Distance: 9.3 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 2390' (at Chiquito Falls)
Elevation Gain: 1550'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.24
Round trip time: 3 hours 15 minutes
Recommended water: 72 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
It wasn't my goal to hike to a half dozen dry waterfalls this year, but that's how it is turning out. I wanted to the explore the Santa Ana Mountains further and this trip fit into my shortened day, having volunteered to run the photo booth at my son's elementary school fund raiser. The trailhead is the same parking lot as for the San Juan Loop just off Ortega highway. You can start either direction on the San Juan Loop to get to the signed junction with the Chiquito Trail. I started north and returned south on the way back. The junction with the Chiquito Trail is at nearly the midpoint of the San Juan Loop. It heads north following a shady creek for about a mile, then crosses the creek, turns southwest and begins climbing the hills. Once you are climbing on the south side of the hills, you come out of the shade into full sun. After climbing most of the way up the unnamed bumps, you traverse around, then start gradually descending into Lion Canyon toward Chiquito Falls. The trail itself is in great shape all the way to the falls, I would even say delightful. It racks up a little gain and passes a few interesting boulders strewn here and there but is never steep or difficult.
As expected, the 15' Chiquito Falls was bone dry and looks like it has been dry for a while. With no water to splash around in, the only thing to do was climb it. It was on the easy side of class 3 and not as slippery as the other local falls, maybe because it is more seasonal. The Chiquito Trail continues north up Lion Canyon and eventually ends at the Viejo Tie junction. I was here for the falls so I started back after a short break. On the way back, I followed a use trail that looked like it led to the top of one of the unnamed bumps. However, when it disappeared a little below the top, I turned around. There was nothing on top of the bump worth a full bushwhack.