Aliso Viejo Waterfall

Foxborough Park / Aliso Viejo / Irvine, California, USA

About Aliso Viejo Waterfall

Hiking Distance: 1/4-mile round trip
Suggested Time: 15 minutes

Date first visited: 2017-01-02
Date last visited: 2017-01-02

Waterfall Latitude: 33.56786
Waterfall Longitude: -117.71858

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The Aliso Viejo Waterfall was something that I would have never guessed would exist as it sat amidst a bustling and continually sprawling suburban area. Indeed, in well-developed cities like this, where developers would prefer rolling hills and flatlands over steep canyons and mountains, waterfalls in such environs were quite rare. So with the unfavorable geology along the Aliso Creek drainage around the falls, even having this waterfall was a bit of a minor miracle despite its modest 5ft or so drop. Even though Aliso Creek had a fairly sizable watershed starting from the Santa Ana Mountains and fed by seven tributaries, it tended to have pretty sporadic and short-lived flow (typically shortly after heavy rainfall or at least after a series of storms to ensure the creek had enough water). I guess the combination of the geology, the short viewing window, and the poor water quality of Aliso Creek (which I’ll get to later), there was little wonder in why this place wasn’t more well known, especially given how many people lived around it and how easily accessible it was.

Speaking of accessing this waterfall, once we pulled up to the cul-de-sac at the entry of the Journey School (see directions below), it was a short stroll across the Foxborough Park to access the Aliso Creek Regional Bikeway, Riding and Hiking Trail. This was essentially a paved two-lane trail that skirted alongside Aliso Creek. We headed to our right to proceed along this trail in the downstream direction, and shortly after the vegetation started to conceal Aliso Creek, there was a path flanked by sticks between tall bush leading to both the brink and ultimately the base of the Aliso Creek Falls. It turned out that it probably took 15 minutes away from the car to fully experience this falls, making this spot pretty family friendly, especially if bringing kids. We probably could have continued along the paved part of the trail like so many other families and recreationalists did for a little more exercise though it wasn’t necessary in terms of experiencing the Aliso Viejo Waterfall itself.

While we stood before the falls, we had to keep a close eye on our daughter who gravitated towards its foamy and smelly plunge pool. Indeed, despite the child-friendliness of the trail and the falls itself, the foul odor of the water definitely made us a bit concerned about the water quality of Aliso Creek and the possible bacteria levels that our daughter would be exposed to if she wasn’t diligent about washing her hands or spending too much time around the spray of the falls. I guess the pollution shouldn’t be surprising given how many communities further upstream would discharge urban runoff and wastewater into the creek. These communities included Mission Viejo and Laguna Hills among others. Yet even with the bad water quality, I did notice some interesting birds and ducks swimming in the calmer parts of the creek, which suggested that Aliso Creek might also act as somewhat of a wildlife sanctuary amidst the urban jungle.

Finally, while examining the underlying surface beneath Aliso Creek at the waterfall, I couldn’t help but wonder if this waterfall really bordered on being legitimate or not. I say this because it appeared that there was some kind of dirt-like concrete spread over boulders as well as the gaps between them. It was hard to tell whether this was man-made concrete or some kind of naturally occuring bedrock. However, from examining the surface from the top of the falls, it seemed to me to be manmade. Whatever the case, if it wasn’t for this surface, this waterfall would have been nothing more than a stream weaving between the gaps in the boulders. In the end, I gave the benefit of the doubt in the scenic rating score for this waterfall though it could easily be downgraded to 0 if indeed this waterfall turned out to be manmade.

Aliso_Viejo_Falls_001_01022017 - This was the cul-de-sac at the end of Foxborough Street, where both the entrance to Journey School and Foxborough Park were situated
Aliso_Viejo_Falls_003_01022017 - Following the walkway through Foxborough Park
Aliso_Viejo_Falls_005_01022017 - Julie and Tahia about to enter the Aliso Creek Regional Bikeway, Riding, and Hiking Trail
Aliso_Viejo_Falls_009_01022017 - The paved trail flanks Aliso Creek, which passed by this surprisingly scenic pocket of Nature amidst the suburban developments of Aliso Viejo
Aliso_Viejo_Falls_014_01022017 - Some birds and ducks swimming in Aliso Creek despite the poor water quality
Aliso_Viejo_Falls_017_01022017 - At this part of the paved trail, the vegetation started to conceal Aliso Creek, but soon thereafter was the turnoff leading to Aliso Viejo Falls
Aliso_Viejo_Falls_022_01022017 - This was the unpaved spur path leading to the Aliso Viejo Waterfall
Aliso_Viejo_Falls_023_01022017 - Julie and Tahia checking out the brink of the Aliso Viejo Waterfall
Aliso_Viejo_Falls_050_01022017 - Julie and Tahia checking out the Aliso Viejo Waterfall
Aliso_Viejo_Falls_060_01022017 - Looking across the Aliso Viejo Waterfall though I had to admit that the spray from the water emitted a pretty foul smell here
Aliso_Viejo_Falls_068_01022017 - Tahia deciding to scramble up a harder path instead of going around and taking the easier path between the plateau I was on and the plunge pool
Aliso_Viejo_Falls_090_01022017 - Looking more closely at the seemingly man-made surface covering and filling in the gaps between the rocks and boulders spanning the Aliso Viejo Waterfall
Aliso_Viejo_Falls_100_01022017 - After having our fill of the Aliso Viejo Waterfall, we headed back along the paved trail
Aliso_Viejo_Falls_101_01022017 - Looking across Foxborough Park towards some homes or condos perched atop the hillside from the paved trail
Aliso_Viejo_Falls_106_01022017 - Julie and Tahia going back across Foxborough Park to our parked car


For us, the easiest way to get here (and avoid the toll roads) was to follow the I-5 south beyond Tustin and Irvine, and heading towards Mission Viejo. We got off the I-5 Freeway at the Alicia Parkway, then turned right to head south in the direction of the ocean. We remained on Alicia Parkway for about 2.5 miles (passing by a few traffic lights) before turning right onto Pacific Park Drive. Once on Pacific Park Drive, we then kept left and turned left onto Deerhurst after a quarter-mile from Alicia Parkway.

Once on Deerhurst, we passed between a few condo communities before making another left onto Foxborough after about another quarter-mile. We then followed Foxborough all the way to its cul-de-sac where we found street parking right near the entrance to both Foxborough Park and Journey School.

Overall, this drive was roughly 50 miles from Downtown Los Angeles (which would take about an hour without traffic). The drive would be around 15 miles (or a little less than 30 minutes) from Irvine, and it would be about 8 miles or 15 minutes drive from Laguna Beach.

Looking over the brink of the short falls before scrambling down to its base

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Tagged with: aliso viejo, aliso creek, waterfall, orange county, irvine, laguna, san joaquin hills, lake forest, mission viejo, suburban, journey school, polluted

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