Placerita Creek Falls

Newhall / Placerita Canyon State Park, California, USA

About Placerita Creek Falls


Hiking Distance: 2.4 miles round trip with minor stream scramble
Suggested Time: about 90-120 minutes

Date first visited: 2019-01-19
Date last visited: 2019-01-19

Waterfall Latitude: 34.36864
Waterfall Longitude: -118.44206

Placerita Creek Falls (also known as the Los Pinetos Waterfall since it was near the Los Pinetos Canyon) was a quaint and secluded 25ft sloping waterfall.

We definitely had to earn our visit with a bit of a hike and scramble as well as some good fortune with the timing.

Placerita_Canyon_092_01192019 - Placerita Creek Falls
Placerita Creek Falls

Indeed, this was one of those waterfalls that we had procrastinated on visiting for one reason or another as a result of circumstances that didn’t favor it until January 2019.

With the falls being close to the I-5 and Hwy 14 junction in Newhall, we had always had opportunities to check it out, especially when driving up the Hwy 395.

However, we had never bothered to stop by or make the detour due to drought as well as the lack of faith that the falls would be performing when we finally had some time to stop by.

Typically, we’d be on a long drive to reach the Eastern Sierras (especially in the Summer) when the falls would likely not be flowing.

Placerita_Canyon_058_01192019 - Julie and Tahia stream scrambling along Placerita Creek en route to the Placerita Creek Falls
Julie and Tahia stream scrambling along Placerita Creek en route to the Placerita Creek Falls

Regardless, when we finally did get a chance to visit the Placerita Creek Falls, we found the experience to be pleasant as we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

That said, we did have to hike a round-trip distance of 2.4 miles from the Walker Ranch Trailhead, which involved a fair bit of stream scrambling and route-finding.

It took us nearly two hours to do the hike as a result of the fairly rough hiking, especially towards the end in the confines of Placerita Canyon.

There also seemed to be more people at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center, where a longer 5.5-mile round-trip hike involving the same obstacles we had to go through could have been done for a more involved adventure.

Placerita Creek Falls Trail Description – from the Walker Ranch Trailhead to the Waterfall Trail

Placerita_Canyon_011_01192019 - Julie and Tahia hiking amongst some wrinkly hills after passing through the fence by the Walker Ranch Trailhead en route to the Placerita Creek Falls
Julie and Tahia hiking amongst some wrinkly hills after passing through the fence by the Walker Ranch Trailhead en route to the Placerita Creek Falls

From the gate at the Walker Ranch Trailhead, we followed the closed road down to the Placerita Creek basin.

We then traversed a wash that clearly had water in it during our visit, but I’d imagine that at most other times, this wash would typically be dry.

On the other side of the wash, we then kept left at a trail junction.

The right fork of this junction was the so-called Canyon Trail that led past the picnic area and would eventually return to the busy Placerita Canyon Nature Center (i.e. the longer aforementioned hike).

Placerita_Canyon_020_01192019 - Crossing the wash on Placerita Creek to rejoin the Placerita Canyon Trail from the Walker Ranch Trailhead
Crossing the wash on Placerita Creek to rejoin the Placerita Canyon Trail from the Walker Ranch Trailhead

Going past the signage indicating that we were now on the waterfall trail, the open terrain briefly followed alongside Placerita Creek.

Eventually, the trail signage had us going up a slope and some steps before following along a ledge.

The ledge trail eventually descended back down alongside the Placerita Creek after going past some signposted patches of poison oak, which were apparently quite common in this area.

As the canyon walls closed in and the trail once again followed alongside the creek side-by-side, it didn’t take long before we encountered a cascade obstacle.

Placerita_Canyon_048_01192019 - Tahia and Julie climbing to the left side of an intermediate waterfall obstacle as the hike to Placerita Creek Falls started to get rougher
Tahia and Julie climbing to the left side of an intermediate waterfall obstacle as the hike to Placerita Creek Falls started to get rougher

If we didn’t care about getting our feet wet, I’m sure some people would be tempted to climb directly up this waterfall.

However, we saw that we were able to climb up the left side of this cascade.

Although the footing was slippery, there were enough flat spots to get a foothold to continue climbing.

Placerita Creek Falls Trail Description – the stream scramble adventure

Beyond the first cascade obstacle, the trail pretty much crossed the Placerita Creek several times.

Placerita_Canyon_062_01192019 - In hindsight, we shouldn't have taken the steps on the topleft of this photo, which led us to a badly eroded ledge trail. Instead, it was wiser to just stick to the creek at this point
In hindsight, we shouldn’t have taken the steps on the topleft of this photo, which led us to a badly eroded ledge trail. Instead, it was wiser to just stick to the creek at this point

In some stretches, the trail briefly climbed up above the creek’s embankments before going back down and across the running water.

