Hiking to the Black Star Canyon Waterfall

Hiking to the Black Star Canyon Waterfall

Hiking Black Star Canyon to the main waterfall is not for the faint of heart. In the middle of California’s rainy season, when the creek is flush with water, brave hikers will be forced to balance across fallen trees, pull themselves up and over large boulders, and weave through thick brush in pursuit of a clear path. However in the end, like all of life’s best adventures, the destination is well worth the journey.

Hiking Black Star Canyon to the Waterfall is best done right after a long period of rain, so we decided this past weekend was our best opportunity to get pictures of it in full effect. From South Orange County, the quickest way to Black Star Canyon requires taking the 241 N. to Los Alisos, then turning on Muirlands before making a right onto El Toro Road, which becomes Santiago Canyon Road. If you haven’t had a chance to drive through Santiago Canyon, it’s winding, wilderness lined road is a destination unto itself. There are some South County gems along the canyon that aren’t your typical OC establishments, like Cook’s Corner and Rose Canyon Cantina & Grill, both of which I would highly suggest if you want to make a day out of your hiking adventure.

Entrance to Black Star Canyon Trail

There is plenty of parking once you reach the entrance to Black Star Canyon Trail. We arrived at 11:30 am on a popular, highly-trafficked day and we were still able to get a spot close to the gate. The surrounding, open landscape beckons you onto the path, which is thick with trees, both gnarled and bare from previous fires as well as ample and sprawling. The natural beauty of all the trails in Trabuco Canyon is unlike any terrain I have witnessed in Orange County.

Don’t be deceived by the first 2 miles of this hike; I promise the hard difficulty level I rated it is warranted. This section of the trail is flat, with only a slight incline, as well as very wide. We passed by a lot of hikers and walkers we did not cross paths with once we got to the creek portion of the trail. At the end of these first few miles, there is a sign pointing right toward Black Star Canyon Waterfall. Any bikers you shared the trail with up until this point will make a left to continue their journey. At this stage of the hike, I suggest pulling out a snack, taking a big swig of water, and tightening your laces, ’cause it’s going to be a crazy ride.

Walking Along the Creek to Black Star Canyon Waterfall

The forested landscape grows wild for the remaining 1.5 miles of this trail. Trees and brush grow through and around walls of rock and shifting earth (Note: this trail has pockets of Poison Oak so be on the lookout. In the winter when the plan has little to no leaves, it is especially important to wear long layers).

Trails like this are what define the term “off the beaten path”. Several times we lost track of the path in front of us and had to double back a few feet to maneuver across the rushing creek or lift ourselves up a network of large rocks. If nothing else, you need all the energy you can muster to maintain your balance and watch your footing.

This hike sneaks up on you in unexpected ways. My balance was challenged, but I was more nimble than I expected; all that yoga paid off! My upper body strength was put to the test, but once I caught my foot on a rock I was trying to scale, I put all my weight into my lower body to pull myself up. That’s not to say I didn’t rely on a little push, booty first, from my husband. And a willing and strong partner to your list of what to bring on this hike 😉

If you get to a point on this hike where you feel worn down, frustrated by hikers with small children or dogs in front of you (please do NOT do this by the way – very dangerous!), or impatient about arriving at your destination, promise me you will keep moving forward as long as you are able. I have seen pictures of Black Star Canyon Waterfall, but like most natural wonders, it is one better witnessed in person.

Ferns Growing Along Black Star Canyon Waterfall

Even the towering rocks bookmarking the Black Star Canyon Waterfall can’t escape the rampant green nature overtaking Southern California. I personally can’t get enough of it and if it means long stretches of rain, even when it cuts into my weekend hiking time, I am all for it.

Happy Hikers at the Black Star Canyon Waterfall

Hiking to the Black Star Canyon Waterfall was a pivotal moment in my love affair with hiking. It pushed my body to places I had not gone in a while and I made mental notes on our journey back about what exercises I should add to my weekly routine. This is one of the main reasons I love hiking: it gets me out of my comfort zone. Being in nature nourishes my mind and replenishes my soul. Combining that with pushing the limits of my physical abilities; now that is a spiritual experience. I hope you get the opportunity to enjoy this hike during Southern California’s rainy season and have your own awakening in the great outdoors.

Did you hike to the Black Star Canyon Waterfall? If so, I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

In Love, Peace, and Hiking ~ xo



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Hi there! Chasing Belle is where I share my favorite hikes, healthy living tips, and love of the outdoors! The world is a big, beautiful place and I plan on chasing down every square inch of it :)

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