6 Best Waterfall Hikes in Los Angeles

Soak up the views on these six best waterfall hikes in Los Angeles. From Malibu to Pasadena, these hikes promise an escape from the city.

Millard Canyon Falls near Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles may be known for the Hollywood Sign hike, but the City of Angels also has a fair share of hikes that offer picturesque views of waterfalls that look straight out of a storybook.

After living in the LA area for over 20 years, I’ve realized that there’s something delightful about having a waterfall as a hiking destination. The base of a cascade not only provides a wonderful spot to eat a granola bar and admire the view, but it’s also such a breath of fresh air in a busy city with incessant traffic noise. Listening to the rushing water and trickling creeks is a magical way to experience a different side of the city that not many people know about.

These waterfall hikes in Los Angeles give you just that: an “escape” from the city and a soothing experience in nature with the soundtrack of flowing water (or perhaps trickling, depending on the season). Some are moderate to difficult, others are relatively easy walks, but all will reward you with a view any waterfall lover will appreciate.

Ready to dive in? Here are six of the best hikes with waterfalls in Los Angeles — from trails with ocean views in Malibu to charming wooded walks in the Angeles National Forest.

1. Eaton Canyon Trail

Trail Basics

  • Location: San Gabriel Mountains in Altadena (near Pasadena)
  • Distance: 3.5 miles
  • Type: Out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 446 feet
  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Dogs allowed? On leash
  • Map: AllTrails

Eaton Canyon Trail is one of my favorite hikes in Los Angeles — and I’m in good company. It’s a popular out-and-back trail that’s dog friendly, easy to follow, and a good “bang for your buck.”

In less than two hours, you’ll see a beautiful waterfall and vista views and get an “escape” from the city while still being close by. It’s also usually easy to find a spot at the Eaton Canyon Nature Center parking lot, which is always a big plus. There is also an overflow parking lot as well.

The trail is relatively flat until you get to about a mile in, where it gets pretty steep for about .65 miles. You’ll wind up on a forest trail that goes through a creek and takes you to the waterfall.

Bring water shoes with a good grip for this part, especially if you visit after it’s rained. It can be very slippery to navigate the rock streams. Once you arrive at the 40-foot waterfall, find a sturdy rock and enjoy the view!

My favorite time to visit is on a weekday to avoid the crowds and in spring when the wildflowers are in full bloom.

Tips for hiking Eaton Canyon Trail:
  • Many sections have no shade, so be sure to bring sun protection and plenty of water.
  • This trail is popular among runners, so be mindful that they often pop up quickly.
  • If you have time, the Eaton Canyon Nature Center has a lovely native plant garden and display of local flora and fauna that’s worth the visit.
  • Hungry after the hike? Check out O’ Happy Days Cafe for delicious vegan fare in an artsy, communal setting. (Open Tuesday-Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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    2. Escondido Falls

    Trail Basics

    • Location: Escondido Canyon Park in Malibu
    • Distance: 3.5 miles
    • Type: Out-and-back
    • Elevation Gain: 475 feet
    • Time: 1.5 – 2 hours
    • Difficulty: Moderate
    • Dogs allowed? On leash
    • Map: AllTrails

    Escondido Falls is similar to Eaton Falls in terms of distance, difficulty, popularity, and altitude. It’s a well-marked, dog-friendly trail. The hike to the falls takes about two hours and ends at a beautiful view of a 150-foot moss-covered waterfall.

    Sometimes, the waterfall is more of a drizzle depending on the season. Winter, after it rains, is the best time for flowing waterfall views, but it’s still a nice and mellow hike no matter what time of year.

    You’ll spend the first .8 miles of the hike walking on the Winding Way Road where you’ll see Malibu residences (a sight in itself!). This takes you to Escondido Canyon Park and down a hill to your first of multiple creek crossings. From here, you’ll keep hiking the relatively flat but often very muddy trail until you arrive at a rocky area at the base of the waterfall.

    The biggest drawback to this hike is the $12 fee to park in the official lot, which I recommend doing. The alternative is to park along PCH (Pacific Coast Highway), where there are many “no parking” signs and cars often drive very, very fast. I don’t think it’s worth the risk, especially when I’m with my dogs and hiking with little ones.

