Etiwanda Falls: San Bernardino’s Most Popular Waterfall

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  • Miles: 3.19
  • Time: 1.5 hrs
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Best Season: Spring
  • Elevation Gain: 756 ft
  • Max Elevation: 2823 ft
  • Type of Trail: Out & Back
  • Parking Lot: Dirt Lot Fits 30+ Cars
  • Dogs: Not Allowed
  • Restrooms: Not Available
  • Trail Popularity: Very High
  • Pics Taken On: Nov 30, 2022

Take a stroll through the foothills of the Angeles Forest and into a woodsy canyon where you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful cascade.

Etiwanda Falls is a very popular 15-20 ft cascade located in North Etiwanda Preserve, an area known for its rich history. The moderately difficult hike primarily consists of a shadeless dirt road. However, once inside the canyon, the scenery transforms into a luscious mountain paradise.

I dubbed Etiwanda Falls as one of the must-do waterfalls in Southern California. However, it’s far from being at the top of the list. Check out the link below to view the complete list.

SoCal’s Best Waterfalls

Etiwanda Falls Trail Map

Etiwanda Falls Elevation Profile

Download Printable PDF Map

Address & Directions

To be redirected to the trailhead via Google Maps, click the following link: Etiwanda Ave, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91739

Helpful Links

Weather Report

Click one of the following links to download the HonkMobile App on iPhones or Androids to pay for your parking permit, or scan the QR code below.

Etiwanda Falls parking QR code

Expect enormous crowds on the weekends.

**Make sure to check the hours below so you don’t get locked inside the parking lot after they close the gate.**

Etiwanda Falls Hours

Summer Months Mar – Oct: 6:30 am – 8:00 pm

Winter Months Nov – Feb 6:30 am – 5:00 pm

Etiwanda Falls Trail

After paying the parking fee, I headed straight through the next gate and towards the mountains.

Although not on the map, the pavilion below is easy to spot and features a lot of interesting information regarding the area, its history, endangered species, and plants.

I highly recommend it, as it’s only a 1 minute detour.

The entirety of the trail is a not so exciting dirt road, but luckily I had an amazing view of the valley to the south, Cucamonga and Etiwanda Peak towering above to the north, and Old Greyback (San Gorgonio) to the east.

Mount San Gorgonio is the snowy peak in the image below.

Further up the road I came across a late 19th century water pipe that once allowed ranchers and farmers to harness the waters of East Etiwanda Creek.

The structure shown below, which is known as an overflow drain, was used along with water pipes to prevent flooding.

Hopefully, it’ll be flowing during your visit as it was on mine.

After hiking underneath the merciless sun and on the rutted road, I arrived at mountain paradise.

At the top of the falls, I had a stunning view of the East Etiwanda Canyon mouth opening up and the creek gushing over the second much smaller falls.

Deeper into the canyon, White Alder trees decorate the landscape, making it look like a wooden scenery normally seen in movies.

There it is, beautiful Etiwanda Falls. You would never think to see something like this in Rancho Cucamonga.

The second much smaller falls is located below Etiwanda Falls, and directs the creek into a pool.

However, I don’t recommend trying to climb down, as it’s steep and dangerous.

Have you ever wondered which waterfall is the highest in SoCal? Well, like Etiwanda Falls, it’s also in San Bernardino County. Click the link to check it out. It’s called Big Falls, a 500 ft cascade in the sleepy mountain town of Forest Falls.

I was shocked to see this much water flowing in December, especially after a very dry season, but that is probably why Etiwanda Falls has become so popular.

Etiwanda Falls is nice, but it doesn’t compare to another one of my favorites. Click the link for Stoddard Canyon Falls, a waterfall with a natural rockslide and swimming hole in San Antonio Canyon.

It’s so close to Etiwanda Preserve that you could easily hike both trails on the same day.

Etiwanda Falls History

Although American settlers named Etiwanda Falls in 1882 after a native tribe from Lake Michigan, the area belonged to two California tribes:

The first tribe were the Tongva people, or Gabrielinos (after the mission of San Gabriel in LA), as they were called by the Spanish.

The second tribe were the Taaqtam people, also known as Serranos by the Spanish, which means “people of the pines” because they were the more mountaineer type out of all the local tribes.

As is the case with most of our California tribes, the history has been unfortunately, lost.

Hence, what we know traces back to 1774, to the days when Spanish Captain Juan Bautista de Anza passed through the area with the intention of finding an overland trail from Mexico to the San Gabriel Mission.

The first Europeans to settle in the area were the Spanish, who primarily used the land for ranching. Little changed when Mexico won its independence and took over the land.

However, when the US took hold of the fertile land, it was quickly converted into groves, which is why you still see a few fruit groves scattered throughout Riverside and San Bernardino.

Water

The canyons in North Etiwanda Preserve were one of the first in the area to be used for harvesting and transporting water, first via simple ditches and canals dug in the ground, then using wooden flumes.

When the wooden flumes were destroyed by floods or decayed, they were replaced with clay pipes, which minimized the loss of water caused by evaporation, absorption, or spilling outside of the flumes. You can still see remnants of the clay scattered throughout the trail.

Stone walls, whose remnant’s can also be seen today, were built to protect the clay pipes and maintain the proper gradient, thus ensuring gravity flow.

Keep an eye out for cylinder shaped concrete structures. These chambers housed multiple pipe openings, and were used to cut water off from certain pipes while directing the flow to others in order to facilitate the sharing of water between landowners.

The Zanjero, a Spanish word for “ditch master” was responsible for controlling and directing the water to landowners at their appropriate times.

Eventually, clay pipes were replaced by concrete pipes buried underground.

North Etiwanda Endangered Species

North Etiwanda Preserve is home to wide variety of animals, but unfortunately, some of them face the threat of extinction.

The following 10 species have been classified by the US Department of Interior and the State of CA as endangered, threatened, or species of special concern.

Please, always pack out what you pack in.

  • San Diego Horned Lizard – special concern
  • Mountain Yellow-legged Frog – endangered
  • San Diego Ring-necked Snake – special concern
  • LA Pocket Mouse – special concern
  • San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat – endangered
  • Southwestern Willow Flycatcher – endangered
  • Bell’s Sage Sparrow – special concern
  • Rufous-crowned Sparrow – special concern
  • Least Bell’s Vireo – endangered
  • Coastal California Gnatcatcher – threatened

Etiwanda Falls Trail Plants

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for these plants while you’re on the trail. Some can be seen year round, while others are seasonal.

  • Chamise
  • California Sagebrush
  • Bigberry Manzanita
  • Plummer’s Mariposa Lily
  • Mule Fat
  • California Lilac
  • Blue Dicks
  • Scale Broom
  • California Fuchsia
  • California Buckwheat
  • Stinging Annual Lupine
  • Canyon Live Oak
  • White Sage
  • Our Lord’s Candle (Yucca)
  • Poison Oak
  • California Wild Grape
  • Black Sage
  • California Brittlebush

FAQ

Is Etiwanda Falls stroller friendly? 

Although the Etiwanda Falls Trail consists entirely of a dirt road, it is not stroller friendly, as the road is very rutted. 

Do you have to pay for parking at Etiwanda Falls? 

A permit is required in order to park at the Etiwanda Falls trailhead. 

How long of a hike is Etiwanda Falls?

Etiwanda Falls is a 3.19 mile roundtrip hike. 

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I’m Phillip, and just like you, I feel very passionate about California and the outdoors. After many years of exploring amazing and hidden places, I thought I’d share them with you. Life goes by fast so get out there and enjoy it.  

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