Found within the North Etiwanda Preserve in Southern California, near the cities of Fontana, Upland, and Rancho Cucamonga, the preserve is a fantastic place for a day hike. Located at the very tip-top of Etiwanda Avenue, in Rancho Cucamonga, it’s not hard to find (just get on Etiwanda Avenue and follow it up until it dead ends). It’s an incredibly beautiful location, making it a rather popular hiking spot. Also, while it may not always be this way, when we went it was extremely green, grassy, and lush – giving major Jurassic Park vibes. 🦖
Fair warning: the hardest thing about getting to the trailhead is the parking. It’s atrocious. The parking is free, and the lot is at a dead end, which then leads to the trailhead. It’s nothing more than a small dirt patch with zero lines to separate the spots, so if someone decides to (rudely) take up what could’ve been two spots, there’s not much that can be done. Don’t be that person.
It’s particularly important that one parks within the clearly marked parking lot, otherwise the city WILL tow your car. There are spots just outside of the parking lot, where we saw cars parked, but it’s a risky game of car towing Russian Roulette. Proceed at your own risk and bank account. If you wish to not deal with this game of Parking Lot Wars, my suggestion is to get there as early as possible, possibly even around 6am – 6:30am. We arrived around 8:30am and the war was fully raging.
Now, as for the falls, they’re a bit lackluster. Not very large or powerful, they’re nestled about 1.5 miles into the preserve, with the whole preserve located near the base of the San Bernardino Mountains. The hike is an out and back trail, around 3.5 miles round trip. It’s rated as “moderate” on many hiking websites and apps, something I would agree with. Pretty much from the get-go it’s a bit uphill and rocky, easier in some parts and harder in others. There is a spot about midway into the hike that is straight uphill and very rocky, so be prepared for that. However, if you can keep pushing through to the top, it eventually levels out and you get some spectacular views. From there, the walk to the falls is very easy, and once you make it to them, you can climb around and explore. If you hike just to the falls, turn around, and hike back, it takes approximately 2 hours.
However, you can keep going further on the trail. Or perhaps spend time piddling around the falls, which is what we chose to do. While it can be somewhat of a trek, luckily there are plenty of places to stop and rest at the top of the falls, where you can catch your breath and take in the beauty of nature. The stream above the falls is calm, but the falls themselves, while small, are located within a rocky area, so be careful not to slip.
Also, while this is located within metropolitan Southern California, this particular area is the wilderness where coyotes, mountain lions, and even the exceedingly rare bear like to sometimes make an appearance. While I don’t personally believe you have to worry about the human predator if you go during the day when it is heavily trafficked, I’d still follow basic hiking guidelines and carry some form of protection. Regardless of where or when you hike, I always suggest bringing something… you be the judge of what (as well as other basic guidelines – like let loved ones or a friend know exactly where you are going, with who, and the timeframe you’ll be gone. Especially if you’re hiking solo).
Overall, Etiwanda Falls Preserve and trail is a terrific day hike and can be quite green and lush depending on what time of year you visit. The most important thing to remember about this trail and preserve is it’s popular. It can and will get very uncomfortably crowded, and the term “heavily trafficked” is an understatement. Go as early as possible, bring lots of water, and enjoy some beautiful nature. 😊