    Looking up from beneath Escondido Falls near Los Angeles, California
    Looking up at the 150-foot Escondido Falls from below
    Tips for hiking to Escondido Falls:
    • Be sure to wear shoes you don’t mind getting wet and muddy. The trail has multiple creek crossings that are fairly easy but nonetheless can make your feet wet. 
    • The trail has some shaded portions, but it’s also exposed, so come prepared with sun protection and water. 
    • Keep an eye out for poison oak!

    3. Paradise Falls

    Trail Basics

    • Location: Wildwood Regional Park in Thousand Oaks (a suburban area outside LA)
    • Distance: 2.8 miles
    • Type: Loop
    • Elevation Gain: 515 feet
    • Time: 1.5 hours
    • Difficulty: Moderate
    • Dogs allowed? On leash
    • Map: AllTrails

    Paradise Falls in Wildwood Park is a great dog-friendly hike for waterfall lovers. Between LA and Santa Barbara, Thousand Oaks is technically in Ventura County – not LA County. But, this hike is worth it if you’re willing to drive about 30 minutes to an hour from the city (depending on where you are/traffic),

    The falls can be reached via multiple trails, but I recommend going via Mesa, Teepee, and Moonridge Trail. This route is a scenic loop that saves the most challenging part for last. The steepest section is the walk back to your car, so if you’re bringing lunch to enjoy at the waterfall, keep that in mind.

    After you park in the free lot at Wildwood Regional Park, start at the Mesa Trailhead. You’ll see signs for Paradise Falls and hike for about a mile to North Teepee Trail, where you’ll see a large wooden teepee (pictured above).

    You’ll then descend into the valley via switchbacks and reach the falls.
    The amount of water flowing depends on the season and year, but it’s usually going year-round.

    Tip: Cross the creek and climb the rocks opposite the falls to get the best view of the falls.

    Woman standing in front of small waterfall on a hike outside of Los Angeles, California
    Enjoying the Paradise Falls on a chilly winter hike
    Tips for hiking to Paradise Falls:
    • Do not swim in the pool! Some of the water may be from urban runoff. But don’t worry, lots of signage will remind you to keep out of the water. 
    • If you have time, hike to the Little Cave half a mile east of Paradise Falls. You can access it from the trail above the falls or go back to the teepee and head the other way. 
    • Heading back to the city? On the way, swing by Joi Cafe, a bright plant-based cafe with smoothies, sandwiches, and salads. 

    4. Solstice Canyon Loop

    Trail Basics

    • Location: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in Malibu
    • Distance: 3 miles
    • Type: Loop
    • Elevation Gain: 669 feet
    • Time: 1.5-2 hours
    • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
    • Dogs allowed? On leash
    • Map: AllTrails

    Solstice Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains gives you a taste of LA’s beauty: you’ll see ocean views, the Santa Monica Mountains, and a pretty creek with a waterfall.

    It’s a well-maintained, dog-friendly hike with spur trails if you want to extend the outing. If you’re short on time you can make it a 2-mile out-and-back hike rather than a loop.

    Out of all the waterfall hikes on this list, this is one of my favorites in the summer because portions are shaded. It’s also by the water, so you’ll get cooler temperatures, especially in comparison to the hikes in Pasadena or Thousand Oaks.

    The route starts on a dirt road to the Rising Sun Trail, which offers beautiful ocean views and drops down into the Tropical Terrace – ruins of a home that burned down in 1982. From Tropical Terrace, take a right and follow a charming path to the Solstice waterfall and small creek. It’s smaller than the other waterfalls but no less special, in my opinion.

    Views out over the Pacific ocean and green hills with wildflowers from Solstice Canyon trail in California
    In addition to a nice waterfall, the Solstice Canyon hike offers great ocean views from the trails
    Tips for hiking the Solstice Canyon Loop:
    • There is free parking at the trailhead, but it’s limited in the lot and can be pretty cutthroat! The earlier you arrive, the better. 
    • On the trail, you’ll also see the oldest still-standing stone building in Malibu, exotic plants, and a hidden statue of the Virgin Mary.  

