Fuller Mill Creek Falls

San Bernardino National Forest / Idyllwild, California, USA

About Fuller Mill Creek Falls


Hiking Distance: 1/4- to 1/2-mile round trip; scramble
Suggested Time: 30-45 minutes

Date first visited: 2017-02-12
Date last visited: 2017-02-12

Waterfall Latitude: 33.80228
Waterfall Longitude: -116.74929

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Fuller Mill Creek Falls was one of those obscure waterfalls that managed to elude us over the years.

It even managed to elude us on our first attempt at visiting the falls back in 2011 though in hindsight, I’m still scratching my head at how we managed to miss it.

Fuller_Mill_Creek_Falls_025_02122017 - Fuller Mill Creek Falls
Fuller Mill Creek Falls

Further adding to the rather elusive and perhaps forbidden nature of this falls was that Fuller Mill Creek also happened to be a prime habitat for the endangered mountain yellow-legged frog.

Their presence caused the forest service to enforce a closure of anywhere within 10ft of the creek from March 1 through October 31.

In other words, one could be issued a citation whenever an authority would find anyone violating the closure during the times when the falls would most likely flow.

I managed to make my quick visit in mid-February when there was still some residual snow near the shadier part of the Fuller Mill Creek Picnic Area.

Fuller_Mill_Creek_Falls_055_02122017 - Closure sign to protect endangered frog species at Fuller Mill Creek between March 1 and October 31
Closure sign to protect endangered frog species at Fuller Mill Creek between March 1 and October 31

I suspect that depending on the conditions, early to mid Winter could very well be the only legitimate time to make a visit to the Fuller Mill Creek Falls while it’s still flowing.

It’s either that or you’d have to wait until the frogs would be taken off the endangered species list (which I suspect would not be very likely).

Hiking to the Fuller Mill Creek Falls

As for visiting the Fuller Mill Creek Falls, we started by parking the car at the large pullout before the gate leading to the Fuller Mill Creek Picnic Area (see directions below).

From there, I carefully crossed the Highway 243 and promptly went to the east side of the Fuller Mill Creek bridge.

Fuller_Mill_Creek_Falls_003_02122017 - The trail following along Fuller Mill Creek as we pursued the Fuller Mill Creek Falls
The trail following along Fuller Mill Creek as we pursued the Fuller Mill Creek Falls

Then, I followed a fairly wide dirt path down towards a switchback where I then had to continue scrambling further upstream alongside the creek.

At this point, the trail disappeared and it was pretty much a scramble alongside Fuller Mill Creek.

The scramble was a bit rough as I had to negotiate fallen logs, wet rocks, and Fuller Mill Creek in full flow, which nearly touched the rocky banks.

Along the way, I noticed some intermediate waterfalls, which I couldn’t really tell if they were part of the main waterfall or not.

Fuller_Mill_Creek_Falls_009_02122017 - Context of some of the intermediate waterfalls just downstream of the Fuller Mill Creek Falls
Context of some of the intermediate waterfalls just downstream of the Fuller Mill Creek Falls

So in continuing this scramble, it persisted for a good 10-15 minutes before I finally saw the actual Fuller Mill Creek Falls.

The falls consisted of a short but wide drop fronting a taller more chute-like tier that I suspected was the main drop.

The best views that I was able to get of the main drop was pretty much from the middle of the Fuller Mill Creek, where a fallen log acted as an informal bridge.

I was also able to scramble closer to the main falls on the east side of the creek leading to a ledge pretty much adjacent to the main drop itself.

Fuller_Mill_Creek_Falls_047_02122017 - Closeup look at the main drop of the Fuller Mill Creek Falls
Closeup look at the main drop of the Fuller Mill Creek Falls

If not for the endangered species closure, I could totally envision this place being more of a spot to cool off as there were wading pools between the two waterfalls.

What went wrong on our prior attempts at visiting Fuller Mill Creek Falls?

In hindsight, I suspect that the first time Julie and I did this excursion, the trail-less scramble at the end of the dirt trail’s switchback led us further up the inclines and somewhat away from the creek.

Thus, it probably caused us to scramble past the Fuller Mill Creek Falls without noticing.

We wound up scrambling to a point where we saw a tiny 5-10ft falls that was unremarkable.

Fuller_Mill_Creek_022_04172011 - One of the unremarkable waterfalls on Fuller Mill Creek well upstream from the Fuller Mill Creek Falls
One of the unremarkable waterfalls on Fuller Mill Creek well upstream from the Fuller Mill Creek Falls

Then, the scrambling became even rougher further upstream as we had suspected something wasn’t quite right.

So the key takeaway from that experience was to follow the creek and don’t go too high up.

For if you do this, you can’t miss the falls.

