About Placerita Creek Falls
Placerita Creek Falls (also known as the Los Pinetos Waterfall since it was near the Los Pinetos Canyon) was another one of those waterfalls that we had procrastinated on visiting for one reason or another.
Being close to the I-5 and Hwy 14 junction in Newhall, we had always passed by this place for one reason or another.
Whether it was drought and the lack-of-faith that this waterfall would be flowing, or we were trying to get to the US 395 en route to the Eastern Sierras, we never really found the time nor the will to visit this waterfall after all our years of local waterfalling.That all changed on a recent weekend visit after a week-long storm system finally cleared out and we made a visit to this rather obscure waterfall happen. And even then, we had to race the onset of darkness with the shortened days of the Winter in Southern California.
So the reward for our efforts?
Well, we were treated to a pleasant and secluded 25ft sloping waterfall that we managed to have all to ourselves.
We were even treated to scenery that kind of reminded me of the wrinkly hills seen in the San Diego River basin near Ramona and the Cedar Creek Falls.
Although we could have done a much longer 5.5-mile round trip hike from the Placerita Canyon Nature Center, we did our excursion from the Walker Ranch Trailhead (see directions below), which made for a round-trip distance of 2.4 miles.
It took us nearly two hours to do the hike because it did involve a fair bit of stream crossing and scrambling as we got further up Placerita Canyon.
Walker Ranch Trailhead to the Waterfall Trail
From the gate at the Walker Ranch Trailhead, we followed the closed road down to the Placerita Creek basin, where we traversed a wash that clearly had water in it. 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).Going past the signage indicating that we were now on the waterfall trail, the open terrain briefly followed alongside Placerita Creek before more signage had us going up a slope and some steps and onto 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.
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.
The Placerita Creek Falls Adventure
Beyond the first cascade obstacle, the trail pretty much crossed the Placerita Creek several times.
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.
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. We didn’t pursue it.
After a final bend around to the left on Placerita Creek, we finally arrived at the sloping waterfall. There was a closure sign a few yards before the base of the falls, and 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.
Placerita Creek Falls sat in the Placerita Canyon County Park. For information or inquiries about the park as well as current conditions, visit the Placerita Canyon Nature Center website or the LA County Parks and Recreation site.
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).
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.
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.
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