The Top 10 Best Southern California Waterfalls

Julie looks at Fish Canyon Falls
It was about time we put together a Top 10 Best Southern California Waterfalls List.

After having seen quite a number of waterfalls in our own backyard, we had a strong urge to take a step back and evaluate which ones we liked the most. And as usual, we had a real hard time coming up with this list because so much depends on experience (which is different for each person let alone each time you've come) and mood (again, which can be fickle and change on a whim). So here's our crack at this list, which is based on our own personal experiences (so the list is genuine). And we have to reiterate once again that this is by no means a permanent list as we intend collect more falls or re-visit some familiar ones from the hidden nooks and crannies of our local mountains. So without further adieu, here they are in reverse order...

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[Crestline, San Bernardino County]

10. HEART ROCK FALLS (SEELEY CREEK FALLS) [Crestline, San Bernardino County]
This was one of those waterfalls that left us scratching our heads. I mean, how in the randomness and chaos of Nature could there be a heart-shaped depression right next to this waterfall? But there it was in plain sight before our eyes, and with a shape that was so uncanny that it would make Cupid jealous. Sure the falls itself is diminutive, but sometimes it's more about heart and not about the size that matters. And we think it's certainly true in this case!

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[Altadena, Los Angeles County]

9. EATON CANYON FALLS [Altadena, Los Angeles County]
There aren't many year-round waterfalls in the Greater Los Angeles area. In fact, it's nice to know that even in very dry years, we're able to count on this waterfall to perform. But what makes this waterfall really stand out is how easy it is to access. Sure the trail maybe a little busy and crowded plus there seems to be a constant struggle to manage the graffiti problem here, but considering this falls is as close to an urban waterfall as you can get in LA and that it's free, I guess you gotta take the good with the bad. We think Angelinos should visit this falls at least once just to get a flavor of the wonderful nature in our own backyard.

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[Arcadia, Los Angeles County]

8. STURTEVANT FALLS [Arcadia, Los Angeles County]
Year-round waterfalls are very rare in Southern California, but this 50- or 60ft waterfall can be counted as one of them. I think this was the second waterfall that Julie ever took me to in our early days of waterfalling so there's a little bit of sentiment attached to it as well. While the hot and sunny upside-down hike as well as the combo of popularity and limited parking can take away from the experience, the algae coloring the wall behind the falls certainly makes this one of the more memorable local waterfalls we've seen.

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[Thousand Oaks, Ventura County]

7. PARADISE FALLS (WILDWOOD FALLS) [Thousand Oaks, Ventura County]
Thankfully this waterfall doesn't require a balloon ride to South America. Nope. All it takes it a bit of a drive towards Thousand Oaks where this 40ft waterfall is found amidst the suburban-fringed Wildwood Canyon. Julie and I remember this waterfall well because it was our first local waterfall together. But sentiment aside, there's also a Native American cave, a picnic area beneath a teepee, and some interesting rock formations to boot! It's places like this that remind us of how diverse and surprising Nature in the Greater Los Angeles area can be, and we have no qualms about including this falls on our list of local favorites.

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[Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara County]

6. TANGERINE FALLS (WEST FORK COLD SPRINGS FALLS) [Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara County]
This waterfall was a bit of a Valentine's treat for us when we had spent a weekend in the Santa Barbara area during that Hallmark Holiday. However, belying the romantism of Valentine's Day, we had to endure a bit of a scramble while trying to avoid poison oak exposure just to reach the falls. But once we got there, we found ourselves looking up at this slender 150ft falls against a backdrop of clear blue skies sprinkled with a paraglider here and there. When we turned around, an incredible vista of the Pacific against the horizon fronted by the classic Spanish-style rooftops that typify Santa Barbara architecture as the tree-lined canyon unfolded before us. To this day, I can close my eyes and still picture the surreal view of both the falls and the scenery behind me at the narrow overlook. It was local waterfalling at its finest, as far as I was concerned.

