12 Waterfall Hikes Near Los Angeles for Families

Wander to a local waterfall, with excited kids in tow.
Wander to a local waterfall, with excited kids in tow.

When the rains come in the winter, waterfalls near Los Angeles start flowing! Some of these beautiful gems hide their light under a dry bushel in drought years, but every one of the waterfalls below is worth a visit at any time—with runoff from the mountains, the creek beds boast the burbling sounds of water and the trees begin to bud and bloom. And when there's a rainy weekend, even better: head straight out on one of these waterfall hikes near Los Angeles the very next day! Southland waterfalls are the stuff that family memories (and Instagram posts) are made of.

Most of these hikes are easy to moderate, but if you need a beginner hike for toddlers or one where strollers won't get stuck, we've got the perfect outings for your littlest weekend warrior, too. Find all our favorite hikes for kids in our Hiking and Camping Guide for Los Angeles Families.

 Waterfall Hikes Near Los Angeles for Families: Escondido Falls
Lower Escondido Falls is only part of the show on this Malibu trail. Photo by Mommy Poppins

1. Escondido Falls — Malibu

• Distance: 3.8 miles round trip
• Level of difficulty: Moderate

Escondido Falls is one of SoCal's most popular and dramatic waterfalls. The first .75 mile of this hike is along a paved road in front of expensive Malibu homes, but the trail turns more rustic once you join the dirt road marked Edward Albert Escondido Canyon Trail and Waterfall. Be prepared to get your feet wet crossing streams along the way, and then take a plunge in the inviting lower falls. The dramatic upper falls are located on private property, and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority asks that hikers not climb to them, to protect the fragile habitat (and not get hurt!).

To get to the trailhead: Take PCH to Winding Way in Malibu. Winding Way is a minor street 4.5 miles west of Malibu Canyon Road and 1.4 miles east of Kanan Dume Road, on the north side of PCH. Turn up Winding Way and into a parking lot for the trail on the left at the bottom of Winding Way. Parking in this lot is pay-and-display. Overflow parking along PCH is free, but read the signs carefully. Dogs on leash and horses are welcome. This trail is not stroller-friendly.

 Waterfall Hikes Near Los Angeles for Families: Solstice Canyon

On the Solstice Canyon Trail Loop. Photo by Jeremy Miles via Flickr

2. Solstice Canyon — Malibu

Trailhead address: Corral Canyon Road & Solstice Canyon Road, Malibu, CA 90265
• Distance: 2.6 – 3.4 miles round trip
• Level of difficulty: Easy

Winding its way past the ruins of Malibu mansions, the Solstice Canyon trail reaches a waterfall that is not as dramatic as the one at Escondido, but is worth the delightful walk all the same. Views are good, with spots of shade along the way. The trail is a loop, and word is that the clockwise route is the easier way to do it (though it depends on whether you'd prefer hiking up a steep path—the clockwise route goes up the steep incline). Most of the hike is stroller-friendly, as long as your stroller isn't too wide.

To get to the trailhead: Take PCH to Malibu and turn inland on Corral Canyon Road (West of Malibu Canyon Road and Pepperdine University at the intersection with the 76 gas station). The park entrance is on the left, just around the first bend in the road. Expect a full (free) parking lot on weekends. Dogs on leash are welcome. No fee or permit is required. This canyon is occasionally shut down after heavy rains; check online for up-to-date info).

3. Santa Ynez Falls — Topanga

• Distance: 2.6 miles round trip
• Level of difficulty: Easy

This beginner hike is on a shady trail that has lots of tree cover on the path to an 18-foot waterfall. Be prepared to get your feet wet, as the trail generally runs directly alongside the creek and crosses it a few points. Young or nervous hikers should know that near the waterfall, the canyon walls grow closer and the trail becomes rockier. But otherwise, the hike stays pretty flat and manageable for the length of the trail, with a very slight incline towards the falls, so families can make this a quick, fun outing. This trail is not stroller-friendly.

To get to the trailhead: From the PCH, turn inland on Sunset Boulevard (approximately one mile north of Will Rogers State Beach). Travel one-half mile on Sunset Boulevard and turn left on Palisades Drive. After 2.4 miles turn left onto Vereda De La Montura. The trailhead will be on the right side of Vereda De La Montura approximately 0.2 miles after the turn, before the gate. 

 Waterfall Hikes Near Los Angeles for Families: Paradise Falls
This secluded waterfall is a perfect place for calm reflection—or rock climbing! Photo by Mommy Poppins

4. Paradise Falls — Thousand Oaks

• Distance: 1.5 miles round trip
• Level of difficulty: Easy

Paradise Falls counts as one of LA's favorite hidden gems, with a lush waterfall on a hike so short and easy it can be done fairly spontaneously. Signs along the way make the waterfall easy to find. The water is flowing this year and lovely to behold, but note that this is not water clean enough to take a plunge in. The hike is beautiful and well maintained, with plenty of rest or snacking spots along the way (including at a shaded tepee lookout) and the trails are wide enough for strollers, though if you happen to come right after a rain, strollers can get stuck in the mud.

