Temescal Canyon Falls is definitely one of those waterfalls that's close to civilization yet provides a bit of a sampler of the Nature found in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Julie and I actually visited this falls in the early Summer back in the early days of our waterfalling, but the disappointing waterflow and the haze obscuring the ocean views further on the trail kind of made it a not-so-memorable trip. So on our second visit in 2010, we went during a wet Winter, and the falls put on a pretty satisfactory display. Of course, this falls didn't knock our socks off as it was really a series of small 10ft or 15ft cascades beneath a footbridge. We also came here a third time in 2012 with our daughter as part of a company function, but the falls on that visit was disappointing as it had been an unusually dry year.
There were plenty of alternate trails as well as the continuation of the waterfall trail that would have taken us to the tops of the coastal foothills providing gorgeous ocean views when the air would be neither foggy nor hazy. Unfortunately for us, on none of our visits were we successful in getting those nice photos of the ocean views. Nonetheless, I suspect that the waterfalls would be more of a side attraction to those longer hikes, or at least a turnaround point if a shorter, less ambitious hike was desired.
Since this hike was so close to the urban sprawl (i.e. it was in Pacific Palisades, which was not very far from the Santa Monica Pier, and the busy Sunset Blvd cuts right across the entrance to the Temescal Gateway State Park), we shared the trail with lots of people each time we did it. Perhaps it was because all three times, we happened to come on the weekend. In any case, visitors ranged from toddlers and families to trail runners or more able-bodied collegiates (probably from relatively nearby UCLA) as well as locals.
Once we paid and displayed our ticket in the car (see directions below), we then walked towards the Stewart Hall Retreat Center, which was one of the buildings belonging to a retreat here. Apparently this retreat seemed to have various programs where participants could stay in the cabins nearby, and the walk initially passed by these cabins. We noted that the road looped towards the hall so when we saw the initial fork in the road, we realized that they both led to the same place.
Once we got to Steward Hall, the trail then began in earnest. From there, it was another 1.2 miles (2.4 miles round trip) of mostly uphill hiking with one stretch that was particularly slippery and narrow thanks to the pebbles and rocks gathered within the ruts and gullies formed from rain runoff. This steep stretch of trail was prone to slips and falls, especially on the return hike going back downhill. But after this steep part, the climb then flattened out and the trail then reached a footbridge.
This footbridge was where Temescal Canyon Falls' tiers were located both above and mostly below it. To get to the more significant lower tiers, I had to do a little more scrambling to get in front of them.
To get to the car park, take the 10 Freeway west of the 405 as it curves northwards and becomes Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Drive for another couple miles further north until you reach the light for Temescal Canyon Road. Turn right onto Temescal Canyon Road and take that road for another mile, going straight past Sunset Boulevard (2nd lane from the far left lane should let you go straight at the light) entering the Temescal Gateway State Park.
Take the park road as far as you can until you reach the car park near the Temescal Canyon Store. Since it's a state park, there's a $7 day use fee here (subject to change I'm sure, especially given the state's budget problems).