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[Malibu, Los Angeles County]

5. ESCONDIDO FALLS [Malibu, Los Angeles County]
For the longest time, we missed out on the best part of this falls. But once we finally laid eyes on the entirety of this gem of the Santa Monica Mountains, we were surprised by its scenic allure and character. Plus, the adventure it took to get here made us savor every bit of our experience as we certainly had to earn it. We do have to warn you that the adventure to see all of this waterfall is not for everyone, but those who do persevere are richly rewarded for their efforts. We certainly were!

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[Cleveland National Forest, San Diego County]

4. CEDAR CREEK FALLS [Cleveland National Forest, San Diego County]
When this falls is flowing, it's definitely a waterfall worth going out of your way for. Case in point? Mom and I did this as a very long day trip; and we savored the experience big time! If the timing is really right, you could even see a bonus waterfall (Mildred Falls) en route. And we're not the only ones who were impressed by this falls because apparently it's the most photographed waterfall in the greater San Diego area. The only downside is that this waterfall tends to have a short season (as it was dry on Julie's first visit to the falls). Nevertheless, if you add up all the good and the bad with this falls, we ended up having no trouble putting this waterfall this high on our list of local favorites.

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[Forest Falls, San Bernardino County]

3. BIG FALLS [Forest Falls, San Bernardino County]
This is said to be Southern California's tallest year-round waterfall. The year-round aspect alone makes this waterfall special in this typically arid region. However, its height and flow also makes this a waterfall for which we've gone out of our way more than once! While we had to earn our way to see some of the waterfall's hidden tiers, you need not go through such trouble to see most of its attractive sections. And we've noticed quite a few people who used this waterfall to just chill and have a picnic while being around its crystal clear stream.

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[Mt Baldy, San Bernardino County]

2. SAN ANTONIO FALLS [Mt Baldy, San Bernardino County]
Come to this waterfall when the snow of Mt Baldy (also known as Mt San Antonio) is in peak melt, and you're treated to an impressive waterfall display complete with three drops, including a waterwheel (in high flow) on its lowest drop. Add to that the alpine scenery of pine trees piercing the snow-blanketed hillsides and attractive vistas of the basin when you're looking downslope, and you have a very worthwhile reason to go waterfalling locally on the weekend. Over the years, this waterfall has grown on us due to its accessibility and its size. And when our daughter and my parents finally got to experience this beauty for themselves, the collective mood and family atmosphere that this falls induced pretty much gave it the leap it needed to go this high up on our local list of favorites!

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[Duarte, Los Angeles County]

1. FISH CANYON FALLS [Duarte, Los Angeles County]
When Julie first looked at this waterfall, then turned to me and put up five fingers, I knew we had witnessed a waterfall that's all too rare in the Southland - i.e. one that WoW'ed our jaded waterfall tastes. We were wondering if there was a local waterfall that had it all - the close proximity, the WoW! factor, and the reasonable accessibility. And not even the quarry limiting access, the trace amounts of graffiti, and the popularity of this hike could put a damper on our impression of this falls. Indeed, until we see another local waterfall that could impress us the way this one did, we're sticking by this choice as our favorite local waterfall.

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What's YOUR Top 10 List?

Have your own Top 10 List?

Or do you have a favorite waterfall?

Is there one (or more) waterfalls that you think should've been on this list?

Any waterfalls you feel that shouldn't have been on this list?

Everybody has an opinion. What's yours?

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What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Forest Falls 
How come Forest Falls wasn't included? While it is seasonal, it is very easy to view. You take Highway 38 out of Redlands. 15 miles past Redlands the highway …

Three Sisters Waterfall - San Diego, CA 
I was so surprised not to see the Three Sisters Waterfall in Descanso, CA (San Diego County) on your list & then remembered it's a fairly well kept secret. …

Great Falls of the Fox 
Sorry but Great Falls of the Fox is the best waterfall is Southern California. Main falls at the top is 100 feet tall tucked into an amazing gorge with …

Lytle Creek anyone?  
One of the best hikes out there. Off the 15 freeway and Sierra, this area offers beautiful streams and pools

Sapphire Falls is the best  
Try to hike to this falls, the best trail I ever went to. Not for beginner. I went to Holy Jim Falls , Bonita falls , Etiwanda Falls, Sturtevant Falls …

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