Temescal Canyon Falls

Santa Monica Mountains / Pacific Palisades, California, USA

About Temescal Canyon Falls


Hiking Distance: 2.4 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 60-90 minutes

Date first visited: 2010-03-14
Date last visited: 2012-04-29

Waterfall Latitude: 34.06775
Waterfall Longitude: -118.53621

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Temescal Canyon Falls is definitely one of those waterfalls that’s close to civilization yet provides a bit of a sampler of the Nature found in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Julie and I actually visited this falls in the early Summer back in the early days of our waterfalling, but the disappointing waterflow and the haze obscuring the ocean views further on the trail kind of made it a not-so-memorable trip.

Temescal_Canyon_Falls_015_03142010 - One of the drops of Temescal Canyon Falls
One of the drops of Temescal Canyon Falls

So on our second visit in 2010, we went during a wet Winter, and the falls put on a satisfactory display.

Of course, this falls didn’t knock our socks off as it was really a series of small 10ft or 15ft cascades beneath a footbridge.

We also came here a third time in 2012 with our daughter as part of a work-related function, but the falls on that visit was disappointing again as it had been an unusually dry year.

There were plenty of alternate trails as well as the continuation of the waterfall trail that would have taken us to the tops of the coastal foothills providing gorgeous ocean views when the air would be neither foggy nor hazy.

Unfortunately for us, on none of our visits were we successful in getting those nice photos of the ocean views.

Hike-a-thon_024_04292012 - Temescal Canyon Falls in disappointingly low flow
Temescal Canyon Falls in disappointingly low flow

Nevertheless, I suspect that the waterfalls would be more of a side attraction to those longer hikes, or at least a turnaround point if a shorter, less ambitious hike was desired (as was the case in the three times we’ve visited this waterfall).

Since this hike was so close to the urban sprawl (i.e. it was in Pacific Palisades, which was not very far from the Santa Monica Pier, and the busy Sunset Blvd cuts right across the entrance to the Temescal Gateway State Park), we shared the trail with lots of people each time we did it.

Perhaps it was because on all three times, we happened to come on the weekend.

In any case, visitors ranged from toddlers and families to trail runners or more able-bodied collegiates (probably from relatively nearby UCLA or University of California, Los Angeles) as well as locals.

Trail Description to Temescal Canyon Falls

Temescal_Canyon_Falls_003_03142010 - Beyond the Stewart Hall Retreat Center, the Temescal Canyon Trail continued through a wide clearing before climbing up a narrower path
Beyond the Stewart Hall Retreat Center, the Temescal Canyon Trail continued through a wide clearing before climbing up a narrower path

Once we paid and displayed our ticket in the car (see directions below), we then walked towards the Stewart Hall Retreat Center, which was one of the buildings belonging to a retreat here.

Apparently this retreat seemed to have various programs where participants could stay in the cabins nearby, and the walk initially passed by these cabins.

We noted that the road looped towards the hall so when we saw the initial fork in the road, we realized that they both led to the same place.

Once we got to Steward Hall, the trail then began in earnest.

Temescal_Canyon_Falls_034_03142010 - Looking back into Temescal Canyon from the steep and surprisingly slippery uphill section of the hike
Looking back into Temescal Canyon from the steep and surprisingly slippery uphill section of the hike

From there, it was another 1.2 miles (2.4 miles round trip) of mostly uphill hiking with one stretch that was particularly slippery and narrow thanks to the pebbles and rocks gathered within the ruts and gullies formed from rain runoff.

This steep stretch of trail was prone to slips and falls, especially on the return hike going back downhill.

But after this steep part, the climb then flattened out and the trail then reached a footbridge.

This footbridge was where Temescal Canyon Falls’ tiers were located both above and mostly below it.

Hike-a-thon_030_04292012 - A lot of people lingering around the footbridge by the Temescal Canyon Falls
A lot of people lingering around the footbridge by the Temescal Canyon Falls

To get to the more significant lower tiers, I had to do a little more scrambling to get in front of them.

Authorities

Temescal Canyon Falls resides in the Temescal Gateway Park. It is administered by a partnership between the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit the MCRA website or the National Park Service website.

Temescal_Canyon_Falls_002_03142010 - Stewart Hall, which we encountered on the way to Temescal Canyon Falls
Temescal_Canyon_Falls_004_03142010 - Although it was busy in the open and flat stretch near Stewart Hall, it didn't get as busy the further up Temescal Canyon you go
Hike-a-thon_007_04292012 - Another time that we hiked to Temescal Canyon Falls, I had to carry our daughter up the popular trail
Temescal_Canyon_Falls_010_03142010 - A toddler brings Temescal Canyon Falls down to size just upstream from the footbridge over its creek
Temescal_Canyon_Falls_012_03142010 - I had to scramble down to the creek from the Temescal Canyon Trail in order to get this frontal look at Temescal Canyon Falls
Temescal_Canyon_Falls_019_03142010 - Looking at a lizard that happened to be lingering around the base of the Temescal Canyon Falls
Temescal_Canyon_Falls_030_03142010 - The uppermost of the Temescal Canyon Falls under the footbridge

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To get to the car park for Temescal Gateway Park, we took the 10 Freeway west of the 405 through Santa Monica as the freeway ended and curved northwards becoming Pacific Coast Highway (PCH).

We then drove for another couple miles further north until we reached the light for Temescal Canyon Road.

Turning right onto Temescal Canyon Road, we took that road for another mile, going straight past Sunset Boulevard.

At the intersection with Sunset Blvd, we had to make sure we stayed on the second lane from the far left lane, which allowed us to go straight at the light.

Temescal_Canyon_Falls_001_03142010 - The busy pay-and-display parking lot at the Temescal Gateway Park, which was the trailhead for Temescal Canyon Falls and beyond
The busy pay-and-display parking lot at the Temescal Gateway Park, which was the trailhead for Temescal Canyon Falls and beyond

The other lanes would have made us turn left or right.

Once past Sunset Blvd, we then entered the Temescal Gateway State Park.

Taking the park road as far as we could, we wound up reaching the car park near the Temescal Canyon Store.

Since it was a state park, we had to pay a $7 day use fee here (subject to change I’m sure, especially given the state’s budget problems).

For context, Santa Monica was 16 miles (about an hour drive due to traffic) west of downtown Los Angeles or 7 miles (roughly 30 minutes drive with traffic) southwest of Westwood Village.

Bottom up sweep of the lowermost falls ending at bridge above this falls


Pretty close up bottom up sweep of falls with frontal one dominating at first and then ending at the one above it

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Tagged with: santa monica mountains, pacific palisades, santa monica, california, southern california, los angeles, waterfall, stewart hall



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