Best 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.
2/22/24 - By Jennifer Fontaine

Add waterfall hikes near Los Angeles to your winter bucket lists. Winter weather means waterfall hikes near Los Angeles tend to be at their peak.

Some of these beautiful gems hide their light under a dry bushel in drought years, so when the (rare) precipitation pours into Los Angeles, step into nature and admire the impressive flowing waters. But don't forget an extra pair of socks when embarking on waterfall hikes near Los Angeles because your feet might get wet from those creek crossings. 

If your little one is a burgeoning adventure enthusiast, take them on these beginner hikes for toddlers or level up the difficulty on these best hikes for families. Find all our favorite hikes for kids in our hiking and camping guide for Los Angeles families


Best Waterfall Hikes Near Los Angeles

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 while crossing streams along the route. You can only access the lower falls as the upper falls are closed to the public. 

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 into a paid parking lot for the trail on the left at the bottom of Winding Way. Parking in this lot is pay-and-display. 

RELATED: Hidden Gem: Ferndell is an Outdoor Oasis in the Middle of the City

 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

• Distance: 1 – 3 miles round trip
• Level of difficulty: Easy/Moderate 

Note for 2024: Solstice Canyon is currently closed due to landslides. 

Winding its way past the ruins of Malibu mansions, the Solstice Canyon trail reaches a waterfall that is not very dramatic but is still worth the delightful walk. The views are good, with shady spots along the way and plenty of exploration for kids. Take the fire road for the easiest route.

If you have older kids, you could challenge the family to include the Rising Sun Trail on the round-trip trek, but be warned that there are steep drop-offs along this route. See more tips for Solstice Canyon in our best hiking trails for families

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, so arrive early. No fee or permit is required. This trail occasionally closes after heavy rains; check online for up-to-date info). 

3. Santa Ynez Falls — Topanga

• Distance: 2.2 miles round trip
• Level of difficulty: Moderate

This hike is on a shady trail with lots of tree cover on the path to an 18-foot waterfall. Be prepared to get your feet wet. The trail generally runs directly alongside the creek and crosses it at a few points.

Young or nervous hikers should know that near the waterfall, the canyon walls grow closer, the trail becomes rockier, and those rocks can be slippery. Otherwise, the hike stays pretty flat and manageable for the length of it, with a very slight incline towards the falls, so families can make this a quick, fun outing. 

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. 

4. Paradise Falls — Thousand Oaks

• Distance: 2.9 miles round trip
• Level of difficulty: Easy

Paradise Falls counts as one of the best waterfall hikes near Los Angeles. Signs along the way make the 40 ft waterfall easy to find. What's unique about this waterfall is that it flows year-round due to urban runoff, which also means swimming is not allowed. In addition to the waterfall, kids will love exploring the caves and teepee along this family-friendly hike. 

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.

RELATED: Hiking in Los Angeles with Kids: The Best Hiking Trails for Families

 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: 1.9 – 3.5 miles round trip
• Level of difficulty: Easy/Moderate 

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 at peak, expect to get your feet (and maybe even your clothes) wet. It also gets very busy when the waterfall is peak flow. 

A plentiful water supply will make the many stream crossings quite high, making this challenging for young kids. Rocks can be slippery, so some sticks or hiking poles might help, and be sure to bring extra clothes and footwear. 

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 couple of 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.

6. Millard Canyon Falls — Altadena

• Distance: 1.2 - 2.5 miles round trip
• Level of difficulty: Moderate

This is a relatively short and 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. 

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

7. Switzer Falls — Tujunga

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

Switzer Falls is a great choice for a day hike, with swimming holes and a 50' waterfall as a payoff. Be prepared to get your feet wet due to the many stream crossings, and plan on spending a couple of hours on this trail (especially at a kids' pace). Also, there is quite a bit of poison oak in these woods. 

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.

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 paid parking pass at the Shell station right off the 2 Freeway. 

8. Heart Rock Falls — Crestline

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

There are many reasons to like this waterfall hike. It's family-friendly and 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 and starts at Camp Seeley, but if in doubt, follow the hearts painted on rocks along the way.

The trail is pretty much a nature walk and even paved in some instances until you have to climb down to the falls. There are several ways down to the falls, all of which lead to the famous heart 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. 

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 leashes are welcome. No fee or permit is required. 

9. Temescal Canyon Falls — Pacific Palisades

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

Temescal Canyon is a gorgeous hike in the Santa Monica Mountains. It is one of the best hikes around for kids of all ages. The only problem is this waterfall is more of a trickle when off-season or rain has been non-existent. But if you can hit this hike soon after a rainstorm, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful sight.

From the parking lot, start the trail past the Cheadle Dining Hall, and a small grassy field will appear. The field is a great spot to picnic and play before starting the trek. While relatively short, just over a mile to the falls and bridge, the trail inclines all the way, so little legs get tired and may want to take a few breaks on this loop trail. But the upside of that is once you reach the waterfall, it’s downhill all the way home. 

You can turn around when you reach the bridge or keep trekking up to the viewpoint if the kids can handle the challenge of 935 ft elevation. You already paid for parking, so it might be worth continuing the climb. 

To get to the trailhead: From Pacific Coast Hwy, turn inland on Temescal Canyon Rd. Cross Sunset Blvd. to enter the park. Paid parking is available in several lots. The hike starts at the parking lot at Temescal Gateway Park

10. Sycamore Canyon Falls — Newbury Park

• Distance: 3.3 miles round trip
• Level of difficulty: Easy

Not far from Paradise Falls in Thousand Oaks is Sycamore Canyon Falls. Technically located in Newbury Park, 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, like the Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center, views of Boney Mountain, and Hidden Valley Mountain vistas. Note that there will be creek crossings after rain. 

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.

RELATED: The Best Tide Pools for Kids to Explore in and around LA and OC

 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

Note for 2024: Due to the Bobcat Fires, the trails at Sturtevant Falls remain closed. We will update this information when the park reopens. 

• Distance: 3.3 miles round trip
• Level of difficulty: Moderate

The water gushes at this San Gabriel Mountains spot; the waterfall is delightful, but dress to get wet, as you'll have to cross the creeks a few times to reach your end 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. 

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 leashes 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

Note for 2024: 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 is especially full after a wet winter.

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. 

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, and drive four blocks to Canyon Boulevard, then 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 leashes are welcome. The entrance fee is $5 per vehicle on weekdays and $6 on weekends. 

Originally published in 2017, this article is updated annually.

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