Outdoor Adventure: Hike to the Waterfall

I was getting ancy.  I really wanted to just take a break and enjoy the outdoors.  So we set out on an adventure one Saturday with another couple, J and A – and it kicked our butts!

What a relief it was to hear about this hike from some friends of ours.  We’re constantly trying to find great hikes local to Orange County, but they are few and far between if you want one that’s off the beaten path (and that we haven’t already conquered).  We were told it’s long and not for the faint of heart. Perfect!

The first quarter mile or so of the trek follows a well maintained trail, then you cut off onto a smaller, less maintained trail down to a very wide stream bed.  In April, which is when we hiked (a couple years ago), this part of the stream was dry, but just a quarter mile upstream you encounter the remains of the water supply.  As the hike continues, more and stronger flowing waters fill the stream bed, the boulders get larger and the overgrowth more impeding.

There is no trail. You hike up the stream until you hit the waterfall.  Most of the hike was spent climbing (trees and boulders), dodging (branches), jumping (rocks), maneuvering (around obstacles), and slipping (into the water). Yes, each of us had our turn water logging our shoes and J even soaked her pants! This hike is a full body workout, but let’s put the emphasis on cardio and quads!

[enjoying nature and good company]

[after a short lunch we soon came to the first pool]

[we hiked some more along the gorgeous stream and enjoyed beautiful scenery]

[a while later we encountered the second pool]

[came across these beautiful rock plants/flowers]

[and just as I was preparing myself for another hour or so ’til the end, we were there!]

[the boys scaled the side wall and made it to the top!]

[on the way back, R talked A into taking a cold swim]

While we’re not quite sure the exact mileage of this hike, based upon our estimated average hiking speed and the time it took us to get there (minus our stops of course), we think it’s about 7.5 to 8 miles, round trip.  It took us a little longer to get there going upstream, about 3 hours (including a few of breaks), and about 2.5 hours back (with a swim break for the boys in the first pool). All in all, with rest stops, we hiked from noon and arrived back at the car by 6.  We are pretty swift hikers, though, so if you decide to accept the challenge, plan accordingly – I wouldn’t suggest starting at noon, we wouldn’t if we did it again.

This hike is totally worth it if your up for boulder climbing, tons of stream crossings (at least 15 each way) and maneuvering under and through trees and branches. But keep in mind, this hike is definitely not recommended for hot summer days as much of the hike is in direct sunlight, and it’s questionable how much water will be in the stream at that time of year (we hiked in early Spring).


The trailhead is located at the end of Modjeska Canyon.  From the 5, take El Toro Road inland which then turns into Santiago Canyon road right around the time you hit Cook’s Corner. Continue on Santiago Canyon road, turn right onto Modjeska Canyon road and follow the signs to the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary where you can park.  If that lot is full, you can find parking on the street before the Sanctuary.

Find the trailhead just to the right of the Sanctuary main office.  Take the well maintained trail about 1/4 mile until you find a smaller trail off to the left at (almost) the top of the hill. Take that trail down and turn right at the bottom into the stream bed. Hike all the way up the stream until you reach the waterfall.  It’s out and back.

WARNING – encounters with poison ivy and several stream crossings. I highly recommend wearing long pants and waterproof shoes.

What are your favorite hikes, local or otherwise?  Let me know if you conquer this trail and tell your story in the comments section below!



Filed under Outdoor Adventure

3 responses to “Outdoor Adventure: Hike to the Waterfall

  1. julie

    beautiful! so glad you are able to find nature and relax and have fun with friends.

  2. Erin M.

    Beautiful! Do you know of any other good hiking trails or regular trails in Orange County? I’d love to hike more often!

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