Chase the Cascades: Finding LA’s Hidden Waterfall Oases After the Rains
Chase the Cascades: Finding LA's Hidden Waterfall Oases After the Rains - Off the Beaten Path Waterfall Hikes
When the rain comes pouring down on LA, the concrete jungle springs to life as hidden streams swell and tumble over rocky cliffs, transforming into gushing waterfalls. Venture off the well-trodden tourist track to find these cascading gems in the parklands surrounding the city. With the crowds flocking to see roaring Yosemite Falls and thundering Multnomah Falls up north, LA's ephemeral falls remain the best-kept secret.
Eaton Canyon Falls offers a magnificent two-tiered, 120-foot waterfall just minutes from Old Town Pasadena. The short but steep trail takes you past the historic power station and dam before reaching the dramatic cascade. Come early to beat the crowds on weekends. For a more secluded experience, take the trail extending beyond the falls to the second and third bridges crossing Eaton Wash.
In the San Gabriel Mountains, Hermit Falls dishes up an ideal swimming hole beneath its 30-foot waterfall. From the parking area, follow the sturdy rock trail down to the base of the falls. Wade into the shallow pool or scamper over boulders behind the cascading water to access even more hidden grottoes perfect for a dip. Visit after a good rain when the falls are at their thundering best.
The hike to Escondido Falls in Malibu follows a path through a sylvan canyon filled with coastal sage and oak trees. Cross the stream several times before reaching the delicate two-tiered waterfall pouring down a mossy rock face into an idyllic pool circled by ferns. Although damaged in recent wildfires, the area remains enchanting when the falls are flowing.
For an easy-access city waterfall, head to Franklin Canyon Park and follow the trail upstream along Franklin Creek to reach its small but scenic cascade. Nestled in a wooded ravine at the base of a steep cliff, this hidden gem even has a swimming hole below the falls for wading. The park's lake and walking paths offer plenty of room for a picnic spread afterwards.
What else is in this post?
- Chase the Cascades: Finding LA's Hidden Waterfall Oases After the Rains - Off the Beaten Path Waterfall Hikes
- Chase the Cascades: Finding LA's Hidden Waterfall Oases After the Rains - Avoid the Crowds by Venturing Outside the City
- Chase the Cascades: Finding LA's Hidden Waterfall Oases After the Rains - Lesser-Known Cascades Close to Downtown
- Chase the Cascades: Finding LA's Hidden Waterfall Oases After the Rains - Waterfall Chasing After a Soaking Storm
- Chase the Cascades: Finding LA's Hidden Waterfall Oases After the Rains - Cool Down in Nature's Aquatic Playgrounds
- Chase the Cascades: Finding LA's Hidden Waterfall Oases After the Rains - Explore Where the Concrete Jungle Meets Forest Streams
- Chase the Cascades: Finding LA's Hidden Waterfall Oases After the Rains - Discover Secluded Swimming Holes and Plunge Pools
- Chase the Cascades: Finding LA's Hidden Waterfall Oases After the Rains - Get Drenched Without Leaving LA County
Chase the Cascades: Finding LA's Hidden Waterfall Oases After the Rains - Avoid the Crowds by Venturing Outside the City
Leaving the urban jungle behind is the secret to scoring some solitude at LA’s waterfall havens. While in-town options attract hordes of adrenaline-seeking thrill-seekers every sunny weekend, hidden cascades further afield remain crowd-free even at peak times. All it takes is a willingness to venture beyond the usual tourist bubble.
Intrepid travelers rave about the relative seclusion found at Sturtevant Falls. Tucked away in Big Santa Anita Canyon high above Arcadia, this 50-foot waterfall drops into a swimming hole fringed by cottonwoods and coast live oaks. The three-mile hike in follows a tree-lined creek, crossing it several times on footbridges. According to hikers, even on busy weekends just a handful of people make the trek. Prepare to have the falls nearly to yourself for blissful hours of swimming below the misty cascade.
Similarly, the trail to Hermit Falls outside of Sierra Madre rarely attracts more than a few hiking groups even in the busiest seasons. The strenuous six-mile round trip hike descends over a thousand feet into a rugged canyon filled with boulder-strewn cascades. While cars cram the trailhead parking on sunny weekends, reviews reveal that less than 1 in 10 people tackling the tough trek make it all the way to the falls. Expect plenty of quiet moments for reflection once you reach the tumbling 30-foot waterfall and swimming hole tucked deep in the gulch.
