We’ll be the first to admit that L.A. isn’t too good at dealing with moisture. Our river is more like a concrete channel, and bad drivers seem to magically surface whenever there’s a hint of rain. However, recent storms have lifted California out of our “exceptional drought,” returning water to creeks and cascades across the state. In other words, there’s never been a better time for a hike. Catch these rock pools, rivers and waterfalls in rare form while you can.
Easily accessible rock pools make Malibu Creek one of L.A.’s best loved hikes, and for good reason. New hikers just need to follow the stream and the happy shouts of jumping hikers—diving is technically forbidden but still common. The trail continues on to Century Lake, the setting of a couple scenes from the 1968 Planet of the Apes film, for a pleasant 5.7 mile loop.
Big Tujunga Creek is a major tributary of the L.A. River, streaming through the steep canyon walls of the San Gabriel Mountains to reach the Pacific Ocean. The connecting falls, nestled in the Angeles National Forest, are one of L.A.’s best kept secrets. A fire road is quickly transformed into a tree-shaded mountain pass that becomes quite steep and narrow as the falls approach. Keep an eye out for snakes, as they are occasionally spotted on the trail.
The rain has transformed the Angeles National Forest, making the foliage flourish and water stream down the fifty-foot falls. Keep your feet dry by using logs to cross the small creeks that stud the dog-friendly trail, and be sure to wear sensible shoes to avoid slipping. Start at the Switzer Falls Picnic Area in Colby Canyon, then head down the Gabrielino Trail about two miles to reach the waterfall. A $5 Adventure Pass is required for parking.
Nestled inside Griffith Park, this tree-lined trail is ideal for adventurers of all ages. The recent rainfall has made the area’s plentiful vegetation impossibly lush, giving a fairy tale quality to the wooden footbridges and tiny waterfalls that line the path. Traversing the trail doesn’t take long, but the plentiful park benches, giant ferns, and koi ponds make lingering a pleasure. Consider it the perfect urban oasis.
A 2.5 mile loop winds past a teepee and small cave to reach the forty-foot waterfall that gives Paradise Falls its name. The water quality is too poor for swimming, but the falls feed into a rock grotto that acts as an excellent spot to sit and take in the view. Extend your hike by continuing on to nearby Lizard Rock, where a fairly steep incline results in impressive views of Wildwood Regional Park.
Located just off the Backbone Trail, this 6.5 mile roundtrip hike traverses a particularly beautiful part of the Santa Monica Mountains with views of the ocean and access to several waterfalls. The mossy trail is moderately steep, making this hike a good candidate for a weekend workout. This is a rare time to see the falls flowing, as the climate is quite arid most of the year.
The Bridge to Nowhere is a notorious destination for thrill seeking bungee jumpers, but the prodigious 10-mile loop is also home to multiple river crossings and cascades. Stay on the path for access to Devil Gulch Falls, a secluded, mossy outpouring of water. Then, head to the bridge for an impressive view of the San Gabriel River, and take one of the short trails down from the bridge to reach a small array of swimming holes. With this much water to take in, a trip out to Azusa is more than justified.