Authorities

Fuller Mill Creek Falls resides in the San Bernardino National Forest near Idyllwild in Riverside County, California. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Fuller_Mill_Creek_Falls_002_02122017 - Approaching the bridge over Fuller Mill Creek
Fuller_Mill_Creek_Falls_003_02122017 - Following a wide dirt path as it descended from Hwy 243 towards the banks of Fuller Mill Creek
Fuller_Mill_Creek_Falls_005_02122017 - Signs like these were posted all along Fuller Mill Creek, especially after the dirt trail ended
Fuller_Mill_Creek_Falls_052_02122017 - Continuing along the trail alongside Fuller Mill Creek
Fuller_Mill_Creek_Falls_051_02122017 - This was the end of the dirt trail alongside Fuller Mill Creek at the switchback, and further progress involved doing a trail-less scramble
Fuller_Mill_Creek_Falls_050_02122017 - Context of the rough scramble that was necessary to get closer to the Fuller Mill Creek Falls
Fuller_Mill_Creek_Falls_010_02122017 - Looking towards some of the cascades fronting the Fuller Mill Creek Falls
Fuller_Mill_Creek_Falls_011_02122017 - Getting closer to the top two tiers of the Fuller Mill Creek Falls, but the scrambling became increasingly rougher
Fuller_Mill_Creek_Falls_014_02122017 - Trying to get closer to the main drop of Fuller Mill Creek Falls
Fuller_Mill_Creek_Falls_022_02122017 - Frontal look at the Fuller Mill Creek Falls
Fuller_Mill_Creek_Falls_033_02122017 - Looking down across the waterfall immediately downstream of the main drop of Fuller Mill Creek Falls
Fuller_Mill_Creek_Falls_042_02122017 - Broad frontal look at the Fuller Mill Creek Falls
Fuller_Mill_Creek_Falls_053_02122017 - Returning to the Hwy 243 after getting our fill of the Fuller Mill Creek Falls
Fuller_Mill_Creek_001_04172011 - Signage discussing the need to protect the Mountain Yellow-legged Frog along Fuller Mill Creek
Fuller_Mill_Creek_002_04172011 - Looking down towards Fuller Mill Creek from the road bridge along Hwy 243
Fuller_Mill_Creek_004_04172011 - Julie pursuing a way to access the Fuller Mill Creek Falls along Hwy 243
Fuller_Mill_Creek_006_04172011 - Julie going over some fallen trees in pursuit of the Fuller Mill Creek Falls
Fuller_Mill_Creek_008_04172011 - Julie hiking alongside the Fuller Mill Creek
Fuller_Mill_Creek_011_04172011 - Back in 2011, in our attempt to find the Fuller Mill Creek Falls, we managed to follow what we thought was a trail that caused us to skip the main falls altogether
Fuller_Mill_Creek_013_04172011 - Looking upstream at some rapids and cascades on Fuller Mill Creek during our failed attempt in 2011
Fuller_Mill_Creek_016_04172011 - We suspected that something was off when the scrambling kept getting steeper and roughter in our 2011 attempt at Fuller Mill Creek Falls
Fuller_Mill_Creek_023_04172011 - Context of the bouldery stream bed of Fuller Mill Creek as we saw numerous small cascades but nothing like the Fuller Mill Creek Falls
Fuller_Mill_Creek_027_04172011 - This unremarkable bouldery cascade was as far as we went to pursue the Fuller Mill Creek Falls in our failed 2011 attempt before turning back

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To reach Fuller Mill Creek Falls from downtown Los Angeles, we’d follow the I-10 Freeway east for about 80 miles (taking roughly 90 minutes) to the exit 100 at 8th Street in Banning.

We then headed south on 8th Street to West Lincoln Street and turned left (going east).

Fuller_Mill_Creek_Falls_056_02122017 - Context of the pullout before the gate leading to the Fuller Mill Creek Picnic Area near the bridge over the Fuller Mill Creek
Context of the pullout before the gate leading to the Fuller Mill Creek Picnic Area near the bridge over the Fuller Mill Creek

After about a half-mile, we turned right to go south on San Gorgonio Ave, which eventually kept left at the fork to become the Hwy 243.

At a little over 16 miles from the fork, we reached the pullout before the gate for the Fuller Mill Creek Picnic Area.

This was where we parked the car.

Overall, this drive took us about 2 hours.

Fuller_Mill_Creek_003_04172011 - This was where we stopped the car on our first attempt to visit the Fuller Mill Creek Falls
This was where we stopped the car on our first attempt to visit the Fuller Mill Creek Falls

For some additional context, Idyllwild was about 7.5 miles (15 minutes drive) southeast of the Fuller Mill Creek Picnic Area. Palm Springs was about 40 miles (roughly an hour drive) east of the Fuller Mill Creek Picnic Area.

Upstream to downstream sweep of the full context of the falls from a spot before i made the tricky scramble to get closer


Video showing the lower drop from different angles before scrambling to a direct view of the main falls while also showing more of that downstream falls


Upstream to downstream sweep from the little ledge right besides the main drop of the falls

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Tagged with: idyllwild, san bernardino, riverside county, mountain yellow-legged frog, closed, fuller mill creek, forest order



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Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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