur Burney Falls Memorial State Park you can stroll to the base of shimmering Burney Falls, its showery veil dropping 129 feet over a volcanic cliff. President Theodore Roosevelt called it the eighth wonder of the world. Burney is fed by underground springs that produce a steady gush of 100 million gallons of water per day year-round, so the waterfall never disappoints, even in drought years. Rainbows dance in the mist rising from its turquoise pool. This may not be the highest waterfall in the state, but it is possibly the most beautiful.
Julia Pfieffer State Park, 52801 California State Route 1, Big Sur, 93920. Info: www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=578
The McWay Falls Overlook Trail is only partially open due to trail erosion. McWay Falls Can still be seen from the section of the trail that is open. McWay Falls can also be seen from the pullout just north of the park entrance on Highway 1 near mile marker 36. The park is 37 miles south of Carmel.
Take I-5 north to Highway 99 north to Highway 41 north (Fresno) into Yosemite National Park. Info: www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm
The most famous waterfalls in California are located in the Yosemite Valley. There are almost two dozen waterfalls in Yosemite National Park.
Bridalveil Falls is 620 ft of majestic, plunging water. Visible from many areas of the park, it is an easy walk on a stroller-friendly path.
Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls
Both falls combine for a spectacular 2,425 ft of breathtaking beauty. The lower falls can be reached on an easy stroller-friendly path.
At 317 ft Vernal Falls might be one of the “smaller” falls in Yosemite, but no less beautiful than its showy cousins. Take the Mist Trail along the Merced River.
At 594 ft Nevada Falls is widely recognized by its “bent” shape where water free-falls for roughly the first third of its length to a slick-rock slope. This creates a turbulent show of whitewater and produces a great deal of mist.
Located along the Mist Trail, Vernal and Nevada Falls can be reached on a 6.5-mile loop trail.
In the park’s southern reaches, take a 10-minute walk to the churning lower cascades, or take the 8-mile round-trip hike to the creek’s stair-stepped upper falls. The total drop of all of Chilnualna Falls is 690 ft. The falls consists of five tiers ranging from 30 to 300 feet in height.
The shelf life of most Southern California waterfalls is usually shorter than those to the north so make a plan to see some of these beauties as soon as possible.
Holy Jim Falls
Holy Jim Canyon Road, Corona, 92883. Take I-210 E, CA-71 S and CA-241 S to Santa Margarita Parkway in Rancho Santa Margarita. Take exit 19 from CA-241 S. (There is a toll road along this route).
Beware: The last 5 or so miles are on a dirt road that’s best done with a higher-clearance vehicle, but a regular sedan can make it if you take it slow and watch for potholes. However, if it was me, I’d just rent a Jeep for the day.
Orange County’s Holy Jim Falls in Trabuco Canyon is a petite-but-picturesque cataract. The 2-mile round-trip path to the 30-ft falls leads through a shady canyon of oaks and sycamores. Make sure you have an Adventure Pass for parking.
1200 N. Canyon Blvd., Monrovia, 91016
Near Pasadena, stroll up to Monrovia Falls in Monrovia Canyon Park and feel removed from the world, especially Los Angeles. Parking: $5 or park on the street. This 30-ft waterfall can be found at the end of an easy mile and half walk.
Hiking Trailhead, Forest Rte. 2N40, Arcadia, 91006
Take the 210 freeway exit 31 to North Baldwin Avenue in Arcadia which turns into Chantry Flat Road. The parking area is at the end.
This 75-ft high waterfall is located in the sylvan setting of Big Santa Anita Canyon. The well-marked trail is 3.6 miles round trip and a fairly easy hike for most. This is a popular spot. Parking is often full on weekends. Make sure you have an Adventure Pass so you won’t get a ticket.
Escondido Canyon Trail, Malibu, 90265. Parking lot is on the corner of Winding Road and Pacific Coast Highway.
On the Malibu coast, trek past the mansions of Hollywood moguls into the Santa Monica Mountains, where you can view multi-tiered drops of cascading water 150 feet over moss-covered sandstone.
Tahquitz Canyon Falls
500 W. Mesquite Ave., Greater Palm Springs, 92264
It’s less than a 2-mile round trip to the waterfall. There is an admission charge, but this 50-ft beauty is worth seeing, at least once.
Santa Clarita Valley
Yes, there are waterfalls in the SCV. Small waterfalls, but waterfalls worth the effort.
Placerita Creek Falls/Los Pinetos Waterfall
Sadly, the Canyon Trail, Los Pinetos Trail and the Waterfall Trail remain closed at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center making it impossible to view this lovely waterfall.
Bouquet Canyon Road, Saugus, 91355 (near firemarkers 10.1-9.8).
A very easy walk, about 4 miles there and back. Hard to find trailhead.
20303 Newhall Ave., Newhall, 91321
There is a lovely, small waterfall just a short hike away in Whitney Canyon.