Hidden Orange County Waterfall Hike – Falls Canyon Falls
There are two things that I love in life. Sea caves and waterfalls. Over the summer, we shared many different places to discover hidden sea caves, and this winter we are excited to share different hidden waterfalls. I have always wanted to find the hidden waterfall in Orange County, Falls Canyon Falls, but was never successful at finding it until recently.
I followed directions from many people online – and every set of directions that we had read took us to a dead end (especially the instructions on Yelp). I was so committed to finding it this year, that I hiked almost eight miles, got a severe case of poison oak, and discovered many hidden graves. Just when I thought we were not going to find it and was about to head home, I saw a little girl coming out of the forest in the area where we were looking who’s parents showed me the way to finding the waterfall. It was a sign – it was meant to be found, and shared with all of you!
When we found the waterfall, it was beautiful. It is not far away from the popular Holy Jim waterfall, but 100x bigger and better. The Falls Canyon Falls waterfall is a lot larger right after a rainfall, but I don’t recommend going to after a shower of rain because the trail will be very muddy – and children can slip and get hurt. It was like a fairytale sitting under the waterfall with my kids while we made rock sculptures and bonded together in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
Directions..Directions. I recommend to PRINT these out before going. You will NOT have cell phone reception.
The trail is NOT marked. That is why is has been hidden for so many years.
1. Driving from Rancho Santa Margarita, take Santa Margarita Parkway until it dead ends at Trabuco Canyon Road. You’ll want to turn left on Trabuco Canyon Road (toward the mountains).
2. Before going over the bridge, you’ll see a dirt parking lot on the right-hand side, and that is Trabuco Creek Road. Turn right.
3. The road will be very rough and bumpy. Just go slow, and take your time. You’ll go about 3 miles on the road. If you’ve hit the Holy Jim parking lot – you have gone too far.
Look for this gate to show where to park
This is the other place to park right next to the access. You can see cars can park on both sides // and the ribbon on the tree
4. Parking. There are two places to park. We parked in a small turnout (see picture) and walked. There is also a turnout where the road widens and allows for parking cars on both sides of the road. You can park here too. Either way, you’ll more than likely see cars at both of these places.
This is the sign that marks // park here. The trail head is just a few feet away from this sign
5. The access to the trail (and the widened road) is just a few minutes after the sign that says “Holy Jim Falls in 2 miles.” You’ll want to park near this sign. It will also have a brown bulletin board next to it.
Flag marking the entrance to the trail
6. Once you have parked the car, find the widened road. About a 2-3 minute walk from the sign. There will be a ribbon on the tree to help show you that you’re there. It is easier to enter the before coming to the widened road that is marked with a giant log. (see picture of my daughter pointing to the access).
Enter here..right after brown sign that says “Holy Jim trail in 2 miles”
Then go this way..right over the log
7. If you enter where the log is, you’ll walk over the log and into the canyon. You know that you are in the right place if you see a cave on the side of the mountain. Continue walking along the creek, on a small path to the waterfall. If you enter near the ribbon on the tree, at the widened road, walk down the path, make a left and then a right at the cave.
Another family leaving the trailhead
Hidden cave that says “You are on the right trail”
The hike is not easy. I recommend children 5+ going on the hike. Wear tennis shoes, pants and long sleeve shirts. (There is poison oak along the trail). You’ll have to climb over rocks, streams, and it is not the easiest hike – be prepared for an epic adventure.
Bring a small lunch. It is always nice to have lunch at the bottom of the waterfall. A camera is a must and plenty of water. I also DO NOT recommend going while it is raining or after rain. The trail will be too dangerous.
The waterfall hike will take about 20 minutes one way (depending on how much your kids stop to look at the leaves and rocks). It is about a 1/2 mile walk, one mile round trip.
If you can’t find it…just keep driving less than a mile down the road to hike to the Holy Jim falls.
HAVE FUN!! Leave a comment below about how much your kids enjoyed visiting the waterfall.
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