Southern California Waterfalls (Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara)

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Southern California Waterfalls may be one of the most surprising aspects about this part of California, which is better known for sunny weather, sandy beaches, cultural diversity, fine restaurants, Hollywood, and the list goes on and on. Being Los Angeles residents, Julie and I have been fortunate enough to experience these very things that make the City of Angels as dynamic and vibrant as it is. Obviously, it's quite easy to be occupied with anything but waterfalls, but believe it or not, it was the waterfalls that brought us closer to nature in our own backyard, and it even made us more aware of the many gems (both waterfalling and non-waterfalling) found in the Greater Los Angeles area.

In fact, most of the waterfalls that we've seen are reasonably within a day trip from where we live. We've been to many of these waterfalls as short half-day or full day trips on a Saturday or Sunday when we feel we needed some exercise or a break from our hectic big city lives. Really the only things holding us back from making these visits even more frequent would be the infamous LA traffic, the heat or amount of water, and the parking as most of the waterfalls are very popular attractions.

Tenaja Falls This section encompasses waterfalls found as far north as Santa Barbara County, as far south as San Diego County, and as far east as San Bernardino County. Even though we're covering a lot of real estate here, like I said earlier, you'll find that a vast majority of them can be seen in a day (if you're from or staying in Los Angeles). At most, we might have to spend one night outside of LA before going home to get to some of the more far out waterfalls in the region.

To make listing on this page a bit more manageable, we're breaking up the Southern California Waterfalls region into the following subregions - Inland Empire and Orange County, San Diego, San Gabriel Mountains, Santa Barbara, and Santa Monica Mountains.

The Inland Empire and Orange County region covers a large chunk of real-estate east of the I-15 in the San Bernardino Mountains, the San Jacinto Mountains near Palm Springs, and the Santa Ana Mountains backing the OC itself as well as the southern parts of the Inland Empire. With the exception of the San Bernardino Mountains, the rest of this section tends to be feast or famine when it comes to precipitation. So visiting waterfalls like Tenaja Falls and Tahquitz Falls would require a bit of cooperation from Winter rains or snows in order for these waterfalls to perform.

Cedar Creek Falls The San Diego region consists of the waterfalls that we've managed to find in the Greater San Diego County and the mountains backing it. Since this part of the state tends to be very dry, all the waterfalls that we're aware of in this area would require well-timed visits after a wet Winter or immediately after a storm. Still, we've managed to visit some of the state's more dramatic waterfalls here, such as Cedar Creek Falls and Three Sisters Falls.

The San Gabriel Mountains area perhaps encompasses the majority of the more dependable waterfalls as far as we're concerned given the extensive drainages and tendency for this part of the Southland to see more rain and snow than other parts of the basin. Even in times of drought, we've found ourselves re-visiting year-round waterfalls like Eaton Canyon Falls and Sturtevant Falls among others. However, deeper into the extensive mountain chain within the Angeles National Forest, we were pleasantly surprised by how wild and remote some of the scenery and waterfalls were despite being so close to the city (e.g. Cooper Canyon Falls comes to mind). This area also benefits from waterfalls that could be timed for snowmelt, especially since we can see from the LA Basin whether the mountains here have snow or not. So we've managed to time visits to places like San Antonio Falls, as a result. We're grouping the waterfalls in this region geographically as being between the I-5 to the west and the I-15 to the east.

The Santa Barbara region covers the vicinity of the city of Santa Barbara as well as some of the surrounding lands in the Los Padres National Forest. We've also included in this region Solvang to the west as well as Ojai to the east. Many of the waterfalls that we've seen here tend to require timing as the mountains here seem to experience less precipitation than in other mountains of Southern California. Among some of the notable waterfalls we've seen here include Tangerine Falls and Rose Valley Falls.

Finally, the Santa Monica Mountains covers most of the waterfalls that Julie and I have seen west of the Greater Los Angeles Area. This includes the mountains backing Malibu on the coastal side and Thousand Oaks on the inland side. Among some of the waterfalls that we've here include Paradise Falls and Escondido Falls. Like with the waterfalls around Santa Barbara County, the majority of waterfalls here are also reliant on the temperamental precipitation totals in the Winter months. So we don't get out to these waterfalls as often as we'd like to with a few exceptions.

Julie and I (as well as many members of our family) have seen so many waterfalls locally that we were able to compile a Top 10 Best Southern California Waterfalls list. We're always keen to update it with more local waterfalling excursions. This list is by no means etched in stone.

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To get a glimpse of what each waterfall looks like, check out the table below. Click on the waterfalls to read more about them.

