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

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

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.

I’d say that this waterfall was more of a side attraction compared with the longer hikes yielding coastal views in the Pacific Palisades area.

Temescal_Canyon_Falls_012_03142010 - One of the drops of Temescal Canyon Falls
One of the drops of Temescal Canyon Falls

In fact, we’ve had very mixed results with the waterfall’s performance over the years that we’ve visited this place.

Indeed, Temescal Canyon Falls’ reliability of its waterflow was not one of its attributes.

Since this hike was so close to the urban sprawl, 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 the high volume of foot traffic was also because we happened to come on the weekend.

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

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

Once we paid and displayed our ticket in the car (see directions below), we then walked towards the Stewart Hall Retreat Center.

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.

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

From there, it was another 1.2 miles (2.4 miles round trip) of mostly uphill hiking.

This included 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.

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

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.

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


Temescal Canyon Falls resides in the Temescal Gateway Park in Pacific Palisades in Los Angeles County, California. 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.

Hike-a-thon_007_04292012 - Carrying Tahia around while hiking to the Temescal Canyon Falls during our April 2012 visit as part of a Hike-a-thon work function
Hike-a-thon_030_04292012 - Looking across the footbridge above the Temescal Canyon Falls as seen in April 2012
Temescal_Canyon_Falls_002_03142010 - Stewart Hall, which we encountered on the way to Temescal Canyon Falls, during our March 2010 visit
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. This photo was taken during our Temescal Canyon Falls hike in March 2010
Temescal_Canyon_Falls_010_03142010 - A toddler brings Temescal Canyon Falls down to size just upstream from the footbridge over its creek as seen during our March 2010 visit
Temescal_Canyon_Falls_015_03142010 - Had to scramble to get in front of this section of 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 during our March 2010 visit
Temescal_Canyon_Falls_030_03142010 - The uppermost of the Temescal Canyon Falls under the footbridge as seen in March 2010

To get to the parking lot 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.

Find A Place To Stay

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

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

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