To get to the trailhead: Take the 101 Freeway to Thousand Oaks to exit 45 for Lynn Road. Drive north for 2.5 miles on Lynn Road, and turn left on Avenida de los Arboles. Drive to the end of the street and park in the lot on the left. If the lot is full, do not park in the neighborhood! (You'll get a ticket.) Park just a few blocks down the road at the Wildwood Neighborhood Park, where you'll also find tennis courts, a playground, and additional restrooms. Dogs on leashes and bikes are welcome. No fee or permit is required.

 Waterfall Hikes Near Los Angeles for Families: Eaton Canyon
Eaton Canyon's waterfall is a popular hike. Photo courtesy of Tim Wilson

5. Eaton Canyon Falls — Pasadena

• Distance: 3 miles round trip
• Level of difficulty: Easy

Eaton Canyon houses a powerful 40' waterfall that is not hard to find along a trail lined with blooms in springtime. When the water is flowing, expect to get your feet wet; a plentiful water supply will make the streams quite high. If you've got a stroller, you won't want to take it all the way to the falls, but strollers will be fine on the shorter paths near the Nature Center.

To get to the trailhead: Take the Altadena exit off the 210 Freeway in Pasadena. Head north on Altadena Drive. The Eaton Canyon Nature Area is a of couple miles up the road on the right past New York Drive. Pull into the park, leave your vehicle in the lot by the nature center and start hiking north. Dogs on leash are welcome.

 Waterfall Hikes Near Los Angeles for Families: Millard Falls
Millard Falls is an easy walk for little ones. Photo by Elika & Shannon via flickr

6. Millard Canyon Falls — Pasadena

• Distance: 1.2 miles round trip
• Level of difficulty: Easy

Luckily the Millard Campground is open again after being closed in 2021 due to the Bobcat Fire. No more extended hiking just to reach the trailhead! Once again this is a relatively short and gently family-friendly trail to a Y-shaped, 50-foot waterfall in the Angeles National Forest. The hike runs alongside the creek that feeds the falls, making for a pleasant walk that can get wet and slippery, depending on recent rainfall. Dogs are allowed on leashes. Not a stroller-friendly trail.

To get to the trailhead: The trailhead is in the Millard Picnic Area and Campground, from where the trail is well marked. Rangers warn that the trails may be closed due to high fire danger, so be sure to check before venturing out. A $5 National Forest Adventure Pass is required to park a vehicle at the parking lot.

7. Switzer Falls — Tujunga

• Distance: 5 miles round trip
• Level of difficulty: Moderate

Switzer Falls, or Switzerland as some like to call the area, is a great choice for a day hike, with swimming holes and a 50' waterfall as a payoff. Be prepared to get feet wet and spend a couple of hours on this trail (especially going at kids' pace). Also, teach little ones the old "Leaves of three, beware of me" rule, as there is quite a bit of poison oak in these woods. This hike is not stroller friendly.

To get to the trailhead: From the 210 Freeway in La Cañada Flintridge, take the Angeles Crest Highway (CA 2) northwest for 10 miles to the Switzer Picnic Area. Descend to the parking lot, display your adventure pass, and begin hiking. If the lot at the picnic area is full, there is additional parking at the top of the road. Dogs and bikes are welcome. A National Forest Adventure Pass is required to park a vehicle at the Switzer Picnic Area and trailhead parking lot. It is possible to buy a $5 parking pass at the Shell station right off the 2 Freeway.

 Waterfall Hikes Near Los Angeles for Families: Heart Rock Falls
So this is why they call it Heart Rock... Photo by Logan Brumm via Flickr

8. Heart Rock Falls — Crestline

• Distance: 1.7 miles round trip
• Level of difficulty: Easy

This waterfall hike is not only easy, but it also has an added photo op: a heart-shaped natural hole in the rock next to the falls that is almost a bigger draw than the cascade itself. The trail is easy to find, but if in doubt, follow the hearts painted on rocks along the way. There are several ways down, though, all of which lead to the famous rock. The water and photo ops are plentiful, though the fall is sometimes more of a trickle. This hike is a bit of a drive from some parts of Los Angeles, but well worth it. This easy hike is stroller-friendly, too.

To get to the trailhead: From the 210 Freeway in San Bernardino, take exit 76 for Waterman Avenue (Highway 18). Drive north on Waterman Avenue, which leaves the city after 2 miles and becomes Rim of the World Highway. At 11.3 miles from the 210 Freeway, take the exit ramp onto Route 138 West. Drive 2.6 miles through Crestline and the Valley of Enchantment to the entrance of Camp Seeley. Turn left on Forest Service Road 2N03, pass the camp and follow the dirt road across Seeley Creek and over a rise to the trailhead, 0.4 miles from Route 138 where the dirt road becomes gated. The trail to Heart Rock begins next to a marker labeled 4W07. Dogs on leash are welcome. No fee or permit is required.

