There’s no doubt Los Angeles has plenty of spectacular trails. But sometimes, when you’re hiking through all that dust, rubble and scrub with the hot sun beating down, you really wish that a cool, shady oasis would magically appear.
The good news is, you may have just been hiking the wrong trails. There are plenty of impressive waterfalls, hidden shady valleys, and green canyons around the city. Here are 9 of the best.
At 150 feet, this is one of the tallest—and most spectacular—falls in LA. After the rain, it’s lush and green, but even in drought it’s worth the trip to see the unusual cave formations behind the waterfall. For the most part, it’s a pretty easy hike. But if you want to take it to the top, be prepared for a few steep inclines. Weekends are busy and parking can suck, so get in early.
ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST
There’s something magical about the shady trail to Sturtevant Falls that leads through the Angeles Forest in the San Bernardino Mountains. If sitting in traffic and sucking in fumes is getting you down, this 3.5-mile hike is perfect for clearing your head—and your lungs. There are quite a few obstacles on the trail so be prepared to get your feet wet. You’ll also hike past a few quaint log cabins and, of course, be treated to a majestic 50-foot waterfall at the conclusion.
Eaton Canyon Falls
The hike to Eaton Canyon Falls is relatively short and popular, but don’t be fooled! The terrain soon becomes rocky and you’ll find yourself scrambling up rugged inclines and hopping from stone to stone across the creek. Once you make it through the crowds of dogs and kids, you’ll find yourself in a leafy oasis under the cascading, 40-foot falls.
Trail Canyon Falls
If you’d prefer to avoid the crowds, this secluded and little-known trail in Tujunga is perfect for a quiet hike. You’ll meander through lush forest and creek beds and then ascend to take in some spectacular the views. At the finish, you’ll find an impressive sheer 30-foot waterfall. If you’re not averse to inclines, you can make your way to the top for some more incredible views.
If you prefer the couch to the trails, this quick and easy hike to a 50-foot waterfall won’t cause you too much discomfort. If the mild workout gets you hot and bothered, follow the trail down the canyon where there are a number of sheltered swimming holes.
This 3-mile trail takes you through some dramatic scenery in the Santa Monica Mountains. It’s a relatively easy hike, but once you complete the descent down into the grotto, you’re going to have to deal with some serious boulders. It’s best to go after the rain, when you’re sure to see the small waterfall in action. Keep your eye out—if you’re lucky you might see a salamander or two.
This hike through Solstice Canyon is better known for the ruins of the Roberts Mansion—thought to be the oldest building in Malibu. But it also features a charming waterfall that’s easily accessible and perfect for those looking for a casual stroll rather than a leg-busting hike.
Heart Rock Falls
This quick but scenic hike leads to a beautiful natural rock formation with a waterfall. If you want to see the falls in action, then it’s better to come after the rain, but whatever weather you come in you’ll notice the amazing heart-shaped rock formation that gives the site its name. It’s a little bit of a drive from LA, but worth it if you want to give that special someone a heart-shaped surprise.
Santa Ynez Falls
There are plenty of obstacles on the way to Santa Ynez Falls, so be prepared for a rock-scrambling workout. The first section of this 2.5-mile hike is relatively easy — a peaceful stroll through wildflowers and bay tree canopies. Once you get close to the falls, the terrain changes, with large boulders and rock-hopping across the creek until you reach a charming grotto with a small waterfall.