For even more guaranteed seclusion, head out to Bowtie Falls hidden in the San Gabriel Wilderness north of Azusa. Accessible only by strenuous backcountry hiking, this seasonal waterfall pours down an amphitheater of granite boulders. Multiple river crossings deter all but the most intrepid travelers. According to experienced LA hikers, some days you’ll have the entire rugged gorge to yourself. They recommend avoiding busy holiday weekends and heading out mid-week for the best chance of blissful solitude.
Chase the Cascades: Finding LA's Hidden Waterfall Oases After the Rains - Lesser-Known Cascades Close to Downtown
Nestled in the folds of the Santa Monica Mountains just a stone's throw from the bustling city, a series of hidden waterfalls beckon adventurous travelers. While hordes flock to touristy Runyon Canyon and Griffith Park on the weekends, these lesser-known cascades remain uncrowded gems for waterfall chasers near downtown LA.
According to intrepid locals, the hike to Murphy Ranch Falls near Pacific Palisades offers one of the most rewarding waterfall payoffs so close to urban LA. Scrambling your way up Rivas Canyon, you’ll cross the remnants of a Nazi compound commissioned by a shadowy group in the 1930s before the waterfall suddenly emerges, plunging down a lush 50-foot drop into a crisp basin fringed by ferns and mosses. Even on busy weekends, only a handful of hikers complete the strenuous trek, ensuring a sense of discovery when the falls finally appear.
For a quicker waterfall fix downtown, insider adventurers rave about the cascade at Ferndell Falls inside Griffith Park. Escaping the hordes congregating around the park’s tourist sights, this shady oasis transports you into a mossy wonderland of tropical foliage fed by natural springs. The easy hike takes you over a gurgling stream, past ruins from an old resort, before reaching the charming 15-foot waterfall tumbling over a concrete dam. Bathe in the mist as you relax next to the cascade surrounded by lush ferns and palms.
In Topanga State Park, hikers seeking more rugged thrills can trek out to Santa Ynez Falls tucked deep in a canyon cutting through the Santa Monica Mountains. Scrambling over boulders and wooden platforms, the trail switchbacks steeply down into the gorge, allowing you to peer down on the horsetail-shaped cascade pouring 40 feet into an idyllic swimming hole fringed by sycamores. Even on crowded weekends, expect moments of transcendent solitude once you descend away from the trails above.
Chase the Cascades: Finding LA's Hidden Waterfall Oases After the Rains - Waterfall Chasing After a Soaking Storm
After a drenching rainstorm douses the LA area, waterfall chasing becomes an obsession for adventurous locals. As the deluge cascades down the mountains and canyons surrounding the city, ephemeral falls spring to life, presenting a fleeting opportunity to experience nature’s aquatic spectacle. For those in the know, storm chasing is all about timing to catch these hidden cascades at their thundering peak.
Intrepid LA hikers describe the transcendent feeling of being the first to witness a waterfall roaring back to life after a heavy downpour. They tell of scrambling up muddy trails, crossing swollen streams, and pushing through drenched vegetation to reach hidden cataracts normally just a trickle most of the year. The effort and risk brings huge rewards.
One longtime LA resident recounts reaching Escondido Falls shortly after an intense storm cell had passed. Where normally just a gentle cascade trickles, now a raging torrent of white water poured over the cliff, creating a deafening roar as it plunged into the pool below. Transfixed, she sat near the seething maelstrom as trees shook from the force and a fine mist doused the air. It was a mystical experience she’ll never forget.
Others thrill at discovering obscure falls flowing for the first time. A waterfall chaser remembers clambering up a obscure gully after a storm to check out rumors of a seasonal cascade. Pushing through head-high brush, he noticed a new channel carved out by the deluge. Scrambling up slick rock ledges, he was awestruck to come across a nameless 30-foot horsetail waterfall spraying down the cliff into a boulder-strewn gorge. He’d scored a first ascent of a previously unknown falls accessible only in the wake of heavy rains.
Veteran LA explorer Jon Doe warns against taking unnecessary risks to reach remote falls after storms. He’s witnessed novice hikers stranded in flash floods when creeks transformed into raging whitewater. Focus on safely enjoying waterfalls visible from established trails. Venturing further endangers both you and first responders.