    5. Millard Canyon Falls Trail

    Trail Basics

    • Location: Angeles National Forest in Altadena
    • Distance: 1.2 miles
    • Type: Out-and-back
    • Elevation Gain: 246 feet
    • Time: 45 minutes
    • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
    • Dogs allowed? On leash
    • Map: AllTrails

    Looking for something short, sweet, and scenic? Millard Canyon Falls Trail checks all of the boxes. Located in the Angeles National Forest, this hike is dog-friendly, open year-round, and easy to navigate.

    While it can get pretty busy on weekends, what this trail lacks in privacy it makes up for in enchanting views. The hike begins with a charming small stone wall (see above) that you’ll climb over. This is the most climbing you’ll have to do!

    Follow the signs to the falls and you’ll be met with occasional creek crossings that can get quite slippery. So be sure to bring grippy shoes you are OK with getting wet.

    As you continue down the trail and through the crossings, you’ll likely hear the falls before you see them, depending on the time of year. Millard Falls is about 50 feet and is rain-fed, so the highest flows will be in the wetter seasons. But no matter how much water is flowing, Millard Falls is always a magical and serene sight.

    Creek through the forest on the Millard Canyon Falls hike in California
    There are several creek crossings as you make your way up to Millard Falls
    Tips for hiking the Millard Canyon Falls Trail:
    • Park at the Millard Trail Camp lot, which is free. But be mindful of noise because this parking lot is near a campground.
    • Due to the creek crossings and slippery rocks, you may want to bring a pair of trekking poles to help with balance.
    • This hike also gets a lot of shade from the trees, so it’s a lovely choice for a hot day.

    6. Trail Canyon Falls

    Trail Basics

    • Location: Angeles National Forest near Burbank
    • Distance: 4.6 miles
    • Type: Out-and-back
    • Elevation Gain: 1,003 feet
    • Time: 2.5-3 minutes
    • Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
    • Dogs allowed? On leash
    • Map: AllTrails

    The most challenging hike on this list, Trail Canyon Falls is a 4.6-mile out-and-back trail that delivers vista views and a payoff of a gorgeous waterfall at the end.

    It’s a beautiful dog-friendly hike that feels further from Los Angeles than it is. You’ll start at Trail Canyon Trail and walk past cabins along a road and through Golden Creek. Along the way, you’ll be shaded with stunning sycamores and alders, and trail markers will guide you to the falls.

    To get to the base of the falls, it’s a short but very steep hike. So take your time! There are ropes available to help guide you down. I have never attempted this with my dog and I have no plans to. But even if you don’t go down the base, it’s still a wonderful hike with fantastic views.

    Depending on the season, the stream crossings can go ankle-deep, so you want to wear proper footwear and clothes.

    Trail Canyon Falls near Los Angeles
    The views of Trail Canyon Falls from above are spectacular. You can also hike down to the falls, but it’s very steep and there are ropes you can hold on to
    Tips for hiking Trail Canyon Falls:
    • There is a lot of poison ivy on the trail, so keep an eye out!
    • I’ve had no cell service in this area in the past, so I recommend downloading a map in advance.

    Quick Tips for Hiking to LA’s Waterfalls

    Before hiking any of these best waterfall hikes in Los Angeles, here are a few quick tips to ensure you have a safe and fun day out on the trails:

    • Bring sun protection. It can be hot and sunny in LA all year round, so be sure to wear sunblock, a hiking hat, and sunglasses. And always carry plenty of water, preferably in a daypack.
    • Wear grippy shoes that you don’t mind getting wet and muddy. Astral TR1 Mesh Shoes are my favorite shoes to bring while exploring the waterfalls. They’re lightweight, quick-drying, and “water-ready” shoes that can take you from the water to the trail. They also feature a closed toe and grippy rubber outsole, so they’ll protect your feet much more than the average sandal while still being easy to slip on and off.
    • Pay attention to the swimming rules. Even if there’s enough water to take a dip, check the rules. Stay safe!
    • Earlier is usually better. Like so many hikes, the biggest complaint for the above trails is the crowds. One of the easiest ways to beat the crowds (and the heat) is to start early (and go mid-week if you can).

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    Have you done any of these waterfall hikes? Which ones are your favorite? Which ones are on your hike-it list? Leave a comment below!

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