However, there was one particular noteworthy spot where we went up some steps on the left side of Placerita Creek.

Above these steps, the trail narrowly hugged a ledge that became badly eroded the further we went.

Eventually, we saw that continuing on in this manner was unsafe so we had to backtrack and just do the stream scramble once we got back to stream level.

Placerita_Canyon_068_01192019 - Tahia crossing Placerita Creek as Placerita Canyon continued to narrow en route to Placerita Creek Falls
Tahia crossing Placerita Creek as Placerita Canyon continued to narrow en route to Placerita Creek Falls

Not long after stream scrambling beyond this misleading stairs to the ledge, the trail then encountered a confluence with some unnamed creek.

We kept right at this junction to continue on the main Placerita Creek.

We did notice that someone put graffiti on a rock saying “Dat Way” leading into the unnamed creek.

Whether there really was something in that direction or if it was just a gangster’s joke would be left to the interested adventurer as we didn’t bother pursuing it.

Placerita_Canyon_138_01192019 - We didn't bother taking this fork in the converging streams in our pursuit of the Placerita Creek Falls
We didn’t bother taking this fork in the converging streams in our pursuit of the Placerita Creek Falls

After a final bend around to the left on Placerita Creek, we finally arrived at the sloping Placerita Creek Falls.

There was a closure sign a few yards before the base of the falls.

However, it appeared to be there to discourage people from getting all the way up to the falls or to attempt to climb beyond the falls.

Authorities

Placerita Creek Falls sat in the Placerita Canyon County Park near Santa Clarita in Los Angeles County, California. It is administered by the County of Los Angeles. For information or inquiries about the park as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Placerita_Canyon_007_01192019 - Walking along Placerita Canyon Road towards the Walker Ranch Trailhead
Placerita_Canyon_008_01192019 - Julie and Tahia approaching the gate at the Walker Ranch Trailhead
Placerita_Canyon_014_01192019 - Descending the trail into the Placerita Creek Basin with knobby hills reminiscent of the scenery of the San Diego River Basin near Ramona
Placerita_Canyon_022_01192019 - Picnic area by the Canyon Trail and Walker Ranch Trailhead access trail junction after we had crossed Placerita Creek
Placerita_Canyon_023_01192019 - Looking towards the Waterfall Trail, which continued past these signs
Placerita_Canyon_030_01192019 - Julie and Tahia following the Waterfall Trail, which went through a pretty wide open area alongside Placerita Creek
Placerita_Canyon_031_01192019 - Julie and Tahia continuing on the Waterfall Trail, which remained mostly flat and out in the open
Placerita_Canyon_033_01192019 - Eventually, the Waterfall Trail to Placerita Creek Falls briefly climbed up towards a ledge bypassing a lot of the poison oak and debris from flash floods and other consequences of being in the wash down below
Placerita_Canyon_035_01192019 - Julie on the ledge trail where we were perched above the wash of the Placerita Creek basin
Placerita_Canyon_042_01192019 - Julie helping Tahia get over a deadfall when the ledge trail descended back down alongside Placerita Creek
Placerita_Canyon_044_01192019 - Eventually after the ledge trail rejoined Placerita Creek, the canyon closed in and both the trail and creek were running side by side
Placerita_Canyon_051_01192019 - Looking back at Tahia and Julie doing some stream scrambling on Placerita Creek immediately above the first intermediate waterfall obstacle
Placerita_Canyon_052_01192019 - We noticed this '32K' graffiti along the hike though I'm not quite sure what it was supposed to mean, but tagging was definitely an unfortunate aspect of Nature that was relatively close to urban areas
Placerita_Canyon_060_01192019 - Looking up at Tahia making it beyond the second slippery cascade obstacle on Placerita Creek
Placerita_Canyon_065_01192019 - When we didn't know any better, we climbed up some misleading steps and onto this ledge trail, which became badly eroded the further we went en route to Placerita Creek Falls
Placerita_Canyon_066_01192019 - This guy had the right idea by stream scrambling to avoid the eroded ledge trail that we had taken en route to Placerita Creek Falls
Placerita_Canyon_073_01192019 - Julie and Tahia finally approaching the Placerita Creek Falls
Placerita_Canyon_077_01192019 - A closure sign discouraging any further progress (or at least discouraging people from climbing the cliffs to get up beyond the Placerita Creek Falls)
Placerita_Canyon_085_01192019 - Tahia continuing to scramble closer to the Placerita Creek Falls
Placerita_Canyon_087_01192019 - Tahia finally making it up to the Placerita Creek Falls or the Los Pinetos Waterfall
Placerita_Canyon_106_01192019 - Looking directly at the Placerita Creek Falls
Placerita_Canyon_127_01192019 - Nature shot of the attractive Placerita Creek Falls
Placerita_Canyon_134_01192019 - Tahia and Julie making their way back downstream after having our fill of the Placerita Creek Falls
Placerita_Canyon_141_01192019 - The Placerita Creek Falls excursion wasn't over as we still had to stream scramble our way out
Placerita_Canyon_149_01192019 - Tahia and Julie about to descend the second cascade obstacle, which seemed trickier going down than it was going up
Placerita_Canyon_156_01192019 - Tahia and Julie about to descend the first cascade obstacle, which was also a bit trickier going down than coming up
Placerita_Canyon_158_01192019 - Julie and Tahia continuing to walk downstream alongside the Placerita Creek as the Placerita Canyon started opening up again during our return hike
Placerita_Canyon_168_01192019 - Descending back down to the wide open basin after having had our fill of the Placerita Creek Falls as daylight was fading fast on our way back to the Walker Ranch Trailhead
Placerita_Canyon_172_01192019 - Looking towards a big moon, which was said to be eclipsed come this time tomorrow during our January 2019 visit
Placerita_Canyon_177_01192019 - Julie and Tahia approaching the crossing of Placerita Creek on our way back up to the Walker Ranch Trailhead
Placerita_Canyon_187_01192019 - Julie and Tahia on the final climb leading back up to the Walker Ranch Trailhead to end our Placerita Creek Falls adventure
Placerita_Canyon_190_01192019 - Returning to our parked car along Placerita Canyon road
Placerita_Canyon_196_01192019 - On our way out of Placerita Canyon, we did make a brief stop at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center just to see what this place was all about
Placerita_Canyon_207_01192019 - Looking towards the water tank at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center.  It turned out that the Canyon Trail to Waterfall Trail was closed had we started from here so we did the right thing by starting at the Walker Ranch Trailhead.
Placerita_Canyon_218_01192019 - Looking towards this interestingly big tree at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center

