A stream that flows yearlong through Lopez Canyon into Lopez Lake, lush streamside vegetation, and chaparral-covered slopes and peaks that rise above the canyon are the prime ingredients in the lightly visited Santa Lucia Wilderness. Elevations range from about 800 feet down in Lopez Canyon to about 3,000 feet near Hi Mountain Lookout at the eastern end. Hiking the Lopez Canyon Trail along the stream will expose you to a wide assortment of vegetation, including stands of ancient oaks, much of them flourishing where a wildfire raged in 1985. You can access the 5.3 miles of the Lopez Canyon Trail from East Cuesta Ridge and find pleasant campsites near the stream. Two 3.5-mile trails descend near Little Falls (with its 50-foot waterfall) and Big Falls (with a pair of dramatic waterfalls) into the canyon from the southern boundary. The Wilderness extends onto 1,733 acres of BLM land.

hiking
1 month ago

4x4 not require to access trail, but high vehicle clearance is definitely needed. In the Summer, you won't see much water, but any other time of year, the streams will be really bad. 2 weeks after a storm there were about 12 streams we crossed on the drive. Poison oak is rampant out there, as well, so be forewarned. However, the hike is fun. Far out, secluded, and has a nice payoff in the form of a rocky waterfall area where you can sit around.

hiking
2 months ago

Not bad of a hike, but a pretty view on the drive up. 4x4 not necessary but would recommend having a high clearance vehicle. Trail head very easy to find and clear trail. Started hike at 7am and saw 50+ salamanders on the trail. About 100ft from the waterfall, not very visible until you head back, is a trail that leads you to the top of the waterfall. Long pants/ sleeves recommended because there is a lot of poison oak/ivy that crosses into the trail. There’s a few water pools along the way that you could swim/wade in.

hiking
2 months ago

Trail requires 4x4 and high water clearance. During rainy season or after a decent rain storm you cross about five streams. Once at the trail head hike is somewhat easy although some moderate climbs to get to the falls. Lots of poison oak along the trail. Wear long pants and use Technu after the hike to make sure you don’t get poison oak.

4 months ago

Easy hike, very secluded. Pretty falls!

Drove through rivers to get to trailhead. No waterfall at end, was super disappointed.

hiking
5 months ago

Trail was clear and passable up to the falls (did not go further).

Lots of water in the river crossings on the road to the trailhead. Recommend high clearance vehicle.

note that the trail is currently closed for vehicles

hiking
9 months ago

Me and my 8 year old daughter hiked this last year. Definitely need to go back in spring when there is more water. We still swam with the Nox Turtles and Salamanders. Scenic trail, but watch out for Poison Oak.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Solid trail. Falls stops falling by July. Even in a very wet year. Still plenty of swimming holes and cliff jump options along the way

hiking
Monday, June 26, 2017

Well I attempted to do the hike but I wasn't feeling comfortable in my little 94 toyota pickup ( with rear wheel drive) crossing all the creeks. as of a few days ago the deepest crossing that I encountered was 1 ft deep and about 30 ft long. I'll attempt the hike again in a month or so, hoping the creeks dry up just a tad. And ill attempt to put weight in the back of my truck so i can handle better in the creeks. Definitely would recommend a 4x4 or if not experience crossing creeks

Sunday, June 11, 2017

great hike, water shoes came in handy when crossing the creeks.

hiking
Sunday, June 11, 2017

beautiful trail, take mosquito repellent

Monday, May 29, 2017

Great hike!

hiking
Monday, May 29, 2017

absolutely awesome! if you dont have a truck, SUV or 4x4 walk through the 13 creeks. creek#7 can be deep for a sedan. bathing suit is not must but comes handy :) (watch for snakes and lots of poison oak and poison ivy) other than that.... enjoy the hike!

Sunday, March 05, 2017

be aware this is a dirt road hike, not an actual trail.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

good. but crossing the creeks killed my friends car. I know not smart!

hiking
Friday, November 11, 2016

Small cliff jumping was fun

Sunday, October 16, 2016

This was a wonderful trail. Per other recommendations we only went up the trail to see the two falls (just over a mile), making the round trip just over two. The last mile is apparently overgrown with poison oak and extremely steep with an end that doesn't compare to the rest of the trail.

First, the warning about having a high clearance four wheel drive vehicle is no joke. Aside from the gravel and bumps, we counted about 10 creek crossings of varying sizes. We were completely fine in a Wrangler, but many cars wouldn't have been able to make it.

We did this hike in October during a slight drizzle and it was beautiful. There were actually fall colors and water in the creek (not enough water for the falls thou). However the wonderful fall feeling as you descend into this canyon is otherworldly for Cali.

Be careful of the newts (or salamanders - we weren't sure which they were) because they were everywhere and we almost stepped on a few! Oh and we wished we had hiking poles. There were a couple of points where we had to hike across streams - the rocks were slippery and poles would've helped.