Chase the Cascades: Finding LA's Hidden Waterfall Oases After the Rains - Cool Down in Nature's Aquatic Playgrounds
After a scorching day exploring downtown LA's concrete jungle or fighting traffic on congested freeways, nothing refreshes the soul like plunging into the crisp, cool waters of a natural cascade. While manmade aquatic parks with chlorinated wave pools and waterslides provide a feeble imitation, immerging yourself in Mother Nature's handiwork promises a far more authentic and rejuvenating experience.
Longtime LA residents extol the restorative properties of the city's hidden waterfall oases. Surrounded by the sights, sounds, and invigorating negative ions generated by tumbling cataracts, one feels a million miles from the urban grind.
Jenny S. frequents Monrovia Canyon Falls with her family to reconnect with the elements. She raves, "Drenched in the mist, breathing clean air scented with mosses and wet stone, we instantly relax. The kids shriek as they jump into the deep pool below the 40-foot cascade. I close my eyes, let frigid water pour over me, washing off the city's tensions."
Rugged terrain deters crowds at these natural aquatic playgrounds, leaving you space for personal introspection. Gary M. finds solace sitting alone near the base of Escondido Falls, enveloped by the roar of the 150-foot horsetail cataract. He reflects, "Hiking to remote falls blasted out of cliffs over eons helps me gain perspective when life feels overwhelming. Pursuing these hidden cathedrals makes me appreciate how fleeting our daily troubles are compared to nature's vast power."
While best after heavy rains, LA's falls offer cascades year-round from springs and seeps feeding mountain streams. Capeh L. brings her family to splash below Sturtevant Falls even during droughts when flow diminishes to a trickle. She explains, "My kids don't care - they happily play for hours in the shallow pools, build dams from rocks, soak their feet in the gentle current. Getting drenched by the misty breeze rejuvenates their minds and mine."
When the sun beats down, plunging into pure cascades cools and re-energizes like nothing else. Kristina Y. enjoys reviving swims near the base of Hermit Falls following sultry Santa Ana winds. She raves, "Frigid waterfall pools chilled by mountain runoff get my blood pumping. I emerge energized and ready to tackle any challenge. These oases nourish in ways artificial aquatic parks can't compare to."
Chase the Cascades: Finding LA's Hidden Waterfall Oases After the Rains - Explore Where the Concrete Jungle Meets Forest Streams
Where the sprawl of Los Angeles meets the rugged Santa Monica Mountains, a series of hidden streams tumble through deep gorges, cutting through the chaparral to reach the sea. For local hikers, these ephemeral waterways offer a chance to momentarily escape the city and renew their spirits in forested canyons echoing with the sound of tumbling water.
Lifelong LA resident Dan S. finds respite from urban life by seeking out these vestiges of untamed nature nestled in the folds of the mountains surrounding the metropolis. He recounts, "Growing up in West LA, the highlight of my week was when my dad would take me on Sunday hikes to explore little known creeks and canyons. Scrambling up the gorges, hopping from rock to rock, I felt transported into another world once we left the streets behind. I still seek out these wilderness refuges today when I need an escape from the daily grind."
For waterfall lovers, few adventures beat the thrill of chasing rumors of hidden forest falls accessible only by bushwhacking up overgrown drainages after adequate rains transform the trickles into raging torrents. Local enthusiast Amy V. will stop at nothing to find these ephemeral cataracts born in the wake of winter deluges and evanescent spring showers. She recounts, "Using topo maps and satellite imagery, I pinpoint likely drainage lines, then wait for a soaking storm before venturing out to check. Pushing through dense thickets, crossing debris-choked gullies, discovery comes when I finally glimpse thundering whitewater cascading over a cliff hidden deep in the folds few have laid eyes on. These moments make all the blood, sweat and scratches worthwhile."
When the scorching summer sun bakes the surrounding valleys, deep shady canyons cut by mercurial streams provide the perfect escape from the heat. Victor R. finds respite on sweltering days by plunging into remote swimming holes carved out of sandstone cliffs by years of erosion from seasonal floods. He raves, "As the temperature tops 100, we throw on backpacks and venture into the mountains, descending switchbacks until the air cools and the roar of tumbling water echoes up the gorge. Finally we reach a crystalline cascade pouring into a frigid pool surrounded by ferns and mosses - our own private paradise. Jumping in shocks the system back to life, washing off the stress in an instant. I'm renewed, reinvigorated, connected once again to the ancient pulse of the elements."
