Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Black Star Canyon Falls (Cleveland National Forest)

Black Star Canyon Falls, also known as Black Star Falls, is truly a great hike in Orange County.  This Orange County hike offers great scenery, a great work out, and a hint of mystery. Additionally, you can make this hike longer and visit a former native american village. The hike to Black Star Canyon Falls is truly a fun Orange County hike. For more pictures make sure to check out our Facebook Page.

Directions to Trailhead: From Southern Orange County exit the 5 freeway at El Toro Road and head east toward the Santa Ana Mountains for approximately 14 miles. El Toro Road eventually turns into Santiago Canyon Road. You are going to turn right onto Silverado Canyon Road and then will make your first left onto Black Star Canyon Road. Follow Black Star Canyon Road until you come to a gate where there is plenty of parking. The gate is approximately a mile after you make the turn onto Black Star Canyon Road. Currently there is no cost for parking at the trailhead.

Description of Trail:  The first portion of the hike to Black Stay Canyon Falls is on a dirt fire road, with sections of pavement. At roughly about a half a mile it makes a sharp right-turn and begins a slow ascent uphill into Black Star Canyon and the Cleveland National Forest.  You will notice from the signs along the trail that much of land along the beginning portion of the hike is managed by Orange County Parks as well as the Edwards Ranch. There is heightened security and fencing along sections of the first portion of the hike to protect against potential trespassers. Some of the fences in the area are even electrified and have motion sensor cameras.  Despite the fencing and rumors or past harassment by local property owners in the canyon, during our hike we encountered no problems.  Actually the trail was warm and inviting as there were numerous other hikers and mountain bikers utilizing the trail.  If you hike here on the weekend you will not be alone.

Continue up the trail and eventually you will pass an old overturned school bus in the creek below you in addition to several homes in the canyon. Once you make the right where the trail passes a rusted out water tank and pass the home with the miniature golf course and koi pond you are very close to the point where you exit the trail to head down towards the stream bed to get to Black Star Canyon Falls.  At the sharp turn where the trail begins a steady uphill climb (Roughly 2.5 miles from the trailhead) you will notice a trail that heads down to the creek.  Take the trail going down to the creek.

The trail going down to the creek bed is narrow and once you come to the creek bed the next portion of the hike, a little over three quarters of a mile, is following the creek bed. This portion of the hike is strenuous.  At times there is a formal trail, while other times you are bouldering over very large boulders in the creek bed. The hike continues to get more strenuous the closer you get to the falls due to the ever increasing size of the boulders. This section of the hike to Black Star Canyon Falls will take you a lot longer to hike than you would normally think it would.

Once you reach Black Star Canyon Falls, you will notice it cascades from the top of the canyon wall into a mine shaft. The falls are roughly 50 feet high and are truly a neat sight to see. Additionally, there is an informal trail that goes to the top of the falls. It is not a maintained trail and portions of it are extremely steep.  The hike to Black Star Canyon Falls and back to the trailhead is 6.7 miles rountrip with less than 800 feet of elevation gain. If you want a longer hike you can also hike to the former Native American Village in Black Star Canyon. From Black Star Canyon Falls, hike back to the sharp turn and continue up the fire road. The next section of the trail is a steady uphill climb and is very exposed with little shade.  Make sure you have plenty of water and use sunscreen.

Once you reach the crest of the hill, in just over 2 miles from the sharp turn, there is a gradual descent in the trail. It is at this point, you will eventually see a meadow in a valley with a couple out of place palm trees. This is the area of the former Tongva Village. In the out cropping of rocks in the turns before you descend to the meadow you can see bedrock mortars that native american used. The total hike to the village and back is 10.2 miles roundtrip with 1,250 feet of elevation gain.

Further Thoughts: The hike to Black Star Falls and the former Native American Village is a great Orange County hike. Ashley was unable to go on this hike because of school work, but I went with a buddy from work and his two brothers. When you are on the hike to the falls, be on the watch for black belly newts and California newts. If you are not paying attention to where you place your foot you might accidentally step on one. We saw probably 10 - 20 black belly newts and/or California newts while on this hike. Also, on the hike up the creek bed there is a high possibility that you will get a little wet while zig-zaging your way across the stream on your way to Black Star Canyon Falls. Note: this hike can be dangerous after large rain storms as the water in the creek can get quite high. This hike would not recommend immediately after a major rain storm.

Black Star Canyon is an area that is surrounded in mystery and folklore.  Every hiker has heard stories about how the canyon is haunted or was a former meeting place for the Ku Klux Klan. What is true, and is reported in 50 Hikes in Orange County, is that in 1831 there was an armed conflict between trappers and Native Americans in the canyon. The Native Americans were not believed to have been from the local tribes in the area, but from an outside tribe. The Native Americans were believed to have stolen the trappers horses which resulted in a gun fight where most of the Indians were killed. Additionally, the murder of James M. Gregg to place in the canyon in 1899.

Regardless of  the folklore associated with Black Star Canyon, in our opinion Black Star Canyon, with all its mystery, is a warm and inviting place that offer great hiking in Orange County.

Rating: To Black Star Falls: Elevation Gain: Less than 800 ft. (Moderate), Distance: 6.7 Miles Roundtrip (Moderate - Strenuous); To Black Star Falls & Native American Village:  Elevation Gain: Less than 1,250 ft. (Moderate - Strenuous), Distance: 10.2 Miles Roundtrip (Moderate - Strenuous).

Time to Complete Hike: To Black Star Falls: 4.5 - 5.5 hours.  To Black Star Falls and Native American Village: 6.5 - 7.5 hours.


