California is in a pretty extreme drought but when we do get rain, these spots spring to life and bring this (usually dry landscape) meandering streams and flowing waterfalls. Whether your accessibility is “view from the comfort of my vehicle” or “I like the threat of mortal injury with my adventure” we have something for everyone!!
1. Dana Point: When we get rains, this gem in Dana Point becomes a temporary treat! The location doesn’t have consistent water flow but when it does, you are in for something special! You can find it in Dana Point Harbor on Harbor Drive near the Ocean Institute. It is a great spot to take the kids and do some puddle splashing! But a warning, this waterfall doesn’t flow normally so there may be some debris being washed down it so please only admire it from a safe distance. This location is easily accessible and even potentially visible from the road
2. Falls Canyon: Down Trabuco Creek Rd in Trabuco Canyon, you will find Falls Canyon. This isn’t a paved road, which does allow for it to be a bit more private if you don’t enjoy crowds with your nature. REMEMBER, there is no cell signal as you get closer so you really need to have a physical map to ensure you don’t get lost. If you are approaching from Rancho Santa Margarita, you will drive down Trabuco Canyon Road, then turn right onto Trabuco Creek (this is a dirt road). If you hit the bridge then you have gone too far. Continue a few miles down the dirt road and a bit past the lot for Holy Jim Falls. Park where you feel is appropriate and continue on foot. The hike it s a bit steep so perhaps reserve this trip for folks who can do a little more intense of a hike. Additionally, if you want to get decently close, you will need a vehicle that can handle some off-roading. When you see the pale log, follow that path and the stream east. Follow the stream as it winds towards the falls. Enjoy the trickle if you don’t visit during some rain but enjoy a decent waterfall if you visit after we get a bit of rain!
3. Black Star Canyon Trail: In Limestone Canyon Regional Park you will find the Black Star Canyon Trail. If you are heading in from the Tustin side, you will see Christmas trees on your left and the path you take is on your left. Park somewhere safe when you reach the gate. There are two trails to the falls, the upper is medium to hard and where you are more likely to need that first aid kit. Or the lower path, which is a bit easier. This is a longer trail (experienced hikers who are familiar with the trail can clear it and back in 3 hours so allow plenty of day light considering your experience). You can find parking at the end of the paved road and from there you hike down a dirt road until you reach the trees and the hike becomes a bit more advanced. There is a bit of rock and log navigation and some stooping under branches but the trail is woooorth it if you can manage it. Bring water as the hike is a bit long and intense but you can also bring dogs. Bring an emergency kit as there is a chance that you will scratch yourself up on rocks or brush.