Paradise Falls (also referred to as Wildwood Falls) was a lovely 40ft waterfall in the canyons of Wildwood Park in the Thousand Oaks area not too far east of the popular shopping outlet at Camarillo. This was the first waterfall that Julie took me to, and we had such a positive experience that we wound up seeing others in the greater Los Angeles area. It was also easy enough for us to bring our daughter when she was only a year old as well as a couple of years later when she was able to walk the whole trail on her own. So given all these factors, I guess it was fitting to put this falls on our list of Top 10 Southern California Waterfalls.
It was said to be a short 2.4-mile return hike from the official car park to the falls and back. There were actually a variety of trails that we were able to take to reach the waterfall. And it seemed like each time we visited this place (whether we knew it or not), we ended up taking a different trail than before. However, over the years, we would eventually figure out the most direct route to get to the falls, and so the most recent hikes we've done here were via the shortest route.
That said, we'll describe the hike the way we did it the second time we came here, which was in a loop manner taking in as many sights as possible (even though this wasn't the shortest route to the falls). We figured that this would at least give you a taste of what's possible here if you don't mind spending a little bit more time than the straightforward route.
From the car park (see directions below), we went past a vehicle barricade and then followed a kind of wide fire road towards the junction between the Mesa Trail and the spur trail (i.e. the continuation of the fire road) leading south towards the Parking Lot No. 1 (I used to think vehicular access was not allowed to Parking Lot No. 1, but then on a recent visit in 2014, I saw private vehicles going there so apparently it was still in use provided they open the gates for it). Anyhow, during this initial stretch of the hike, it was surprisingly scenic as dry rocky cliffs towered over residences with semi-arid native vegetation flanking the trail and fire roads. Over the years, it seemed that they cleared and widened the trail because Julie and I still remembered our first time we did this trail back in 2001 when there was much more brush (with audibly hissing rattlesnakes) in this section of trail.
From the parking lot no. 1 and its vicinity, we could've taken a more direct "shortcut" along the Moon Ridge Trail, but we thought it was a bit narrow and too up-and-down for our mood. So we descended further along a fire road that zig-zagged its way down towards Indian Creek passing by a spur trail that led to an attractive Indian Cave. When the trail reached the bottom of this descent, there was a bridge that crossed the creek and led to Los Arboles Nature Center (which we didn't visit so we can't say more about that).
Continuing along the main trail, which followed the creek, we eventually got to where the canyon narrowed, and the trail hugged a fenced ledge perched above Indian Creek as well as the upper cascades and the top of Paradise Falls itself. Along this stretch, we saw some ducks chillin' out by the creekside during the peace of the morning. However, back in 2001, I remembered Julie and I spotted a rattlesnake basking in the sun at the very top of the falls. I guess it just shows you the diversity of life that call this area home, which you might encounter depending on when you go.
Shortly after this narrow canyon section, the trail descended some steps (that we didn't recall existed back in 2001) right down to the base of the falls. The edge of the plunge pool was the official end of the trail to the waterfall, but there we noticed other trails leading further into the canyon to other attractions like Lizard Rock. Since we didn't venture further downstream of the falls, we can't say more about that either.
The view of the falls from trail's end was a little blocked by a craggy protruding rock. However, we were able to cross the creek without getting our feet wet (though we did wear Gore-tex) to get to the other side where we got a full frontal view of Paradise Falls (as photographed at the top of this page). I'd guess that depending on waterflow, it's quite possible that the stream crossing might be deepr or shallower than what we've described so I'd imagine you'd want to assess your situation before you decide to cross.
On the return, we went back through the narrow canyon skirting above Indian Creek. Then we turned left and ascended a hill that led up to a teepee (note: there were two other trails connecting the teepee and waterfall). We then ascended a trail directly climbing from the teepee. Eventually, this trail led us back to the main trail, which in turn took us back to the Mesa Trail. Once we were on the Mesa Trail, we followed it back to the car park. We should mention that it was a good thing we had gotten an early start because the car park was quite crowded when we returned (attesting to the popularity of the falls).
To give you an idea of how long it took us to do this trail, we did a much shorter and direct out-and-back signposted trail with our baby daughter on a few occasions. That direct route only took us about a half-hour to 40 minutes each way, and I believe this shorter trail could very well be the official trail to Paradise Falls. So given this recent observation, I'm sure Julie and I will be taking this shorter, more official out-and-back trail on any more future visits to Paradise Falls. Otherwise, the slightly longer loop described on this page made the hike more like a 2- to 3-hour leisurely hike.
Late afternoon probably yielded the best lighting of Paradise Falls as the sun definitely added some life to the overall scene
On a recent visit, we figured out that we could visit Paradise Falls on the same day we could visit the McGrath Organic Farm and pick strawberries when in season. It was great fun for our daughter!
Looking back at the car park
Residences nearby the Wildwood Park
Context of the fire road and the trail as we were leaving the car
Natural gas pipe along the Mesa Trail
As we were Leaving the main trail (Mesa Trail?) and headed to Paradise Falls, signs indicated Lizard Rock was up ahead on that main trail. And after closer inspection of that rock up ahead, I can better appreciate how it got its name
Turning onto the straightforward route to the tee pee then to the falls
Taking the direct route (one of many routes) to Paradise Falls with our baby daughter in tow
Looking into Wildwood Canyon from the official Paradise Falls trail
Native American Cave
Descending down to the Teepee
The upper cascades and the main falls as seen from the narrow trail above Indian Creek
We didn't remember seeing these stairs the first time we were here
View of the Paradise Falls before crossing the creek
Mom crossing the creek over some reeds
The bubbly plunge pool before the falls. But before you decide to go in for a swim, realize that the pool was stagnant, dark, and smelly. We suspect there's some runoff pollution coming from the suburban developments draining into this stream.
Direct view of Paradise Falls as seen the first time we visited the falls in 2001. Notice how much cleaner the pool looked back then. You could even see some of the rocks submerged in the plunge pool!
The falls as seen from an angle partially obstructed by a rock the first time we visited the falls in 2001.
A more recent look at Paradise Falls in April 2016 under gorgeous weather
Lovely cliffs overlooking the Mesa Trail seen on the return hike
To get to the trailhead from Los Angeles, take US 101 into Thousand Oaks and exit at Lynn Road. From there, you head north (turning right from the off-ramp assuming you've exited the 101 west), then hang a left at Avenida de Los Arboles. Park at the car park for the Wildwood Park just as the road is about to turn right into a residential area.
Finally, if you're looking to find something about the Paradise Falls that was featured in the heartfelt movie Up, you'll want to check out Angel Falls. You may notice a pretty uncanny resemblance! :)
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