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: Forest Falls in the San Bernardino National Forest. From I-10 in Redlands, take the University Ave. exit, go right and take an immediate left on Citrus. Go 2.6 miles and take a left on Crafton. Go a mile and turn right on Mentone Blvd (highway 38). Go 10.5 miles and take a slight right on Valley of the Falls Drive (where highway 38 makes a hairpin turn to the left). Drive 4 miles to the end of the road and park in the lot signed for the Big Falls trailhead. A National Forest Service adventure pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required to park here. Click here to purchase.
- Agency: San Bernardino National Forest/Mill Creek Ranger Station
- Distance: 0.6 miles
- Elevation gain: 100 feet
- Suggested time: 30 minutes
- Difficulty rating: PG
- Best season: Year round
- USGS topo map: Forest Falls
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
- More information: here; video of the waterfall here
- Rating: 5
This unimaginatively, but accurately, named waterfall is one of So-Cal’s tallest. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get a good look at the entire multi-level waterfall, but it’s impressive upper tier can be seen with a short walk from Forest Falls.
The hike to the waterfall is certainly not difficult, but with a tricky stream crossing and a somewhat steep ascent over potentially slippery rocks, it may be tougher than it first appears.
From the parking area, follow the signs for the waterfall trail. The path may be a little tough to follow, but it will usually be designated with a row of rocks on either side. In general, it stays close to the drop-off to Mill Creek, before descending down to it. The creek usually flows quickly and can be over a foot deep in spots. There are several rocks and logs that you can use to make the crossing (as of this writing, the best place seems to be a pair of logs a little downstream from where the trail crosses.
Across Mill Creek, look for a signed trail leading uphill along the side of a rocky cliff, climbing to an overlook where you can see the waterfall’s upper tier. On the way back, you can get a closer look at the lower tiers of the falls, but climbing up on these rocks is not advisable–signs posted here will warn you to that effect. Although it would be nice to be able to safely see the lower levels of the waterfall, this is still a nice place to sit and take a break before heading back to your car.