Big Falls Trail in Arroyo Grande, CA

Big Falls Trail is a short, easy hike that offers views of one of California’s largest waterfalls. The shaded trail consists of a creek crossing followed by a short walk to an outlook.

The trail and the outlook both offer stunning glimpses of the impressive five-tiered waterfall. There’s also an adjacent picnic area with restrooms, making this a popular hike for families with young children.


Big Falls Trail is an easy hike up to the outlook.

Before 2019, hikers could choose to go beyond the outlook to the base of the falls, making this hike much more challenging. The San Bernardino Forest Service has since restricted access to the trail beyond the outlook due to numerous rescues.


Big Falls Trail’s length is .7 miles.

Trail Begins

Big Falls Trail location is 30 minutes outside of Redlands, CA, in the community of Forest Falls.

To get there, take HWY 39 to Valley of the Falls Road, then head east. You’ll drive through a small community. At the top end of the road, past the community, you’ll see the parking lot, trailhead, and picnic area.

The trail is very popular but not well marked. It starts on the left of the parking lot, in front of the picnic area. To access it, you have to walk down to the creek and cross the wash. From there, the trail up to the outlook will be more apparent.

The creek is often a dry bed, especially in the late summer. However, in years with heavy rain, it may be full. If the creek is flowing or thunderstorms are in the forecast, local authorities suggest you skip this hike due to the risk of flash floods.

You can view a Big Falls Trail map here.

Gear / To Bring

Big Falls Trail is a short and easy trail, so sunglasses, a pair of athletic shoes, and a small water bottle should suffice.

There is a picnic area at the trail base. So, you could bring lunch and make an afternoon out of the hike.


Dogs are allowed on Big Falls Trail but must be on a leash.


There is no fee to hike Big Falls Trail, but you will need an Adventure Pass to park. A California Adventure Pass is $5 per day or $30 per year.

Hike/Ride Time

Most hikers complete this trail in about 26 minutes.

Best Seasons

It’s best to hike Big Falls Trail between April and October as the trail closes during winter.

In dry years, you may want to avoid August and September. Fire season is in full swing then, and the falls may not be impressive. Also, the risk of thunderstorms with subsequent flash floods is much greater in those months.


The elevation change for Big Falls Trail is 226 feet.


Parking is available at the trailhead with an Adventure Pass. Big Falls Trail hours are from sunrise to sunset, and the parking lot closes overnight.

It’s tempting to park in the nearby community without a pass, but if you do so, you risk having your car towed! So, it’s best to purchase a single-day pass at the nearby general store and park in the assigned lot.

Route Type

Big Falls Trail is an out-and-back trail.


There are no bikes allowed on Big Falls Trail.


Most hikers gave the Big Falls trail a good review- a scenic hike that is easy and family-friendly. Reviewers also mention a lot of good spots to put up a hammock.

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Featured image via Yelp