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.
- Location: North of Rancho Cucamonga. From I-210, take the Day Creek Blvd. exit and drive a mile north to Wilson. Go right on Wilson, drive half a mile and turn left on Etiwanda. Park in the dirt lot at the end of the street.
- Agency: San Bernardino County Special Districts/North Etiwanda Preserve
- Distance: 4 miles
- Elevation gain: 950 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 2 hours
- Best season: December – May
- USGS topo map: Cucamonga Peak
- Recommended gear: Sun Hat Sunblock
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
- More information: Trip descriptions here, here and here; video of the waterfall here
- Rating: 5
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.