I imagine most people will do this trail in spring when the water will be highest, but honestly I loved fall here more. Plus the added benefit was that we only saw 2 other groups total.

hiking
Saturday, September 24, 2016

This is my favorite local hike. The location of the trailhead on the map and using directions is accurate. You need a high clearance vehicle. There is a wide spot to park at the top of the hill and the trail starts across the road on the northwest side of the gate. The hike is entirely within wilderness so no bikes. There are oak trees near the trailhead and 1.8 miles in at Hi Valley. Climb to the lookout tower and feel like you've accomplished something. The trail is currently very brushy - I bled wearing shorts.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

kind of hard to find the actual entrance to the trail and the locals don't know much about it either and there are no trail entrance markings. we just ended up walking HI Mountain Rd trying to find it. Also, you will have NO Signal so GPS, this app or other guiding devices don't work.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

went today with my friends it was a great little hike. The waterfall wasnt falling like I thought it would be it was trickling. overall had a fun morning and would go back. Beware of the overgrown Poisson oak near the big waterfall and the road to get to the trailhead cuts through the river so trucks or 4x4 recommended no standard cars or you might have trouble going through the water.

hiking
Monday, May 30, 2016

Beautiful area. It's a fairly easy walk in most areas we took our 21/2 and 5 year old. Some areas there were high cliff areas so adult needed to hold their hands other than that they did well.

Caution on the poison oak.

hiking
Saturday, March 26, 2016

This is a really nice, beautiful trail - IF you don't mind a lot of poison oak and you have a vehicle that can survive the drive to the trailhead. The final 1.5 miles to the trailhead are on a narrow dirt road that crosses Lopez Creek eight times. There are no bridges or concrete fords, so you'll definitely need a high-clearance vehicle. 4WD isn't strictly necessary, unless the water levels in the creek are particularly high.

The trail itself is almost level from the trailhead up to Little Falls, but climbs just beyond the turn-off to the falls. There is a ridiculous amount of poison oak on both sides of the trail, but when we were there the trail itself wasn't overgrown and it was pretty easy to avoid. You'll cross Little Falls Creek once, then go across a lovely meadow and enter Santa Lucia Wilderness. There are three more creek crossings (all easy) before you leave the main trail just before the fourth crossing and take a use trail up along the left side of Little Falls Creek. There's a lovely little waterfall (about 6') less than 100 yards up this use trail. The pool at the base of this fall is deep enough for a swim. Unfortunately, we didn't realize that the actual Little Falls waterfall is a little farther up the trail, so we'll be going back to check it out some time. The actual Little Falls waterfall is about 50' high.

This trail is best in the spring, when there's plenty of water in the creek and the waterfalls are flowing. Be sure to look for the California newts in Little Falls Creek.

off road driving
Wednesday, November 04, 2015

great views of the coast, north slo county, and lopez lake. very very easy drive. dont need 4wd if you come from arroyo grande. at least need a truck if you come from pozo. be sure to check out big falls while you are out there

Friday, August 21, 2015

Poison Oak Warning!!!
The trail is covered in poison oak, some places it is completely overgrown.

Other considerations:
You need a vehicle with high clearance to get to trail head. Driving through creekbeds is required.
also there were signs of lots of bear activity, so be prepared for a black bear encounter.

I will not hike the trail again unless I hear its been maintenanced.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

It was 105 degrees the day we went and there isn't much cover. Go early and take plenty of water. It is well worth the trip to the lookout. There are many ways back, but we chose to go out and back the same route and avoid any walking on HiMountain Rd

hiking
Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Beautiful and serene hike, but let's be honest, half the fun was getting there. On the drive in, passed by wild turkey and deer. Definitely glad I had a high clearance vehicle for the water crossings. Will definitely be back!

hiking
Friday, May 29, 2015

Big Falls Trail is a lovely hike in a wooded canyon in the Santa Lucia Wilderness area. The hardest part of the hike is the drive to the trailhead, as the last few miles of Upper Lopez Canyon Road are on a narrow dirt road that crosses back and forth across Lopez Creek about a dozen times. You will definitely need a high clearance vehicle to reach the trailhead, although 4WD is normally not required.

The trail itself leads up-canyon to two waterfalls: Lower Big Falls and Upper Big Falls. When I visited the area in late May, the lower falls were still flowing, but Upper Big Falls were not. The trail is clear up to the upper falls, although there is a tremendous amount of poison oak along both sides of the trail in most places. Be sure to look for the abundant salamanders and pond turtles in the pools below the waterfalls.

It's possible to continue further up the trail to eventually reach Hi Mountain Lookout Road, but this section of the trail is rumored to be heavily overgrown with poison oak and other brush.

hiking
Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Very pretty hike crossing through streams and then coming up to open vistas at the top, but... the are huge amounts of poison oak overflowing onto the trail.

hiking
Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The description of the hike is VERY misleading. The hike is in a remote area with six or more stream crossings (truck country) on the road to the trail. Paved road,(upper Lopez Canyon Road) dirt road and unimproved road, from the access road, Hi mountain road.

It is beautiful country and an easy hike but with several stream crossings along the way. Some moderately steep slopes.

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