View Black Star Canyon Water Falls in a larger map

17 comments:

  1. This was a great trail. It was one of the prettiest hikes that I have been on in Orange County. It really felt like you were out in the wild and the size of the boulders in the Falls trail were comparable to the ones you see on the gourde trail in Big Sur. Once you reach the creek bed there is barely anyone is on the trail so it is definitively worth it. Thanks for the great description of the entire trail or we would of never found our way so easily.

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    1. Laura, Thanks for the comment and feedback! Glad you enjoyed the hike. Happy Trails!

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  2. My wife and I did this hike early today. It was a little difficult once we encountered the boulders but it was as you described. 4.5 hours and we took a few small breaks. Lots of wildlife, and only a few hikers on the trail but more as we headed back to the car. Thanks for your blog, very nice!

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  3. are you allowed to drive up the trail?

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  4. Hi,
    Do you think it's a good idea to go on this hike with dogs?

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  5. We did this hike today and it was really nice. by now the waterfall is not all that big, but still pretty. the boulders are a workout, but certainly doable. I did need a hand up from my husband on a few of them.

    In answer to the dog question, above: the main trail is great for dogs. We saw several dogs havng a grand time when we came in during the morning, but there is no water on that part of the trail, so bring plenty. The hike up the creek depends on how good your dog is at climbing over rocks and boulders.

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  6. Did this hike this past Sunday and what a treat!!! Like no other hike I've done in Orange County. We started out about 8 am and and were back at the car around 1 pm and that was with spending about 45 mins at the falls.

    Be aware coming back that you don't miss the turn off back to the fire road. The trip back is a lot faster and if you're not paying attention it's easily missed.

    This is definitely a workout too. I had no trouble completing the hike but was feeling it the next day.

    Can't wait to do it again!

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  7. I've read somewhere on the IR Landmarks page that Black Star Canyon only allows scheduled programs. Is this true? I was planning to go this Saturday, but I haven't made any kind of reservation. Please advise. Thanks!

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    1. Vivien, The hike to Black Star Falls is not by scheduled programs as it is on National Forest Land. However hikes on the OC Parks/IR Landmarks land in that area is by scheduled program only. Hope that helps.

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  8. People are saying there are lots of poison oak on this trail. Should I be concern?

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    1. You have the chance of finding poison oak on any hike that goes through a riparian area. Just remember, leaves of three leave them be.

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  9. Did you or anybody have encountered the wildlife like mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, etc...while hiking to Black Star Canyon Falls and Native American village?

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  10. My family and I go to blackstar canyon pretty often. I haven't seen any mountain lions myself but I have seen mountain lion and bobcat tracks. And when we've gone on night hikes we had something tracking us in the bushes. You have to stay alert at all times . We have seen deers , rabbits ,a peacock, and nutes (salamanders). On the trail there is a sign posted that says there are two bobcats and two mountain lions seen weakly. And I talked to a forest ranger that said there is mountain lions out there they have seen them on the trap cameras that they have all over out there .

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  11. Hi Brian and Ashley, my name is JoAnna, I'm the one who commented about my family and I go to blackstar on october 11 2013. So anyhow my family and I and our male lab retriever. We went to blackstar on Friday november 8 2013. So it was about 7:00 maybe 7:30 pm we were walking and I asked my son for the flashlight I wanted to look and see if there were any deer where the electric fence is with the open field. And as soon as I shine the light in the field I seen two sets of eyes stairing back t me at first glimpse I thought that it might be the lenses reflecting back from the trap cameras in the field until one of the set of eyes moved and stepped out but still in the dark and then it stepped back in . And then it crouched down onto its hind legs and the it lunged forward. Then it backed up into the dark . Unfortunately my flashlight wasn't bright enough. But the way it moved was cat like behavior. And it was the same size as my male lab. If not a little bigger and I'm judging from the hight of the eyes that were lit up from the flashlight. So then my boyfriend and our son came over to look and my boyfriend said give me the flashlight and the told me and our son with the dog to start walking out . So that he could keep them focused on the flashlight and my son said no I'm not leaving my dad. So i yelled for evrybody let's get out of here let's go. And when my boyfriend was leaving he kept the llight on the eyes and eyes followed. So we all started walikng out and we were all listening for anything fallowing us and I heard nothing as soon as we turned the first bend I was searching for large stones. Luckily we got out of there safely. Thank god............ I want to report it but without knowing for sure. I wonder if there is anyway we could find out if there were any photos taken by the trap cameras on that date and time ?

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    1. JoAnna, sounds like you guys might have seen a mountain lion or possibly another animal. Unfortunately, we don't know who maintains all of the cameras out there. A portion of the property is managed by Orange County parks and we would point you to them. If you are interested in learning more about Mountain Lions in the Santa Ana Mountains, you might check out the Beier-Barret 1993 study on mountain lions in the Santa Ana Mountains which is available by a Google Search. At the time of the study there were two female mountain lions whose range included the black star area as well as one male mountain lion range which included the black star area. We would assume it is pretty similar today. The team from UC-Davis comes down to our area periodically and collars many of the mountain lions in the Santa Ana Mountains and keeps a good tab on their population and ranges. (http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/whc/programs/mountain_lions/) Thanks for sharing and good luck in trying to confirm whether it was a mountain lion.

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  12. Nice hike, guys. Thanks for the write up.

    HJ

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Ashley and I encourage and welcome our readers to submit comments about their experiences on the trails we have posted on our blog or about their own hiking experiences in general.