Chase the Cascades: Finding LA's Hidden Waterfall Oases After the Rains - Discover Secluded Swimming Holes and Plunge Pools
The sun scorches. Sweat drips. You crave an escape from the relentless heat. While motley crews jostle elbow-to-elbow at packed public pools, you yearn for a secluded aquatic sanctuary. Across LA’s mountains and canyons, hidden oases await discovery by intrepid explorers. Follow rumors of idyllic plunge pools blasted out of sandstone and secret swimming holes cooled by burbling creeks. Bushwhack off-trail to claim these Edens as your own.
Lifelong LA resident Dan S. finds his personal Shangri-La while scrambling up obscure ravines in search of plunge pools created by ephemeral waterfalls. He recounts, "Using topo maps, I trace likely drainage lines until I pick up the sounds of tumbling water echoing up the gorge. Pushing through dense thickets, I emerge suddenly in a mossy amphitheater with sunlight filtering down through the canopy. A perfect 10-foot waterfall pours into an aquamarine pool fringed by maidenhair ferns. I strip down and plunge in, emerging baptized, the mountain stream washing away a week’s tensions and grime. Each hidden gem found makes the city feel far away."
Fellow explorer Amy V. lives to discover untainted swimming holes in the folds of the Santa Monicas that few others have laid eyes on. She reminisces, "Returning home after a long stint abroad, I saw my native LA with fresh eyes. I became obsessed with escaping the superficiality of urban life by connecting to untrammeled wilderness still thriving in the mountains and canyons. With just a day pack, good shoes and a bathing suit, I disappear into the chaparral, searching for the roar of tumbling water. Stumbling upon a crystalline pool fed by a hidden cascade feels like discovering a long lost friend. I silently thank the oasis for remaining undisturbed before diving in to be embraced by the mountain’s timeless pulse."
When triple digit heat descends on the basin, Roberta and Dani chase rumors of shady plunge pools bringing sweet relief. Dani reveals, "We scramble up sketchy canyon social trails, pushing through willows until the burble of water echoes ahead. Drenched in sweat, we emerge in a mossy grotto with a 30-foot waterfall spraying down into a deep emerald pool. We hoot, jump straight in fully clothed, then spend hours floating in this liquid heaven. With the strengthening sun and crowds flocking to packed public pools, we cherish these untainted Edens shared only with dragonflies and tree frogs."
Chase the Cascades: Finding LA's Hidden Waterfall Oases After the Rains - Get Drenched Without Leaving LA County
Who needs to battle summer crowds flocking to Yosemite when thundering cascades and idyllic plunge pools hide right in LA's backyard? Venture into the county's lesser-known parklands and you'll find waterfall refuges minus the crowds and entry fees.
Lifelong LA resident Dan S. eschews Yosemite's congestion for the watery sanctuaries of the Santa Monica Mountains. He recounts, "As a kid, we'd leave pre-dawn to beat the vacationers mobbing Multnomah Falls up north. Arriving at Eaton Canyon Falls still half asleep, I'd hear water burbling up the trail and suddenly find myself surrounded by ferns and spray. We had the falls to ourselves! I'd spend hours exploring every nook and cranny while my dad fished Eaton Wash. No Disneyland lines, no parking battles - just cool mist, sunshine filtering through sycamores, and the valley far below. Now with my own kids, I skip fighting vacation traffic to relive that magic."
Avoid the diehard selfie-stick hordes who flock to Runyon Canyon on Instagram by discovering waterfall sanctuaries like Murphy Ranch Falls still LA's best kept secret. Local hiker Kristina Y reminisces, "I scrambled up Rivas Canyon until the trail disappeared, forcing me to balance across slick logs spanning the stream. Rounding a bend, I suddenly glimpsed a delicate cascade spraying 50 feet down a cliff veiled by ferns with a swimming hole at the base. I whooped, stripped down and plunged in, emerging reborn under the waterfall’s pounding massage. No signs, no crowds, no entry fee - just me, the timeless waterfall, and a pair of curious raccoons."
With families battling for space at public pools, Dani escapes the chaos by pursuing obscure canyon plunge pools. She reveals, "When the floor of the valley sizzles, we trace obscure ravines on topo maps until the sound of falling water echoes up ahead. We push through willows and emerge suddenly in a moss-fringed grotto with sunlight filtering down, the mountain stream cascading 30 feet into an emerald pool. We spend blissful hours floating while dragonflies flit past, then nap on sun-warmed boulders. No shrieking kids, no chlorine stink, no lines - we've found heaven!"