- Location: 4890 N. Etiwanda Avenue, Rancho Cucamonga. From the 210 Freeway, take the Day Creek Blvd. exit (61) and head north (turn right if you are coming from the east; left if you are coming from the west). Follow Day Creek Blvd. for 2.2 miles to its ending at Etiwanda Avenue. Turn left and drive to the dirt lot. NOTE: On weekends, don’t expect to find parking available in the lot. Parking may be available about half a mile south in the tract near the intersection of North Rim Way and Etiwanda Avenue. Parking here adds one mile to the total round trip to the waterfall with about 200 feet of elevation gain.
- Agency: San Bernardino County Special Districts/North Etiwanda Preserve
- Distance: 3.4 miles
- Elevation gain: 800 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 2 hours (2.5 hours if parking is unavailable)
- Best season: December – May
- Dogs: Not allowed
- Cell phone reception: Good at the trail head and for the first half mile; none in the middle of the route; weak to fair at the waterfall
- Water: None
- Restrooms: None
- Camping/backpacking: None
- Recommended gear: Sun hat; sunblock; hiking poles
- More information: Trip descriptions here, here and here; Yelp page here; video of the waterfall here
- Rating: 5
Updated March 2019
Since its opening in 1998, the North Etiwanda Preserve has exploded in popularity thanks to Etiwanda Falls. Hikers from all over the Inland Empire and beyond have journeyed to Rancho Cucamonga to get a look at this waterfall, fed from Etiwanda Creek and snowmelt from the mountains a mile above. Indeed, the waterfall provides a veritable oasis just a few miles from the Inland Empire Sprawl. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that like many hiking destinations that have experienced sharp increases in demand, access has become difficult. In peak season, the parking lot is no match for the traffic. With local law enforcement cracking down on illegal parking (and break-ins reported), hikers should expect to park outside of the lot. As of this writing, parking in the residential area near North Rim way is a viable option – but if hikers are disrespectful to the residents and their properties, the area may see a conflict similar to that of the Beachwood Drive trailhead to the Hollywood Sign.
The hike begins rather nondescriptly, ascending a dirt road from the parking lot. In 0.6 mile, you pass a junction with the North Etiwanda Loop Trail, an option if you want to explore some of the less traveled parts of the reserve. A few plaques describe the history of the area and there are remains of a pipe system that transported water through the Inland Empire.
The trail ascends steadily, passing another junction at 1.1 miles. Another trail heads west and a short spur heads a few feet to an overlook with wide views down the canyon. By this point, you have entered the canyon carved by Etiwanda Creek. The tall mountain walls help block out some of the sights and sounds of the Inland Empire, and you will likely hear the creek flowing below. Another 0.6 mile of climbing brings you to the top of Etiwanda Falls. Here, water flows beneath alders, sycamores, oaks and pines before dropping over the cliff.
A sketchy use trail leads to the bottom of the top tier. Viewing the lower levels of Etiwanda Falls is neither safe or legal (though judging by the amount of graffiti, that hasn’t stopped some individuals).
Despite the crowds and other drawbacks, Etiwanda Falls remains an important recreational destination in the Inland Empire, providing access to nature in an area not known for it. With this accessibility comes responsibility. Rancho Cucamonga has already lost Sapphire Falls. Hopefully hikers will want to keep this one.
Text and photography copyright 2019 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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.