- 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.
I’m pretty sure this is NOT dog friendly. The Etiwanda Preserve appeared to frown on canines when I was there a month or so ago.
Hi Barbara, thanks for reading and for the heads-up. I double checked and you’re right about the dogs, so I fixed it.
Lots of dogs LOVE this hike!! Ask them lol
Just a quick correction, if you continue up the trail a few yards, you come upon the true reason for making the hike. Standing above the falls and actually in it’s flow is breathtaking. A hidden trail, though steep, will allow you to stand under the falls for yet another view point.
Thanks for the tip, I’ll have to check it out next time I’m there.
I went their with my family in the spring time. It was nice because it was not too hot and there were flowers along the trails. Even though there are signs stating no dogs allowed, I saw plenty of people with their dogs. This was a find for us since we live right next to Etiwanda ave and Baseline about 2-3 miles south of the entrance.
Yeah, it’s a nice little hidden gem. Hopefully the waterfall is still flowing; it’s really good during the spring.
can you swim on the water ?
Probably not, because the water below the fall is hard to get to. I’d imagine it may be possible to swim in the creek above the waterfall, but I don’t know if it would be safe.
Dogs are not allowed and they will be enforcing a little harder this year since the dog owners that do venture up there leave the dogs mess for others to clean up, little tip if you scoop your poop and carry it out rangers may relax a little but they don’t want to end up standing in it either and please whatever trash you take up ie water bottles snack bar wrappers food, bring it back down and dispose of it the right way or none of will be allowed up there and its to pretty to miss, but like anything else the few that believe they are above the rules make it tough for the rest of us. so please leave it as you found it,
Went here a year ago, missed the trail and ended up doing a river hike all the way to the falls. It was a gorgeous view from the bottom but a very tricky hike (lots of poison ivy too). Thinking about doing it again this year and actually sticking to the trail lol
Wow – sounds like a lot of work! Enjoy your next visit. Thanks for reading.
Love your review. Hiked it by myself today. Amazing. A paradise in an “unlikely place.” I laid out on an outcropping rock overlooking the falls, sunning like one of the lizards. A great solitary walk with much flora & fauna to enjoy. Thank you for showing me this one. :0) Dev
You’re welcome, glad you liked it! Its certainly a good find for those who know it.
Has anyone made it to the headwaters? My gal and I hiked to the falls today and went off on a small trail to the left following a small tributary stream. We found a nice secluded spot to have a dinner, then went up a little further to another series of falls. Also found some raspberry bushes with berries on them–not quite ripe yet though.
Where is this small trail, is it the small stream above the creek? And how far is it to the next waterfalls? Thanks for your help:)
I’m not sure, I haven’t gone past the main waterfall. The map I found here http://www.everytrail.com/guide/etiwanda-falls/map shows a trail past the falls, but I don’t know what the terrain’s like. I’ll probably go back again at some point and check it out.
There’s really not much of a trail. It starts out to the side of the creek, and follows a short while until it dead ends into an open area. There’s lots of bugs, and the remaining hike along the stream is extremely rocky and overgrown, with an occasional wiped out area (at least now), where you can see parts of a trail. My bf and I only made it (what i’m assuming to be) half way before getting over it and heading back. One day, we may attempt headwaters, but I really don’t see causing that much impact worth it right now since the main waterfall is well taken care of and can still be enjoyed.
I just want to make sure people know that when you look at the map at the preserve, the waterfall and the trail to it are not marked on the map. We hiked the whole circuit, and never made it to the falls, which is okay, because it was still really beautiful. Now we just need to go again! So, just to clarify, take the fire road that goes toward the mountains, not the one that parallels them to the left.
Thanks for the clarification, I’ve done the loop a few times and never found the falls!
I hiked this trail today with my 7 year old daughter. Though she complained most of the way up, finding the waterfall made it all worth it and we had a great time! The waterfall was amazing, couldnt believe this was sitting in my backyard and I never even knew it!!! Can’t wait to do it again!
Cool, glad you guys liked it, it’s a nice little place to know about in the I.E.
Brought 2 8yr old girls up today and we had a great time. As some one above says once you get to the trail split at the wash and mini dam head up the hill and follow the trail about a 3/4 mile walk. You will walk into the beginning of the falls.
Is there any Dangers as far as Wildlife, Bears, Mountain Lions, Coyotes, Snakes, Etc? Also Would Going in the Early Evening Times Be Okay and Not To Hard To Find My Way?
This time of year, snakes are likely to be out. Mountain lions and coyotes are always a possibility. Bears are unlikely but you never know. Navigation is pretty easy; if you are coming back at night, the lights of the city will be in front of you so it should be pretty easy to find your way. Nevertheless make sure to be careful no matter what time of day you visit.
Is parking free? If not, whats the fee?
Parking is free.
Oh thank you! I was reading on other websites and they said free parking is only on the streets and we have to walk up. just wanted clearly
I was there 5 years ago so it may have changed but as far as I know it’s free. Enjoy!