Southern California Waterfalls - Mount Baldy - Tenaja Falls

02.23.12


Liquid Assets

So you really want to see winter waterfalls but don't want to trek too far to do it? Here are three tumblers reached within a mile or less. The rush is on!


San Antonio Falls

Have a Baldy

When the biggest mountain in the San Gabriels decides to form a waterfall, it doesn't hold back. San Antonio Falls thunders in three tiers down Mount Baldy's southern face. Unlike Baldy's 10,068-foot summit, the waterfall is easy to reach, requiring just 1.2 miles (round-trip) of hiking. The first half mile of the hike is paved and leads to a horseshoe bend where the falls can be seen—and heard—churning through a trench in the mountainside. Capping the drama is the summit of Baldy, visible if you can crane your neck to look that high. A spur path drops down to the creek. Grab a seat on a boulder and watch the oasis tumble and crash. Those who are sure-footed can rock hop to the other side, though common sense should prevail: this water's so cold it stings. On the return journey, take in a long view down San Antonio Canyon toward Pomona Valley. As the old saying goes, Baldy’s beautiful.

Take I-210 toward Claremont to the Baseline Rd. exit. At the end of the ramp, turn left and make an immediate right on Padua Ave. Drive 1.8 miles north to Mount Baldy Rd. Turn right and drive 7 miles into the mountains to Mount Baldy Village where a $5 National Forest Adventure Pass can be purchased from the Mount Baldy Visitor Center. Proceed another 4.4 miles up Mount Baldy Rd. Pass Manker Flats Campground and find roadside parking on the left near the Falls Rd. intersection. Display your Adventure Pass and begin hiking up Falls Rd. When the waterfall comes into view at a major turn in the road, continue straight down a dirt path to the falls. Dog-friendly!

Tenaja Falls San Mateo Canyon Wilderness

Cinco Tenaja

Getting to a five-tier waterfall flowing in San Mateo Canyon Wilderness may sound remote, but 150-foot Tenaja Falls is reached in less than a mile, leaving plenty of time to enjoy this lesser-known waterwork in Riverside County. The hike greets with a creek crossing that's easily navigated thanks to large rocks and a concrete slab. Then it's on to a 275-foot climb up the side of a sagebrush-covered canyon. Views of the Santa Anas will keep you pumped en-route. The falls splash onto the scene halfway up the trail, cascading down a swath of orange granite. Continue as the path winds around the wall of the canyon. Leave the trail when it crosses the creek above the falls and make your way around the rocky slope to witness Tenaja's 30-foot upper falls. For a primo view, courageous types can follow an unmaintained footpath down to a pool beneath the second tier. Exploring more of Tenaja Falls requires advanced climbing skills or a bout of bad judgment (not recommended). Instead, find a piece of smooth granite and relax to the sound of gurgling waters. It’s a nice way to go with the flow.

Take I-15 to the Clinton Keith Rd. exit in Murrieta and head west. After 5 miles, stay to the right as the road becomes Tenaja Rd. After 1.7 miles, turn right to stay on Tenaja Rd. Go 0.7-mile and make another right to stay on Tenaja Rd. Continue 3.5 miles and turn right on Cleveland Forest Rd. Drive 4.3 miles up this narrow paved road to the Tenaja Falls trailhead on the left. Display a National Forest Adventure Pass and hike down the trail. Go straight across the creek, 0.1-mile from the start, and proceed up the trail on the left side of the canyon for 0.7-mile to the falls. Cross the creek and make your way down around the waterfall for closer views. An Adventure Pass may be purchased for $5 per day from Big 5 Sporting Goods at 25274 Madison Ave. in Murrieta. Dog-friendly!

Paradise Falls Wildwood Park Thousand Oaks

Fall for It

With a name like Paradise Falls, this cascade in Thousand Oaks boasts a big game—and it delivers! The serene 40-foot waterfall tumbles down the Arroyo Conejo Creek at the bottom of a rocky canyon in Wildwood Park. Summer temps here can hit the triple digits, so the best time to make the 2-mile (round-trip) hike to Paradise Falls is in winter, when it's also at peak flow. Depart from the trailhead and hike along Mesa Trail. It's easy to wonder how this Tex-Mex landscape of sagebrush and prickly pear cactus can harbor a waterfall, but the answer comes soon enough when a view into the canyon reveals the creek, flanked by oaks and sycamores. Drop down to it and pass one of the park's many picnic areas. Paradise Falls careens frothily into a clear pool. Next to it, a dramatic outcropping with a massive gape looks like a gladiator helmet cast in stone (and makes a great photo). Take a seat on a boulder and watch ducks fly overhead to their upstream home. Paradise found.

Take US-101 to the Lynn Rd. exit in Thousand Oaks. Drive north for 2.5 miles to Avenido de los Arboles and turn left. Drive to the end of the street and park in the dirt lot on the left. Hike west from the trailhead on Mesa Trail. After 0.4-mile, turn left on North Tepee Trail following signs for Paradise Falls. Turn right at a T in the trail next to the tepee and descend into the canyon. Make the next left down a narrow trail to reach the falls. All trail junctions leading to Paradise Falls are well marked. Bring along this trail map to explore other trails in the park. Swimming and rock climbing around Paradise Falls is prohibited. Dog-friendly!

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