Text and photography copyright 2010 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.
- Location: 19152 Placerita Canyon Road, near Newhall. From the 14 freeway in Newhall, take the Placerita Canyon Road exit and head east for 3.5 miles. The park entrance is on the right.
- Agency: Placerita Canyon Park
- Distance: 5.4 miles
- Elevation gain: 750 feet
- Suggested time: 2 1/2 hours
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Best season: Year-round
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
- USGS topo maps: “Mint Canyon”; “San Fernando”
- More information: here; trip reports here
- Rating: 6
This is a sentimental favorite of mine, being my third wilderness hike in southern California (after the San Juan Loop and Monrovia Canyon Falls). It’s one of the hikes I learned about from Ann Marie Brown’s Easy Hiking in Southern California.
The waterfall only has a strong flow after heavy rains, but the hike to it is enjoyable any time of year. Some veterans might find the first stretch (from the nature center to Walker Ranch) a little monotonous, but many will be pleasantly surprised that such a quiet, wooded area is only half an hour’s drive from the San Fernando Valley. (Those wanting more of a challenge can try the 7-mile hike to Manzanita Mountain, which also leaves from the nature center).
From the nature center, follow the Canyon Trail into the park. It follows along Placerita Canyon for two pleasant, if somewhat uneventful miles. There is some interesting geology to check out during this stretch, and oaks and sycamores provide shade.
At Walker Ranch, look for the Waterfall Trail branching off to the right (not to be confused with the Los Pinetos trail). The trail climbs steeply into the canyon (be careful on the stairs) and soon comes to a split. Take a right to stay on the trail, which makes an S-curve before arriving at the waterfall. The last stretch, which involves some climbing over fallen trees and rocks, can be a little tricky. Even if the waterfall’s flow is weak, the grotto is a very attractive area to sit and relax before heading back.
At the nature center, make sure you visit the displays, which include a live owl and red tailed hawk, as well as some stuffed animals, such as a mountain lion, bobcat and more.