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Big Falls Trail

EASY 42 reviews
#1 of 5 trails in

Big Falls Trail is a 4.4 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Arroyo Grande, California that features a waterfall and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 4.4 miles Elevation Gain: 1,125 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly


nature trips


bird watching



wild flowers


22 days ago

This is a hike that will make memories to last a lifetime. Took my dad for Father’s Day 2019. Water was brisk, but swimmable. Approx 15 creek crossings in your vehicle - high clearance recommended. 4WD not necessary. Go early as parking area gets crowded and it’s pretty small. Hike is easy to the falls with a couple of creek crossings. Upper swimming hole is easy to see how to access, lower one is trickier and is not easily accessed by dogs or people unable to do minor scaling of rocks. To get to lower swimming hole, switch to east side of the creek at the second crossing, but stay close to the creek. A trail will take you to a rocky slope that you have to scramble/rock climb across (ropes not necessary). There are a few cliff jumping ledges into the lower pool- be careful as it can be dangerous and we know people who have been seriously injured. It was pristine when we visited, but have heard bummer stories of people leaving trash and cans/bottles... please pack it out if you go.

over grown
23 days ago

Didn’t make it all the way this time, lost sight of the trail and turned around

1 month ago

The road out to the trailhead has a lot of flooded areas (around 10-12) that require AWD higher suspension vehicle depending on water level. This is by no means a hard hike. It took me and my partner about 3 hours to complete at a very relaxed pace.

over grown
4 months ago

Hiked it with my daughter from the Rinconada side. One of the hardest hikes I've ever done. Pretty close to 11 miles with lots of elevation changes. Started at 10am, got to the falls about 1:30pm, hung out about 2hrs, back to the car at 7pm. Amazing views and solitude, never saw another soul until we got to the falls. Most people go the easy way from upper Lopez Rd. but we were looking for a challenge. And we found it. Super fun adventure that allows you to see California in its purest form. We'll do it again as soon as the soreness wears off. Massive amounts of poison oak and a good number of ticks and snakes as well. Enjoy

4 months ago

great day hike! bring swim gear

4 months ago

This is an awesome hike! Best waterfall around! I was worried about getting through the 14 creek crossings but we made it easy without a 4x4. I have a Toyota Tacoma and it made it with no problem! Now our shoes did get wet when crossing the cross beds during the hike. My kids did the hike 3 years ago when they were 5 years old and 8 years old but I think little ones would have a harder time. I enjoyed the hike this year as well! There were lots of salamanders and some steep areas but a moderate hike for sure!

5 months ago

one of our best adventures yet! watch out for ticks and poison oak...need 4×4 to cross creek in various spots during spring!

off road driving
6 months ago

Went last week and the river full. There was a sign indicating caution. Waiting for some locals to come by. They didn’t recommend me to cross the river in my Subaru Outback. First a raised Toyota went through. That didn’t really help to determine if I could make it. Then an SUV went through and that gave me confidence to go ahead. At one point water was going over my hood, but we made all 15 crossings without issue. There was even a waterfall at the parking lot of big falls trail. The way back was easier since we were going with the river.

10 months ago

The hike has a total of 14 river crossing to just get to the trail head. We took a non 4 wheel drive vehicle and made it. You do have to take the river crossing super slow otherwise the water will splash on the battery and you’ll have to wait to let it dry before your car will start (Found out the hard way). We only hiked to the big falls and then turned around. GPS was a little off and it is closer to 3.6 miles for the entire hike. This time of year the hike had no water from the falls but the river had a little bit of water. Overall great hike if you’re willing to drive through the crossings.

Friday, May 25, 2018

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.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

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.

Monday, April 30, 2018

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.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Easy hike, very secluded. Pretty falls!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

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

Friday, January 19, 2018

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.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

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

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.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Great hike!

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!

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

Friday, March 24, 2006

This is always a fun trail to do. The falls run into a water hole that is at least a dozen feet deep which makes it great for cliff jumping (although it can be dangerous...). Getting there is easy in summer, you will probably need a high clearance vehicle, however. I made the mistake of taking my 4x4 truck with nearly 2 feet of clearance out there right after a rain and sank it in the first crossing.

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