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Ten magnificent waterfalls are waiting to be discovered near Los Angeles

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LA Post: Ten magnificent waterfalls are waiting to be discovered near Los Angeles
Natasha Dixon
February 20, 2024

Nestled in the majestic canyons and valleys of Los Angeles County lie hidden gems—surreal waterfalls offering a magical escape from the urban jungle. As spring approaches, rains nourish these natural wonders, transforming many from a quiet trickle into roaring cascades. 

The allure is undeniable, yet chasing waterfalls requires responsible planning. Trails are easy to extremely strenuous; some routes contain sheer drop-offs or require tricky rock-scrambling. Poison oak abounds. But for those willing to venture out prepared, magnificent rewards await.

"There's something so rejuvenating about finding these hidden oases and taking in the peaceful sound of falling water surrounded by nature," said avid hiker Jane Smith. "It makes all the effort completely worth it."  

Head to Paradise Falls in Thousand Oaks for more solitude and a true wilderness feeling. The trail winds through sagebrush, California poppies, and purple lupine before arriving at an enchanting hidden pond with a tipi overlooking the falls. Venture out on stepping stones to cross the pond for iconic views, with the water rushing down a towering cliff behind. 

"It was like finding a little slice of paradise that I didn't even know existed so close to the city," said regular hiker Daniel Lewis. "I'll never forget coming around the bend and seeing that waterfall for the first time."

For a quick, family-friendly waterfall fix, check out Heart Rock Falls near Crestline. Named for an uncanny heart-shaped hole in the rocky cliff, this easily accessible roadside attraction lies just steps from the parking lot. Come spring, wildflowers dot the banks as water flows through the distinctive formation.  

After rainfall, Black Star Canyon erupts with hard-to-reach but spectacular seasonal falls accessible only by scrambling over slick boulders behind a western movie-style "cave." Named for a coal mining town from the 1870s, this hike interweaves fascinating history with dazzling scenery, traveling beside a bubbling creek shaded by ancient oaks. However, plentiful poison oak demands caution.  

In Angeles National Forest, seasoned hikers test their mettle on the grueling Trek to Trail Canyon Falls. This strenuous, nearly 8-mile outing involves a relentless 700-foot climb before reaching the 30-foot, Y-shaped falls. Adventurers willing to take on the challenge and prepare adequately will remember their accomplishments.  

"That brutal hike pushed me to my limit both mentally and physically, but making it to the falls felt like reaching the pearly gates," said athlete Lauren Kent. "I earned every second soaking in that cool water."

Those seeking adventure less traveled can find solace in Cooper Canyon Falls, an off-the-beaten-path 12-foot cascade reached by hopping rocks up a short trail along a peaceful creek. High algae nourish a unique ecosystem here, attracting curious first-time hiker Gabrielle Smith. "It's not the biggest or showiest falls, but the intimacy drew me in," said Smith. "I had the whole marvelous place all to myself."

For history buffs seeking milder adventure, Solstice Canyon hosts the Roberts Ranch House ruins, a home dating from the 1960s that burned down 20 years later. The shady canyon shelters exotic plants, tranquil pools, and various cascades, nourishing massive California sycamores on the premises. Visitors frequently picnic at the property's stone foundations, admiring vistas of the 30-foot falls framed by vibrant green ferns and mosses.

While currently closed due to storm damage, Hermit Falls promises the quintessential summertime swimming hole beloved by locals when restored trails reopen likely later this spring. A series of pools set amid house-sized boulders allow daredevils to cliff-dive from daring heights. Though graffiti marries the surrounding rocks, the crystal-clear water beckons after the arduous hike.  

"I dream all winter about the day I can finally get back to those swimming holes for adrenaline-pumping jumps off the cliffs," said thrill-seeker Jamie Cox. "Simply the most fun I can possibly have around LA in the summer."  

At Escondido Falls in the Santa Monica Mountains, hikers descend into a peaceful valley, wandering past massive oaks, wildflowers, and butterflies alongside a winding creek. The main attraction is a gentle waterfall flowing over mossy green rocks into a small pool fringed by ferns and cattails—an idyllic scene for snapping photos. The relatively easy hike and family-friendly atmosphere make this a popular choice.

In nearby Malibu, avid outdoors Becca Stone escapes to a hidden grotto called The Grotto, requiring some boulder-hopping to access. The 3-mile trek offers stunning vistas of Sandstone Peak along the way.

"It's amazing to find a pristine waterfall tucked between these giant sandstone boulders in the Santa Monica Mountains after trekking for miles seeing virtually no one," said Stone. She recommends gloves and sturdy shoes to navigate the terrain safely. "Witnessing rare natural beauty without crowds makes the long journey out totally worthwhile."

No list of Los Angeles waterfalls would be complete without mentioning Eaton Canyon Falls. Perhaps the most popular and crowded option outside Pasadena, this mild hike rewards the effort to traverse creek crossings and ascend canyon switchbacks with glorious 50-foot falls plunging into a pool surrounded by verdant forest.  

So, as spring greenery rebounds from recent storms, now calls all urban adventurers longing to reconnect with nature. Throw some hiking boots, water, and snacks in your pack, grab some cohorts, review trail guides, gear up properly for chosen terrain, and escape to chase waterfalls as our forebears did generations ago. Immersive rewards await those willing to rediscover Los Angeles' hidden wonderlands.


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