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 ado, here they are in reverse order…
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.
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.
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.
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 romanticism 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.
Once we got there, we found ourselves looking up at this slender 150ft falls against a backdrop of clear blue skies sprinkled with a para-glider 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.
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!
Of the waterfalls we’ve included on this list, perhaps none can match the kind of thrill and exertion that this waterfall adventure required.
Indeed, we had to earn our visit with this three-tiered beauty that involved steep climbs, clinging onto slippery boulders, hanging onto ropes, and using all four of our limbs to go both down and up this strenuous upside-down hike.
And while we tend to remember most the adventure, the waterfall itself was certainly no slouch as you can see in the photo.
With three impressive drops over smooth granite rock walls (for a grand total of roughly 150ft or so), we knew that we were richly rewarded for our efforts.
Thus, we just had to make room for this waterfall that was every bit as quintessential San Diego as the next entry on this list…
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!
Of course several years later, Julie and I came back when she finally got to see this waterfall flow for the first time after a couple of failed attempts in the past.
Indeed, if the timing is really right, you could even see a bonus waterfall (Mildred Falls) en route if you take the trail from the Julian side.
And even if you take the trail from the Ramona side, you’ll be richly rewarded with gorgeous views of the San Diego River and the pretty mountains backing the basin.
Certainly, 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.
So given this well-deserved reputation, we had no trouble putting this waterfall this high on our list of local favorites.
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.
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!
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.
Looking for more of our favorites?
Below are a few more Top 10 lists of the waterfalls we’ve visited.