About La Niebla Waterfall (La Niebla del Usabon)
La Niebla Waterfall (or La Niebla del Usabón or Salto La Vaca) is perhaps the most known of the waterfalls within the Cañon de San Cristóbal, which is the deepest canyon in Puerto Rico (and quite possibly the deepest throughout the Antilles Islands).
Its notoriety is due to the claim that it’s possibly the tallest waterfall in Puerto Rico though height figures have ranged from 240ft to 300ft (or about 70m to 90m).
In my experience, height figures tend to be exaggerated in order to bring attention to a particular attraction, and so I had to see this place for myself.
Anyways, the canyon is carved by the Río Usabón, which is the river that defines the boundary between municipalities of Barranquitas and Aibonito.
According to Google Maps, there’s a bit of confusion about the place names of the river as it seemed to indicate that the main river is the Aibonito River and the tributary river dropping as La Niebla Waterfall is the Barranquitas River.
Regardless of which map is accurate or not, I found that it’s possible to visit this waterfall on your own without a guide, which some locals do, especially on the weekends.
However, I went ahead and hired a guide named Ricardo from Barranquitas Taxis (who was actually a referral from Montaña Explora since they no longer did guided adventures in Cañon de San Cristóbal).
Even though my immediate goal was to visit La Niebla del Usabón Waterfall, I knew that having a guide would at least open up the possibility of extending the excursion to other hidden gems within the canyon.
I have a separate write-up for that extended excursion since it’s a bit more involved than this out-and-back hike.
The Hike To La Niebla Waterfall
After pre-arranging for the tour through Ricardo, I was picked up at around 7:45am from our accommodation in Barranquitas in his taxi.
Then, he drove me towards the south entrance of La Reserva Natural Cañon de San Cristóbal, which is also known as the “Aibonito side” (there’s also a northern entrance on the “Barranquitas side”).
Ricardo chose to do the Aibonito side because it’s a shorter hike with greater rewards than the northern side.
That said, I’d imagine that if you’re abseiling, then scaling cliffs over La Niebla Waterfall from the north and then continuing down the canyon before returning to the north side would make more sense.
Anyways, once we got to the south entrance gate, we then embarked on our hike, which passed through some plantation where locals are raising money and reforesting through the products grown here to fund and maintain the reserve.
Once we got past the fence-lined fields, we then started a steep descent into the canyon, where at about 0.2-mile from the start, we reached an overlook (mirador) of the vertical walls of Cañon de San Cristóbal.
From this vantage point, I could see that the canyon itself was thick with vegetation, and this was precisely why I thought it was wise to have a guide since he came armed with a machete as well as familiarity with the route.
I could also hear an unseen waterfall down below the mirador, which in hindsight turned out to be La Cabra Waterfall (or “Goat Falls”, which I describe in the other write-up).
Anyways, the steep trail continued its descent over a combination of rocks and mud, and we really had to watch our step.
Eventually after about 0.4-mile from the lookout or 0.6-mile from the gate, we reached the bottom of the canyon, where we then had to do boulder scrambling to reach the base of La Niebla Waterfall.
This slippery scramble went on for another 500ft or so, and then we were face-to-face with the impressively tall waterfall.
During the scramble, we noticed heavy machinery relics as well as tires that came from a time when people used the canyon as a dumping ground.
These days, a lot of the stuff tossed into the canyon seemed to be growing into the rocks (or vice versa) as the jungle reclaims them.
Anyways, as you can see from the photos on this page, La Niebla Waterfall has seen better flow at wetter times of the year (my visit happened in April 2022, which was towards the tail end of the “dry” season).
I’d imagine that the waterfall would be much thicker and more impressive during the hurricane season (though Ricardo said May has traditionally been a very wet month), but that would make the canyon hiking that much more difficult.
Overall, had we returned to the trailhead from this waterfall, the entire hike would be around an hour round-trip covering a distance of around 1.2 miles in total.
Ricardo told me that most visitors who come without a guide only do this waterfall before returning.
However, we opted to continue the hike, and we’ll pick up that description in the next write-up.
La Niebla Waterfall resides within La Reserva Natural Cañon de San Cristóbal (San Cristobal Canyon Natural Protected Area) in the municipalities of Barranquitas and Aibonito, Puerto Rico. It is administered by the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try to visit their website.
Since I hired a guide, I can’t give specific directions on how to get to the start of the hike for La Niebla Waterfall.
However, I have saved breadcrumbs of our driving route, and from that information, I can say that from Barranquitas, we took the PR-719 to the PR-162 before cutting to the east on PR-725.
After driving about a mile on the PR-725 we then turned left onto an access road where we went another 1/4-mile to the south entrance gate for the Cañon de San Cristóbal Reserve.
Overall, this drive from our accommodation in Barranquitas to the south entrance gate took around 15-20 minutes.
For geographical context, Barranquitas was 13km (about 20 minutes drive) northwest of Aibonito, 15km (about 30 minutes drive) southeast of Orocovis, 43km (over an hour drive) southeast of Ciales, about 31km (about an hour drive) northwest of Cayey, about 49km (around 90 minutes drive) east of Jayuya, about 65km (over an hour drive) northeast of Ponce, and about 55km (over an hour drive) southwest of San Juan.
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