Distance: 0.7 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 2227' (above the falls)
Elevation Gain: 450'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.36
Round trip time: 40 minutes
Recommended water: 0 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
For several years, I confused Ortega Falls and San Juan Falls. It wasn't until I started doing more research that I figured out Ortega was a separate area a couple of miles up highway 74 past the Candy Store. There is a large turnout on both sides of the road at mile marker 4.4 and today it was almost filled. Families and rowdy teen groups were out in equal force enjoying the still strong multi-tiered falls. The area is criss-crossed with use trail leading to different sections of the falls. I followed what looked a major artery down to the lowest tier. People were swimming, picnicking, and there was a general party atmosphere. I took some photos and video, then moved up to the next tier. Some of the tiers could be scrambled in reasonable safety, while some I followed use trails up and around. I repeated this until I came to the last tier and the use trails and safe scrambling options ran out. I followed random use trails back to wrap up a 40 minute visit. The upper tiers of the falls are quite impressive and flowing with authority. Despite some graffiti and trash, it's a nice area and worth a stop.