Big Falls

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Big Falls (click image to purchase from the Nobody Hikes in L.A. Gallery)

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.

Big Falls

  • 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: A Comprehensive Hiking Guide
  • 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.


  1. Yep, been here, too. 😀

    It’s also where the Vivian Creek trail starts, so you can always backtrack to the car, then tag a trip up that way as far as you’re willing after Big Falls.

    I was thinking of trying one of the OC trips you’ve written about, but got stuck working on job applications today. Might try to squeeze that in tomorrow or Friday, depending on the weather. Also trying to decide if I want to take my car off-pavement for your Holy Jim Falls hike.

  2. The road to Holy Jim is a little rough. I’ve done it in a Subaru Outback which seems to work pretty well but you’ll still want to allow extra time.

  3. Yeah, that’s the thing. I’ve got a sedan, and although I took it on the road to the Aspen Grove in the San Bernardino NF twice, I’m not wild about going off-pavement. Might just do a short peak-hopping hike between Modjeska and Santiago. Doesn’t look that scenic, but it will give me a literal overview of the Santa Ana Mountains.

  4. Does anyone know how to get to where the water is coming from. I have been going here for years and I always go right under the waterfall. I want to know how to get to the source.

    1. If you are daring enough you can climb to the top through a crude trail that starts about halfway to the base of the falls. Its pretty steep and takes some rock climbing, but once on top you can see down the whole falls, its a lot taller than it looks from the bottom!

  5. It’ll take a little rock climbing but you can go to the top. It is an awesome view that really highlights the height of the falls. Its actually a lot taller than it looks from the base!

  6. falls are closed by park rangers. you are no longer allowed any where near it. ranger hides just around the bend to the left after path is closed.

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