Paradise Falls in Wildwood Park
- Location: Corner of Avenida De Los Arboles and Big Sky Drive in Thousand Oaks. From the 101 freeway, take the Lynn Road exit and go north for 2.5 miles. Take a left on Avenida De Los Araboles and drive a mile to the park entrance. Make a U-turn at the corner with Big Sky and enter the park. From the 23 freeway, take the Olsen Road exit. Head west for 3.5 miles (Olson becomes Lynn Road on the way), and take a right on Avenida De Los Araboles.
- Agency: Conejo Recreation and Parks District (Phone: 805-495-6471)
- Distance: 3 miles
- Elevation gain: 400 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 2 hours
- Best season: All year
- Dogs: Allowed on leash
- Cell phone reception: Fair
- Water: Fountain at Meadows Picnic Area/nature center
- Restrooms: At the Meadows Picnic Area/nature center
- Camping: None
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
- More information: Trip descriptions (various routes) here, here and here; Yelp page here; trail map here
- Rating: 7
Fed by the Arroyo Conejo creek, 30-foot Paradise Falls is one of So-Cal’s most reliable year round waterfalls. It’s located in the back of Wildwood Park, which has been used in a variety of vintage TV shows, including “Gunsmoke”, “Rifleman” and more. While the waterfall is the park’s premier attraction, the walk to and from it is very enjoyable too, with interesting geology, serene oak woodlands and deep canyons.
There are many possible routes in the park, but the 3-mile loop here, as described in Jerry Schad’s “Afoot and Afield in Los Angeles County”, is probably the most enjoyable, bypassing the heavily used fire roads. Pick up a free map from the information board at the parking lot, which will be helpful (the map includes elevations and distances to the hundredth of a mile).
From the east side of the parking lot, pick up the Moonridge Trail, which heads down into the canyon. Half a mile in, you cross a fire road, and the descent continues. You reach a second fire road, head left for a short distance and come to a teepee. Here, you head right, descending farther into the canyon, and take a quick left, signed for the falls, which you will probably hear by this point.
At the bottom of the canyon, you can descend a few stairs and enter the grotto where Paradise Falls cascades down a rocky cliff into a wide pool. Click here to see a video of Paradise Falls.
When you’re ready, retrace your steps up the stairs, and head right along the Wildwood Canyon Trail, which gives a nice aerial view of the waterfall. Stay straight at a four-way junction, and arrive soon at a second junction where you can take a detour to Indian Cave (be careful on the steep steps).
Upon returning from the cave, head across the bridge and pick up the Indian Creek Trail. You can also drop by the Meadows nature center if you like. The Indian Creek trail follows the canyon, beneath the cover of oaks, and soon arrives at a stream. Stay left (the 76 Steps trail goes straight) and begin a steep but short ascent up some stairs back to the street level. As Schad puts it, this is where you “repay your debt to gravity.” On the way up, look for a smaller waterfall off to the right, far below.
Upon reaching the top of the canyon, head left and follow the Moonridge trail back to the parking lot. You can also go straight to get to the street, and head left and walk back. If you enjoyed this short loop, make sure you check out some other trails in Wildwood Park, such as Lizard Rock.
Text and photography copyright 2016 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.