Discover the 10 Most Gorgeous Waterfalls in Southern California (& Where To Find Them)

Written by Volia Nikaci
Published: May 20, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/AndrewHelwich
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When you think of Southern California, waterfalls might not be the first thing that comes to mind. Your first thought might be Hollywood lights or even Disneyland. However, during the spring, the landscape of SoCal comes alive with flowing wonders and panoramic hikes to waterfalls. After all, nothing beats getting out in nature and discovering some of the amazing landscapes that this region has to offer. Here’s a list of ten gorgeous waterfalls in Southern California that are worth your time and effort.

1. Eaton Canyon Falls

Eaton Canyon Falls Southern California
Eaton Canyon Trail leads to this waterfall in Southern California near Pasadena

iStock.com/trekandshoot

Location:Pasadena, California
Nearby Attractions:San Gabriel Mountains
Animals to See:Red-legged Frog, California Spotted Owl

There is a 40-foot waterfall along the Eaton Canyon Trail with a view of the San Gabriel and Santa Monica Mountains. Los Angeles residents are particularly fond of this path due to its proximity to Pasadena, Altadena, and Santa Monica. This means that the trail can get pretty packed, especially on the weekends. However, these falls are about as close to an urban waterfall as you can get in LA and are free, so dealing with a crowd is a reasonable compromise.

2. Paradise Falls

Location:Thousand Oaks, CA
Nearby Attractions:Wildwood Park
Animals to See:Western Rattlesnake, Stink-bug

The water of Paradise Falls plunges 40 feet into a pool along the Arroyo Conejo in Thousand Oaks. It’s in Wildwood Park, and there are a lot of paths to get there. Paradise Falls is a result of stream erosion. On top, you will find volcanic rock, and on the bottom, you will find clay shale. Today, the primary source of water is runoff from Conejo Valley gutters and storm drains. While the waterfall is beautiful, it is not recommended for swimming.

3. Holy Jim Falls 

Holy Jim Falls 
Holy Jim Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in Southern California

1801067623/Shutterstock.com

Location:Corona, CA
Nearby Attractions:Cleveland National Forest
Animals to See:Jack Rabbits, Mountain Lions

Both experienced and novice hikers will enjoy a visit to Holy Jim Falls, situated in a secluded canyon in Cleveland National Forest. A popular Southern California waterfall, Holy Jim Falls is also one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the state. The hiking trail requires little effort, making it perfect for family outings, relaxed strolls, or beginner hikers.

4. Millard Falls

Millard Falls Southern California
The hike to Millard Falls is one of those rare hikes that are not only scenic but also perfect for hiking novices

trekandshoot/Shutterstock.com

Location:Altadena, CA
Nearby Attractions:San Gabriel Mountains
Animals to See:Bees, Horned Lizard

Millard Falls is located in the San Gabriel Mountains and is about half a mile from the trailhead. Reaching the 50-foot-tall boulder makes for a great short walk in the forest. Under a sunny sky, the clean and calm waters of the brook sparkle. Walking along the creek is a pleasure, and watching the falls is breathtaking.

5. Escondido Falls

Escondido Falls
Escondido Falls is the tallest waterfall in the Santa Monica Mountains

iStock.com/tkorocky

Location:Malibu, CA
Nearby Attractions:Santa Monica Mountains
Animals to See:Coyotes, Skunks

Malibu is more than just sand and surf. Escondido Falls, which is the Santa Monica Mountains’ tallest waterfall, is located at the end of the Winding Way Trail, a scenic trail in Malibu. Although the intensity of the waterfall is affected by rainfall, the route to its base is a pleasant, shaded stroll. If you’re looking for a chill hike, head to this waterfall.

6. Sturtevant Falls

Sturtevant Falls
Sturtevant Falls hike includes a good trail into the beautiful Santa Anita Canyon, despite it being fairly popular and often packed

iStock.com/AndrewHelwich

Location:Arcadia, California
Nearby Attractions:The Angeles National Forest
Animals to See:Nelson Bighorn Sheep, Squirrels

Sturtevant Falls is in the Angeles National Forest and is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Southern California. There’s a reason why this is one of the best hikes in the San Gabriel Mountains. The falls are a 50-foot moss-and-algae-accented cascade that is awe-inspiring when you see them up close.

7. Cedar Creek Falls

Cedar Creek Falls
Cedar Creek Falls is a popular spot for outdoor day hikes in San Diego

Jimmy W/Shutterstock.com

Location:San Diego, CA
Nearby Attractions:Cleveland National Forest
Animals to See:Ringtail Cat, Steller’s Jay

The Cedar Creek Falls plunges 80 feet into a deep pool of water. Hikers can hike into picturesque wilderness hills near Cedar Creek Falls in eastern San Diego. However, make sure to plan your visit before the summertime comes around. Summer usually prevents the falls from running, and the lake at the foot of the falls becomes stagnant and encrusted with algae.

8. Three Sisters Falls

Three Sisters Falls
Three Sisters Falls is a spectacular destination located in the Cleveland National Forest in an isolated canyon

Jimmy W/Shutterstock.com

Location:Julian, California
Nearby Attractions:Cleveland National Forest
Animals to See:Badger, Wild Pig

There are not many hiking paths in southern California that are as secluded as Three Sisters Falls, which is just 30 minutes south of Julian. With three gorgeous waterfalls one after another, these pools of water are the ideal place to cool off during the summer. Despite its picturesque surroundings, the region isn’t easy to hike. During the trip, you will encounter steep hills and slick tracks.

9. Trail Canyon Falls

Trail Canyon Falls
Canyon Falls is a gorgeous waterfall hike in Angeles National Forest, about a 30-minute drive from Burbank

Kit Leong/Shutterstock.com

Location:Los Angeles County, California
Nearby Attractions:Angeles National Forest
Animals to See:White-headed Woodpecker, Arroyo Toad

The San Gabriel Mountains contain one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Southern California. Canyon Falls, which features a 30-foot Y-shaped wonder, can be reached via river crossings and sycamore trees after a moderate hike. Take a moment to enjoy the gorgeous alpine scenery before beginning your return trip.

10. Santa Paula Canyon Falls

Location:Santa Paula, CA
Nearby Attractions:Los Padres National Forest
Animals to See:Bald Eagles, Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizard

With narrow valleys and small waterfalls, Santa Paula Canyon and Punch Bowls make for great hiking destinations. Numerous waterfalls make up Santa Paula Canyon Falls (also called Santa Paula Punch Bowls). As well as cascades, the park has “punch bowls,” which are popular swimming spots. Enjoy a cooling dip at this summer getaway spot!

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About the Author

Volia Nikaci is a freelance copywriter and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding, and marketing. She has a background in Broadcast Journalism & Political Science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When she's not writing she loves traveling, perusing used book stores, and hanging out with her other half.

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