Difficulty PG Distance 2.1 to 5 miles General information: Hikes with free parking General information: Waterfall hikes Rating: 4-6 San Gabriel Valley & Foothills (East) Season: Late Winter/Spring

Etiwanda Falls


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Etiwnda Falls, Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Etiwanda Falls
Etiwanda Creek, Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Creek and foliage above Etiwanda Falls

Text and photography copyright 2011 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.

Etiwanda Falls

In addition to having an amusing sounding name, the city of Rancho Cucamonga, CA is one of the fastest growing in the country.  That being said, few of Rancho’s 170,000 residents have heard of the waterfall that is practically in their backyards.

The beginning of the hike to Etiwanda Falls is a little tedious, and with no shade, it’s best done on a cool day.  But as you leave behind the suburban sprawl and get higher into the mountains, it becomes very enjoyable, and you get to see one of the Inland Empire’s best-kept secrets.

From the parking area, head north on the fire road into the North Etiwanda Preserve.  At half a mile, you can take a detour to a picnic area.  The main trail continues, soon arriving at a gate (ignore the sign that says it’s private property; foot traffic is allowed).  Your efforts are rewarded here as you get nice views of the mountains and of Etiwanda Creek flowing below you on the right.  The grade levels out for a while before making one last ascent (you’ll pass a couple of other junctions, but stay on the main fire road) before arriving at the falls.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to look at the entire waterfall, as it is hidden from the main trail, without getting very close to the edge of the cliff.  The trail ends above the top tier, allowing pretty good viewing, but be careful on the rocks, especially after recent rains.  I couldn’t help but think of Pink Floyd’s song “One Slip” as I walked around the area; this is definitely not the place to have a momentary lapse of reason.

On the way back, you get nice views of the Inland Empire (Corona, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, and the neighboring communities).  This trail is a great example of how natural oases can be found even in unlikely places.

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30 comments

  1. 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.

    1. Hi Barbara, thanks for reading and for the heads-up. I double checked and you’re right about the dogs, so I fixed it.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. Yeah, it’s a nice little hidden gem. Hopefully the waterfall is still flowing; it’s really good during the spring.

    1. 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.

  4. 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,

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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.

    1. 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:)

      1. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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?

    1. 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.

      1. 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

      2. I was there 5 years ago so it may have changed but as far as I know it’s free. Enjoy!

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