Chiquito Trail to Chiquito Falls is a 8.7 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Lake Elsinore, California that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
dogs on leash
When you think of hiking in Orange County, you don't usually envision dramatic waterfalls. But during the spring, there are a number of wonderful seasonal waterfalls that are just a hike away. One of the best is Chiquito Falls.
Did this trail again with my cousin today, but only did the lower loop, stopping off at the San Juan Falls (2.1 miles total) instead of heading all the way to Chiquito Falls.
Once again, remember your adventure pass for the parking lot.
We started off on the San Juan Trail again (to the right of the parking lot and headed straight to the first and smaller waterfall. We tried hiking around the lookout point fence to get to the actual base of the falls, but it was fairly steep at one point and we were concerned about the dog making it, so didn't go all the way to the base. There's still some easy to reach photo op points partway down, so try anyway. Watch the rocks though, as we spotted a rather larger rattler snuggled between a couple we planned on traversing.
Since we couldn't make the base, we backtracked to the very easy side trail that takes you to the few smaller pools at the top of the falls. This was a very nice place to stop for lunch. I hear it can be crowded on the weekends, but we had it mostly to ourselves on a Thursday at 1 pm.
We then completed the simple loop 2.1 mile loop, which was easy, quick, and enjoyable. Once you pass the junction sign, you technically are taking the Chiquito Trail back to the parking lot, which is a slight incline the rest of the way back.
I'm a casual/slow hiker, so this hike took me all day, from 9 am to 5 pm, spending about 45 minutes at the waterfall.
First off, don't forget your adventure pass for parking.
When you start the trail, begin with the San Juan Trail to the right of the parking lot. Shortly after beginning, you will come across the San Juan Falls. I did as others suggested and checked them out from afar and then headed on to Chiquito Falls so as not to lose time. I do wish I had hiked down and stopped for a bit because the falls were empty of people on a Monday. The trail overall was lightly trafficked on the Monday I went.
Continue on through the first part of the loop until you reach the junction sign, where you need to turn right and cross the creek to head to Chiquito Falls. At this point, you travel through a nicely shaded area, so watch out for poison oak and mosquitos, but take advantage of shade while you can.
Once you pass the "tributary" as marked in yellow on the AllTrails map, the rest of the trail is virtually all climb (except for a small decline to the falls themselves). This is where things get hot, from not only the continuous incline, but from sun exposure. Don't just wear spf, but bring it with you and reapply. My day was 74 degrees, but felt in the mid-80's for this portion. Take advantage and cool down in the few shade tunnels offered by the oak trees. And beware of bees if you're sensitive. They are literally everywhere through this portion of the hike, and you cannot avoid brushing up against them and the plants they are checking out along the trail.
You'll see the falls from a distance, right before the decline in the trail. They are running great as of the date of my hike, but I hear they are usually dry in the summer. I can't imagine the summer heat helping this trail out either.
On the return hike, when you make it all the way back to the junction, keep heading right on the Chiquito Trail (or turn left and leave the way you came if you want to see the San Juan Falls again or prefer not to complete the loop). You will hear the highway unfortunately, but the trails leads along a creek and it's beautiful and green. Eventually you will come out on the opposite end of the parking lot from where you started.
There are fat lizards all over this trail, and most aren't afraid of hikers. So enjoy their funny dances and poses along the boulders. Also, as of this post, tons of blooming aloe (most of my other hikes, the aloe blooms are already dead now since they tend to bloom in the winter here).
Since I'm a newer and slower hiker, this trail maxed me out distance wise. The loss of one star was because of the sun exposure and heat issue for most of the trail. Otherwise, I really enjoyed it and might have not had so much of a heat issue had I started earlier than 9 am.
This place is amazing!
Great hike thru San Juan loop and Choquito falls.
Beautiful drive as well! Bring snacks for the resting times. Will definitely go again. A nice bike bar is close by for a beer after. Hell's Kitchen.
The incline to get to the falls was difficult for me but totally worth it. The whole trail is beautiful. I agree with another review on here, bring more water than you think you'll need because you'll need more. You do have to cross over moving water twice, so be careful. Good hike, plan on doing it again some day.
The prettiest waterfall is on the San Juan loop, but there are a couple small waterfalls along the way and a pretty one at the end. Took us 4 hours to do the whole thing with our dog.
I have done this hike twice now, and it is not my favorite. It is definitely a workout, but is not as scenic as many other hikes. You are trapped on a narrow, rocky path the whole trip with rather uninteresting sights down into the valley. The sun bakes you, even on sub 70 degree days. I do not recommend going during summer at all. The waterfall is nice when there is water, but that also means you will need to cross the stream twice beforehand. Like I said, it is not my favorite but it is still a decent hike. Just remember to bring much more water than you expect and purchase an adventure pass from Big 5 before you go there.
I went with 5 children and it was hard for them. we went the Chiquito loop rather than SJ loop an barely made it back. it was rough terrain and hot. the water fall was beautiful.
Great hike, a bit warm in afternoon but the falls and swimming felt great.