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Hidden Orange County Waterfall Hike – Falls Canyon Falls

Hidden OC Waterfall Hike

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.

Kids and waterfalls in OC

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!

Hiking in Trabuco Canyon

Walking on the trail back to the car

Walking along the trailhead

Walking along the road to Falls Canyon Falls

Orange County Hikes

Path that leads to the hidden waterfall trail head

Kid walking across bridge to find waterfall

Falls Canyon Trail

Beautiful creek on the way to Falls Canyon Falls

An adventerous hike to the waterfall

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.

Rock art and OC waterfall

Beautiful Waterfall in Orange County

OC Waterfall

OC Waterfall Hike

Kids discovering hidden OC Waterfall

Hidden OC Waterfall

Hidden waterfall in Trabuco Canyon

First sighting of Falls Canyon Falls

Falls Canyon Falls

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.

Where to park for hidden waterfall hike

Park Here

Marking of where to park to find Falls Canyon Falls

Look for this gate to show where to park

Falls Canyon Parking Area

Another parking access to the waterfall hike

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.

Park near this sign

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.

The ribbon on the tree marking the entrance to the trail

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).

This is the access to Falls Canyon Falls

Enter here..right after brown sign that says “Holy Jim trail in 2 miles”

This way to the waterfall

Then go this way..right over the log

Walk across this log to begin the hike

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.

Entrance to Falls Canyon Falls

Another family leaving the trailhead

Hidden Cave in Trabuco Canyon

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.

Kids who Love nature

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.

Family Hiking Trail to Waterfall

HAVE FUN!! Leave a comment below about how much your kids enjoyed visiting the waterfall.

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  1. Beautiful places,my kids want to go there…

  2. This is very beautiful, but it might not have been a good idea to post about this secret…. think of all the people who will now show up to find this place… it will quickly become trashy and spoiled…
    I hope people go there with respect for nature.

  3. We went today and had a difficult time finding the trail head. We found several trail heads that looked, seemed, sounded like the descriptions. We timed the walk from the trail head to the sign pictured, it was more like 10 minutes (we subtracted 2 minutes for pulling off to the side to let motorcycles and cats pass us safely.

    We ran across a lot of people that saw this post and wound up going to the wrong falls (or holy Jim Falls).

    Luckily for us, we came across a naturalist walking group and came across the right area.

    Having said all that, going on adventures line this and getting lost is part of the fun, no?!;) We found a really cool cave on our search! Thanks for sharing all the info! We had a great time (and we are hoping we didn’t get any poison oak on us!)

  4. I lived in Orange County for 35 years. I hiked many trails but never knew of this. How sad I missed out. I hope it remains unspoiled and left for others to enjoy. May have to make my way there on my next visit out.

  5. I’ve lived in Orange County all my life & have never heard about this, but my husband has apparently. I don’t like to hike, but I’d make an exception to see a hidden waterfall like this. Best of all, we live maybe 10 minutes away. =)

  6. We looked for the trail today and could not find the opening. We gave up and headed to another trail.

  7. I found the trail, thank you. It was actually really awesome, We saw a garden snake, some baby frogs and salamanders in the water. also once we got to the falls, on your right side there is another trail to climb up the mountain, someone had already tied ropes along trees up there so we used them and got halfway up, it was pretty fun. But I am actually interested in the trail where you saw hidden graves. Is it a big site or small? Thanks.

  8. I’ve been up this canyon at least 6x and know the area pretty, but for the life of me I can’t find this falls. I’ve found the cave which is easy to spot but there’s no marked trail anywhere to the falls. Sad…

    • I’m so sorry. The trail is not marked but if you walk into the canyon along the small dirt path by the cave then you will reach the falls. Let us know if you end up finding it

  9. Thank you for your detailed blogs.


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