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Inland Empire and Orange County

Heart Rock Falls 2 Heart Rock Falls
near Crestline

Big Falls 2.5 Big Falls
Forest Falls / San Bernardino Mountains

Tenaja Falls 1.5 Tenaja Falls
near Lake Elsinore / Cleveland National Forest

Ortega Falls 1 Ortega Falls
near Lake Elsinore / Cleveland National Forest

Holy Jim Falls 1 Holy Jim Falls
Rancho Santa Margarita / Cleveland National Forest

Tahquitz Falls 2 Tahquitz Falls
Palm Springs / Agua Caliente Indian Reservation

Cold Creek Falls 1 "Cold Creek Falls"
Angelus Oaks / San Bernardino National Forest

San Juan Falls 0.5 San Juan Falls
near Lake Elsinore / Cleveland National Forest

Falls Canyon Falls 1.5 Falls Canyon Falls
Rancho Santa Margarita / Cleveland National Forest

San Antonio Falls 2.5 San Antonio Falls
Mt Baldy / Angeles National Forest

Bonita Falls 2 Bonita Falls
Rancho Cucamonga / San Bernardino National Forest

Etiwanda Falls 1 Etiwanda Falls
Rancho Cucamonga / North Etiwanda Preserve

Aliso Viejo Waterfall 0.5 Aliso Viejo Waterfall
near Laguna Beach and Irvine

Dana Point Waterfall 1 Dana Point Waterfall
Dana Point / near Laguna Niguel

Murray Canyon Falls 2 Murray Canyon Falls
Palm Springs

West Fork Falls 1 West Fork Falls
Palm Springs

Fuller Mill Creek Falls 1.5 Fuller Mill Creek Falls
Idyllwild / San Bernardino National Forest

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San Diego

Kitchen Creek Falls 2 Kitchen Creek Falls
Boulder Oaks / Cleveland National Forest

Cedar Creek Falls 3 Cedar Creek Falls
near Julian / Cleveland National Forest

Mildred Falls 1 Mildred Falls
near Julian / Cleveland National Forest

Jack Creek Falls 0.5 Jack Creek Falls

Three Sisters Falls 2.5 Three Sisters Falls
near Julian / near Descanso / Cleveland National Forest

Cottonwood Creek Falls 1 Cottonwood Creek Falls
Pine Valley / near Mt Laguna

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San Gabriel Mountains

Eaton Canyon Falls 2 Eaton Canyon Falls
Altadena / Pasadena

Trail Canyon Falls 2 Trail Canyon Falls
near Sunland / Angeles National Forest

Millard Falls 1.5 Millard Falls
near Pasadena / Angeles National Forest

Monrovia Canyon Falls 1.5 Monrovia Canyon Falls

Sturtevant Falls 2 Sturtevant Falls
near Arcadia / Angeles National Forest

Switzer Falls 2 Switzer Falls
La Canada Flintridge / Angeles National Forest

Cooper Canyon Falls 1.5 Cooper Canyon Falls
Buckhorn Campground / Angeles National Forest

Soldier Falls 1 Soldier Creek Falls
Crystal Lake / Angeles National Forest

Fish Canyon Falls 3 Fish Canyon Falls
near Irwindale / Angeles National Forest

Hermit Falls 1.5 Hermit Falls
near Arcadia / Angeles National Forest

Bailey Canyon Falls 0.5 Bailey Canyon Falls
Sierra Madre

Buckhorn Falls 2 Buckhorn Falls
Buckhorn Campground / Angeles National Forest

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Santa Barbara

Rose Valley Falls 2 Rose Valley Falls
near Ojai / Los Padres National Forest

Nojoqui Falls 2 Nojoqui Falls
near Solvang / Santa Barbara County

Tangerine Falls (West Fork Cold Springs Falls) 2 Tangerine Falls (West Fork Cold Springs Falls)
near Santa Barbara / Los Padres National Forest

Seven Falls 0.5 Seven Falls and Mission Falls
near Santa Barbara / Los Padres National Forest

Portrero John Falls 2 Portrero John Falls
near Ojai / Los Padres National Forest

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Santa Monica Mountains

Paradise Falls 2 Paradise Falls (Wildwood Falls)
Wildwood Park / Thousand Oaks

Solstice Canyon Falls 1 Solstice Canyon Falls
Malibu / Santa Monica Mountains

Sycamore Canyon Falls 1.5 Sycamore Canyon Falls
Malibu / Santa Monica Mountains

Escondido Falls 2.5 Escondido Falls
Malibu / Santa Monica Mountains

A dry La Jolla Canyon Falls 0.5 La Jolla Canyon Falls
Malibu / Santa Monica Mountains

Newton Canyon Falls 1 Newton Canyon Falls
Malibu / Santa Monica Mountains

Temescal Canyon Falls 0.5 Temescal Canyon Falls
Pacific Palisades / Santa Monica Mountains

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Have You Been To A California Waterfall?

Share your experience!

Click here to see general visitor comments for this region

Click here to see visitor comments for waterfalls that we've visited in this region

You can use the form below, but if you find our host's interface too troublesome to use (especially if you're trying to upload photos), then just send a text submission anyways using the form, but also let us know that you'd like to attach photos. If you've provided an email address via the form, then we can reply back acknowledging your request, and you can then reply to that email with your photo attachments. We're very sorry about this, but there's not much we can do about SBI's terrible interface.

Have comments (or would like to read other people's comments) about the waterfalls in this region? Click here

Or have comments (or would like to read other people's comments) about a particular waterfall in this region? Click here

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