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Placerita Creek Falls could be accessed from either the Placerita Canyon Nature Center or from the Walker Ranch Trailhead – both of which were near Newhall in Santa Clarita.

We’ll describe the directions to both since they’re close to each other.

From downtown Los Angeles, we’d drive northwest on the I-5 for about 23 miles before eventually leaving the Los Angeles Basin shortly after the I-405 joins up with it near Sylmar.

Keeping to the rightmost lanes, we then took the Hwy 14 (Antelope Highway) north before leaving the freeway at the Placerita Canyon Road exit (roughly 2 miles from the start of the Hwy 14).

Placerita_Canyon_216_01192019 - Looking back at the parking lot for the Placerita Canyon Nature Center, where the longer hike to Placerita Creek Falls began
Looking back at the parking lot for the Placerita Canyon Nature Center, where the longer hike to Placerita Creek Falls began

Once on Placerita Canyon Road, we turned right to go east and follow this road for a few minutes.

At about 1.5 miles east on Placerita Canyon Road, there was the well-signed turnoff for the Placerita Canyon Nature Center, which would yield the longer hike to Placerita Creek Falls.

However, continuing on Placerita Canyon Road for another 1.5 miles, we then reached a gate for the Walker Ranch Trailhead.

Since there was no parking allowed around that gate, we had to go a little further to the east where there was a pullout with enough room for perhaps a half-dozen or more cars.

Placerita_Canyon_005_01192019 - The pullout along Placerita Canyon Road near the Walker Ranch Trailhead, which was the start of the shorter hike to the Placerita Creek Falls
The pullout along Placerita Canyon Road near the Walker Ranch Trailhead, which was the start of the shorter hike to the Placerita Creek Falls

Once we got out of the car, we then walked back towards the gate and descended onto the trail from there.

To give you a sense of context and distances, Santa Clarita was 37 miles southwest of Palmdale, about 110 miles (under 90 minutes drive) south of Bakersfield, and 33 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Right to left sweep starting with a more contextual look at the falls before scrambling closer for a different look


More focused on the comprehensive look at the falls as Julie and Tahia were making their way downstream

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Tagged with: antelope freeway, hwy 14, newhall, placerita canyon nature center, walker ranch, california, waterfall, los pinetos waterfall, placerita canyon state park



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

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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