Distance: 1.2 miles round trip on use trail
Summit Elevation: 1586' (at falls)
Elevation Gain: 150'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.12
Round trip time: 35 minutes
Recommended water: 0 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass (maybe)
Falls Canyon Falls is a beautiful 35-40' vertical waterfall about 1/2 mile off Trabuco Creek Road in the Santa Ana Mountains. The trailhead is about 3.3 miles from the start of Trabuco Creek Road, a notoriously bad and potholed dirt road. Low clearance vehicles can make it by driving slowly and carefully around the worst of the potholes, but high clearance is suggested. When you get to the turnout on the right, park and head back down the road about 100' to find the use trail descending toward a stream with a log crossing. There are no facilities at this spot along the road, so an Adventure Pass may not be required, but I displayed mine to be safe (GPS coordinates N 33.67432 W 117.53655).
After three days of intense rain, I was motivated to do a waterfall hike. The last few I've done were all dry from the long drought. I crossed the first stream that had solid flow, and followed a very good use trail up Falls Canyon. It crossed the stream several times. Poison oak was a constant danger, but the trail was mostly clear. There are only a few obstacles along the way, some fallen trees, and one easy 10' rock scramble. Shortly, the falls came into view. It was a welcome sight to see the strength of the water. Just before reaching the falls, an obvious use trail on the right climbs steeply up the side of the canyon. That is the way to get above the falls and deeper into the canyon. I only went up far enough to see there was some class 3 involved and more than one fixed rope installed as aids. I didn't have time to go deeper into the canyon, but more waterfalls can be found above.
Other Trip Reports:
Photos from beyond the first falls (Scott Richardson)