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We won’t be sticking to the rivers and lakes that we’re used to. We’re going to discover the best waterfalls in California; are you coming?
6 min read
June 16, 2021
TLC told us not to go chasing waterfalls, but that’s exactly what we’re doing today. There’s something about these exhilarating cascades that bring peace upon us. Perhaps it’s the clouds formed by the mist, perhaps it's the sound of water. So, no—we won’t be sticking to the rivers and lakes that we’re used to. We’re going to discover the best waterfalls in California; are you coming?
Ventura County’s Thousand Oaks has its very own showstopper that goes by the name of Paradise Falls, and believe us when we tell you that it lives up to its name. This 40-foot gorgeous SoCal waterfall is located in a canyon in the rugged Wildwood Regional Park. Visitors can easily access Paradise Falls through several trails, and pretty much all of them are considered one of the best waterfall hikes in Southern California. Take your pick from the shorter trails, or extend your journey by taking the ‘plunge’ and traversing the longer ones. Either way, you’re going to love to see this paradisiacal showstopper emptying into a large pool.
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How far would you hike to get to a 35-foot waterfall with an idyllic swimming hole in Southern California? Are you willing to trek about 10 miles of rocky terrain? Luckily, you don’t have to run out of breath to reach Ortega Falls—a mere 0.2 hike (essentially a stroll) will easily get you to this cascading stunner. So what’s all the ‘foss’ about Ortega Falls that’s making everyone go there? A fascinating rock amphitheater encloses the waterfall, keeping it hidden from the crowds, and the tucked away sandy pool is precisely what you need to cool off from the summer heat. Fancy stretching your legs by one of the best waterfalls in Southern California?
Que bonita is Bonita Falls! Trust us when we say that hiking to this waterfall is not a ‘pour’ decision at all. As the second tallest in the San Bernardino National Forest, Bonita Falls is estimated to be anywhere between 370 and 400 feet in height. However, some claim that it can possibly be up to 495 feet high due to the two undocumented drops in the canyon above. Whichever the right number is, it’s not stopping us from wanting to visit this place.
Dying to go on a waterfall hike in Los Angeles? You don’t have to wait any longer because Southern California is full of hiking trails with waterfalls, one of them being Eaton Canyon in Pasadena. The 40-foot cascade tumbles into a large pool that’s ideal for a waterfront picnic. Don’t be shy from swimming there either—the swimming hole is as refreshing as it gets after hiking to get there. Make sure to get there early; the hiking trail can get pretty crowded on weekends.
Year-round flowing waterfalls are a rare sight in SoCal, which is why seeing Sturtevant Falls is a must-do. Located between Arcadia and Sierra Madre, this 50 to 60-foot tall waterfall is as picturesque as it gets. Algae paints the wall behind the cascading falls and the shallow body of water invites you in to escape the scorching heat. You don’t have to leave behind your furry friends to hike to Sturtevant Falls—as long as you bring a leash, your pup is welcome to join you.
Perhaps the most famous waterfall in California, Escondido Falls never ceases to amaze us with its breathtaking views. This gem in the Santa Monica Mountains has a certain charm and flows strong almost year-round. You may choose to hike the easy-to-reach lower tier that’s around 50 feet tall, or go with the ‘flow’ and trek the upper tier that’ll stun you at 150 feet tall. Though Escondido Falls may not be a hidden gem, it’s definitely ‘mainstream’.
San Antonio Falls is yet another year-round flowing cascade that doesn’t require too much effort to see. The 75-foot tall multi-tier waterfall is located in Mount Baldy and you only need to hike one mile to get here. The easy trail will lead you to the falls before you even know it. Upon reaching the falls, select a large boulder to relax and take in the views—San Antonio Falls will have you ‘falling’ in love!
The underground springs in Shasta County’s McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park fuel the waterfall and make it the rapidly flowing cascade it is today. With a constant flow rate of 379 million liters per day, Burney Falls is one of the most stunning NorCal waterfalls you can hike to. President Theodore Roosevelt once claimed that this waterfall is “the Eighth Wonder of the World,” so you can only imagine what you’ll be seeing when you get here. The best time to visit Burney Falls is during the spring, from early April through October.
The tallest cascade in the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area is the waterfall of the same name. A strenuous 1.7-mile hike on the James K. Carr Trail takes you to this beautiful waterfall in California; it’s totally worth the effort. Trekking 700 feet to the waterfall, the trail offers a great workout with lots of shade and is a backcountry experience. Once you reach Whiskeytown Falls, marvel at the cascading beauty from the upper viewing platform—careful not to ‘fall’!
We know that technically, Alamere Falls is a tide fall, but it certainly belongs on this list because it’s not something you come across every day. Alamere Falls is a dramatic sight to behold. Cascading over a 40-foot cliff and right into the ocean, the tide fall is located at the south end of Wildcat Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore. However, accessing the falls is no piece of cake. A 13-mile round trip hike is required to reach one of the best waterfalls in Northern California, so lace up and don’t forget to bring your swimsuit.
‘Water’ you doing today, you ask? We’re hiking to Vernal Fall and you’re coming with. The 317-foot waterfall, found along the Merced River, is so mighty and spectacular that you can see it clearly from Glacier Point. Take the Mist Trail to reach Vernal Fall and keep in mind that it’s not an easy hike. The last mile or so is pretty steep, so wear sturdy shoes. Once you reach the waterfall, you’ll come across the Emerald Pool, where you can catch your breath. Remember not to swim in Vernal Fall—it’s very dangerous.
Descending just under 1,100 feet, Wapama Falls is arguably the most underrated yet the best California waterfall in Yosemite National Park. This waterfall is the larger of the two located on the northern wall of Hetch Hetchy Valley, flowing year-round. Wapama Falls is fed by Lake Vernon and has two main drops angled 60 degrees to each other along with a broad cascade at the bottom. Hike the 2.5-mile Hetch Hetchy Reservoir Trail to view Wapama Falls in all its glory.
No list of waterfalls in California is complete without the queen herself, Yosemite Falls. Where do we even begin? The highest in Yosemite National Park, this waterfall drops a total of 2,425 feet to its base, resulting in one of the most unforgettable views you’ll ever see. It’s no surprise that Yosemite Falls is the main attraction of the national park, with several viewpoints providing magnificent panoramas. The waterfall is split into three sections—Upper, Middle, and Lower. Visit during spring to see Yosemite Falls at its most intense.
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