9. Temescal Canyon Falls — Pacific Palisades

• Distance: 2.4 miles round trip
• Level of difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Temescal Canyon is a gorgeous hike in the Santa Monica Mountains. In fact, it’s one of the best hikes around for kids of all ages. The only problem is when rains have been light, this waterfall is more of a trickle. But if you can hit this hike soon after a rainstorm, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful sight. From the parking lot, take the trail past the Cheadle Dining Hall, and a small grassy field will appear. This is a great spot to picnic and play before starting the real hike. While relatively short, just over a mile to the falls, the trail pretty much goes up all the way, so little legs get tired and may want to take a few breaks. But the upside of that is once you reach the waterfall, it’s downhill all the way home. Narrow strollers can make it most of the way up this trail, but it's tough going to get to the waterfall with a stroller.

To get to the trailhead: From Pacific Coast Hwy, turn inland on Temescal Canyon Rd. Cross Sunset Blvd. to enter the park. Parking is available in several lots for $12 per day. The hike starts at the parking lot at Temescal Gateway Park. The ranger station is currently closed, but the bathrooms remain open.

10. Sycamore Canyon Falls — Newbury Park

• Distance: ~3 miles round trip
• Level of difficulty: Easy

Not far from Paradise Falls in Thousand Oaks is Sycamore Canyon Falls. Technically located in Newbury Park (which is part of the city of Thousand Oaks), this trail is a great place to experience a soothing, multi-tiered waterfall without much difficulty. The trail is about three miles long and there are other attractions near the trails, including the Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center, views of Boney Mountain, and views of Hidden Valley. If you're feeling really adventurous, Big Sycamore Canyon Rd. cross the Santa Monica Mountains and spits you out at Sycamore Cove Beach—it's relatively flat and older kids could do it, but keep in mind it's about 15 miles to the ocean and back. Strollers aren't recommended on this trail.

To get to the trailhead: From the 101 Freeway take the Lynn Road exit. Follow it for about 6 miles and take a left on Sycamore Canyon Trailhead, which leads you to the parking lot.

 Waterfall Hikes Near Los Angeles for Families: Sturtevant Falls
Sturtevant Falls in all its glory after the rains. Photo by Jim Thoburn via Flickr

11. Sturtevant Falls — Arcadia

Due to the Bobcat Fires, the trails at Sturtevant Falls remain closed until April 1, 2022. We will update this information when the park reopens.

• Distance: 3.7 miles round trip
• Level of difficulty: Easy

The water is gushing at this San Gabriel Mountains spot this season; the waterfall is delightful, but dress for the wet, as the water must be crossed a few times to reach your goal. The trail is mostly shaded and can occasionally get chilly, though the uphill section on the way back might make you break a sweat. This is a popular trail on the weekends, so the earlier you can set out the better, as the parking lot fills up. While the hike is doable for even little legs, strollers are not recommended.

To get to the trailhead: Take the 210 east through Pasadena to Arcadia. Exit on Santa Anita Avenue and head north. Go up the mountain for 5 miles until the road ends at Chantry Flats. Dogs on leash are welcome. A National Forest Adventure Pass is required to park a vehicle at the trailhead at Chantry Flats. Be sure to pay the $5 for parking, using an envelope if no one is there to collect.

12. Monrovia Falls —Monrovia

Due to the Bobcat Fires, the trails at Monrovia Canyon Park remain closed indefinitely. We will update this information when the park reopens.

• Distance: 1.6 miles round trip
• Level of difficulty: Easy/Moderate

This 30' waterfall in the San Gabriel Mountains has a classic wooded setting along a trail that sets off from the Monrovia Canyon Park Nature Center. The water generally flows year-round, but it is especially full after a wet winter, of course. The trail is mostly shaded and the incline is gradual, making this a fairly gentle way to see a gratifying waterfall. There are spots along the trail that may require some wading, depending on how much rain there has been, making this trail unsuitable for strollers.

To get to the trailhead: Take the 210 Freeway to Monrovia (east of Arcadia and Pasadena). Take exit 34 onto Myrtle Ave. and drive north for 1.1 miles to Foothill Boulevard. Turn right, drive four blocks to Canyon Boulevard and turn left. Drive north for 1.6 miles to the park entrance station, making a pair of right turns to stay on Canyon Boulevard. The lower lot for Bill Cull Trail is to the left of the entrance station. The nature center is another 0.6 miles up the road. Dogs on leash are welcome. The entrance fee is $5 per vehicle weekdays, $6 weekends.

Originally published in 2017, this article is updated annually.

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