Ortega Oaks Candy Store. It is the next major trailhead area after a big S curve in the highway. There is parking on both sides of the road, however the trail starts on the left side of the road coming from Orange County. If you hit El Cariso Village, you have gone too far. A map of the location can be found in the Google Map below. A Forest Adventure Pass is needed to park at the trailhead to Ortega Falls. One can be purchased at the Ortega Oaks Candy Store or in El Cariso Village.
Cleveland National Forest. The falls will usually be dry or only a trickle during the summer months and fall. There was plenty of water when we went because we had about 8 inches of rain during the month of January.
Be careful going down the trail to Ortega Falls, as it is steep. One negative about this hike was the amount of trash that was on the trail. Ashley and I didn't know if this was simply because the trail was close to the road, or because visitors were just being irresponsible on such a short trail. One thing that Ashley and I have been doing recently is carrying a bag with us to pick up trash we find on the trails we hike. I am always surprised at what we pick up while out hiking. For those looking for an easy way to give back to our Southern California wilderness areas, a good option is to bring a bag and pick up after those whose carelessness distracts from the beauty that abounds in Southern California.
Santa Ana Mountains is a totally different experience than in the dry summer months. With ample rain comes the sounds of rushing streams filled to the brim with water, frogs, and other local wildlife. The chaparral community comes alive after receiving rain. We are truly blessed with such great areas to hike at in Southern California.
Rating: Elevation Gain: 300 ft. (Easy), Distance: 0.5 Miles Roundtrip (Easy).
Time to Complete Hike: 45 minutes to 1 hour.
View Ortega Falls in a larger map