This easy 2.8 mile out and back family friendly hike, is a refreshing escape from the heat and the hustle and bustle of Southern California.
Directions: From Interstate 5 , exit at El Toro Road. Head north on El Toro Road until the road forks at the juncture of Santiago Canyon and Live Oak Canyon roads. You will know to turn when you see the Cook’s Corner biker bar. Take a right onto Live Oak Canyon Road. In my opinion this is where the adventure begins. Follow the winding, tree canopy covered road past O’Neill Park. Continue on, but be on the lookout for the Trabuco General Store on your left. If you do not have a National Forest Adventure Pass, stop in and purchase your day pass for $5. This hike is a fairly heavily traveled area and I have often seen Rangers giving “notice of required fee” warnings for “no pass displayed”. Continue on for approximately a quarter of a mile. Once you pass over the wash (Trabuco Creek), turn left onto the dirt road. This is Trabuco Creek Road. In the beginning, the road is fairly well maintained but often has rough wash board sections. Continue on for a few miles and cross into the Cleveland National Forest.
After you cross into the forest, the road gets progressively rougher and more scenic.
Heads up! There are a few shallow river crossings that you must drive through to get to the trail head parking area.
Once you arrive at the trail head parking lot, you will have to hike along the gravel road for a little over a half mile until you get to the actual trail head. This adds distance to the described 2.8 mile round trip, but the only parking areas closer to the trail head are reserved for the small rustic cabins that litter the road.
The trail follows alongside and crosses the stream numerous times. Be prepared to step across, balancing on rocks or sometimes logs to keep from getting you feet wet. If you have small children you will probably have to help them across in several locations.
The trail can become rocky with a few moderate inclines, but for the most part is easily passable.
As the trail narrows and comes to a fork, stay right and climb the rocks. This becomes the most difficult part of the hike. There are several crossings that require you to walk on large smooth rocks that get quite slippery when wet. Continue on and listen. You will hear the falls before seeing it.
Upon arrival, sit back and enjoy the small pool of water and the sound of the white noise while enjoying a well deserved snack before heading back.
Snap a photo or two of the falls while you are here…
If your bringing small children (like my 2 year old) you may want to bring a kid carrier backpack for the return trip.
My wife and I have been bringing my oldest daughter here since she was a little over 2 and this trail, with it’s variety of terrain and obstacles, is a fantastic way to keep any kid interested and introduce them to the wonderful world of hiking.