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: -118.45713

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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.

Placerita_Canyon_127_01192019 - Placerita Creek Falls
Placerita Creek Falls

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).

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

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

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.

Authorities

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_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_011_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
Placerita_Canyon_023_01192019 - Looking towards the Waterfall Trail, which continued past these signs
Placerita_Canyon_031_01192019 - At first the Waterfall Trail remained mostly flat and out in the open
Placerita_Canyon_033_01192019 - Eventually, the Waterfall Trail 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 - Context of the ledge trail above the Placerita Creek basin
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_048_01192019 - This was the first cascade obstacle, where we managed to climb up the rocky and slick slope to the left of the stream
Placerita_Canyon_052_01192019 - We noticed this '32K' graffiti along the hike though I'm not quite sure what it was supposed to mean
Placerita_Canyon_058_01192019 - Tahia and Julie negotiating the second cascade obstacle
Placerita_Canyon_060_01192019 - Looking up at Tahia making it beyond the second cascade obstacle on Placerita Creek
Placerita_Canyon_065_01192019 - When we didn't know any better, we climbed up the steps and onto this ledge trail, which became badly eroded the further we went
Placerita_Canyon_066_01192019 - This guy had the right idea by stream scrambling to avoid the eroded ledge trail that we had taken
Placerita_Canyon_068_01192019 - More stream scrambling as we were approaching a confluence of Placerita Creek with some unnamed creek
Placerita_Canyon_073_01192019 - Julie and Tahia 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 this waterfall)
Placerita_Canyon_085_01192019 - Tahia checking out the Placerita Creek Falls
Placerita_Canyon_106_01192019 - Looking directly at the 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_138_01192019 - Someone spray-painted this misleading encouragement to take the unnamed creek, which we saw on our way out
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 - Descending the second cascade obstacle seemed trickier than it was going up
Placerita_Canyon_156_01192019 - About to descend the first cascade obstacle, which was also a bit trickier going down than coming up
Placerita_Canyon_168_01192019 - Descending back down to the wide open basin 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
Placerita_Canyon_190_01192019 - Returning to our parked car along Placerita Canyon road
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 so we did the right thing by starting at the Walker Ranch Trailhead.

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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.

Placerita_Canyon_005_01192019 - The pullout along Placerita Canyon Road near the Walker Ranch Trailhead
The pullout along Placerita Canyon Road near the Walker Ranch Trailhead

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.

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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