Tenaja Falls and Fisherman’s Camp 05/31/2021

My parents were still in town for Memorial Day Weekend, so we decided to do another hike in the area. I had taken them to Mount Laguna for a hike on Saturday, so today I decided to take them to the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness in the Santa Ana Mountains. Our plan was to do a loop hike to Tenaja Falls and Fisherman’s Camp. From I-15, we went southwest on Clinton Keith Road, then right onto Tenaja Road, and then another right onto Cleveland Forest Road. Cleveland Forest Road is rough and narrow but paved all the way to the trailhead. There is only room for 1-2 cars to park at the trailhead, so we parked a short way up the road at a turnout.

We began hiking at 9:24am from 1516 feet above sea level.

We started hiking west on the Fisherman’s Camp Trail.

We had a nice view of San Mateo Canyon.

The trail made a steady descent into the canyon.

We soon reached the bottom of the canyon and found the creek to be dry. We crossed it and then reached Fisherman’s Camp at 1.9 miles. There were a few nice flat spots for camping (I forgot to take pictures here). We then backtracked a short way to a fork and went left onto the San Mateo Canyon Trail.

We crossed the dry creek bed to the west side of the canyon. We had a little difficulty finding the correct way but there were cairns to help guide us.

We hiked north along the western edge of the creek and then crossed back to the other side at 2.8 miles. There was some water in the creek here.

The trail then split into an upper and lower trail. We chose the upper trail to avoid having to cross the creek 2 more times.

We had a nice view of the creek from the upper trail. We could see one of the crossings from up above.

At 4.3 miles we reached the Tenaja Falls Trailhead. One could park here and do a very short hike to the falls and back. It would be about 1.5 miles round trip from here.

We crossed the creek one more time. We again had some difficulty finding the correct spot to cross, but luckily we saw some hikers coming from the other direction and they showed us where the best spot was. It ended up being fairly easy to hop across the rocks.

The trail then ascended away from the creek towards the falls.

We spotted the falls from a distance. Unfortunately, they appeared mostly dry.

We finally reached the falls at 5.1 miles! We took off our shoes and socks and waded around in one of the pools. I then climbed down to one of the larger pools.

My mom and dad posed for some pictures on top of the falls.

One of the pools below was filled with some very nasty water.

I climbed back up and the 3 of us took a nice break and had some snacks before continuing.

It was getting very warm but there was a nice breeze which kept us cool enough. A few other groups of hikers joined us on top. After a while we began hiking back down. We crossed the creek again near the trailhead.

We reached the Tenaja Falls Trailhead at 6.2 miles. We then walked the remaining 1.5 miles along the paved road back to the Fisherman’s Camp Trailhead. We reached the car again at 1:28pm. This hike totaled 7.76 miles, 1033 feet elevation gain, and 4:02:58 total time.

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