- Location: Hidden Springs Picnic Area, Angeles National Forest. The picnic area is on the Angeles Forest Highway, 7 miles north of the Angeles Crest Highway at Clear Creek Junction and 3 miles north of the junction with Big Tujunga Canyon Road. It will be immediately on your left as you exit the tunnel. From the Antelope Valley, the picnic area is 17.5 miles south of Highway 14 via the Angeles Forest Highway. A National Forest Service adventure pass ($5 for a day or $30 for a year) is required. Click here to purchase.
- Agency: Angeles National Forest/Los Angeles River Ranger District (Note: this is an unmaintained canyon route that is not an official trail. The Angeles National Forest does not take responsibility for any injuries that may occur and neither does this website).
- Distance: 1 mile
- Elevation gain: 200 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 1 hour
- Best season: Year round but hot during the summer (the waterfall is best after recent rains, but trail conditions can be dangerous and treacherous if the water level is high)
- Dogs: Not allowed
- Cell phone reception: None
- Water: None (filtering water from Mill Creek will not be worth the effort)
- Restrooms: Vault toilets at the trail head
- Camping/backpacking: The Hidden Springs Picnic Area is open for day use only. For information about camping in the Angeles National Forest, including dispersed camping, click here.
- More information: Trip description here; video of the waterfall here
- Rating: 5
Updated June 2018
This is one of the odder hiking trips in the Angeles National Forest front country – adventurous and rugged for such a short hike but sadly also overrun with trash and graffiti. The destination is a 25-foot waterfall on Mill Creek, a tributary of Big Tujunga Canyon. Despite the hike’s short distance and minimal elevation gain, it is more challenging than one might first expect – especially for hikers who don’t have much experience with canyon scrambling or bouldering. No special equipment is required to reach the waterfall, but getting to the bottom requires a descent on a rock face that should not be attempted by solo hikers who are not familiar with that type of terrain. There is no cell phone reception in the canyon, exacerbating the consequences of injuries that may occur. For hikers who are confident in their canyoneering abilities and who aren’t put off by the trash (and perhaps might be motivated to remove some of it), Mill Creek Falls is a worthwhile excursion, especially for those who want some variety from Switzer Falls, Trail Canyon Falls or the other waterfalls of the Angeles front country.
Begin by heading through a gap in the metal fence at the far side of the picnic area. A use trail (wooden beams set into the slope suggest that this may have once been an official trail) descends into the canyon. At the bottom, head left, down canyon, along a primitive trail. For the next twenty or so minutes, follow the path of least resistance which, depending on the water level, may either be the stream bed itself or the use trail, which mainly runs along the south (left) side of the creek. Keep an eye out for poison oak and expect to have to duck under or climb over some fallen trees.
Your first major obstacle comes about 20 minutes from the beginning (depending on your pace). Carefully lower yourself down a drop of about 10 feet. Several logs have been placed at an angle to help negotiate the drop; you can also brace yourself against the rock walls of the canyon.
A few minutes later, you arrive at the top of the waterfall. If you are not confident in your rock scrambling abilities, or if you are hiking alone and are not experienced with the type of climbing required to reach the bottom, this is your turnaround point. To reach the bottom of the waterfall, make sure your shoes or boots are not wet from the stream scrambling and begin by climbing the rocks on your left. Cautiously make your way along the slope and then begin a descent of about 40 feet to the bottom of the wall. There are enough handholds and footholds to make the descent possible, but it is still an undertaking that should not be taken lightly. The best approach is to visually scout ahead (below) for solid footholds and then to descend facing the rocks, as you would on a ladder.
The waterfall cascades down the rocks into a small pool. This is a peaceful, secluded spot – it’s hard to believe you’re only half a mile from the highway – where you can rest and enjoy the sounds of the waterfall before climbing up the rock wall and heading upstream back to the picnic area.
Text and photography copyright 2018 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.