Bonita Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in the Los Angeles/Orange County area. I’d put it at about 130 feet, but that’s just a guess. It’s a fun little hike located about ten minutes from Route 15 in Rancho Cucamonga.
When you find the dirt pullout for the Bonita Falls trail, the first thing you’ll have to do is forge the creek. When it’s flowing hard, this can be tricky. That creek can run fast and its at least waste deep. I recommend bringing a hand line just in case. Let your most experienced hiker go first. We used a rock as a grappling hook and secured our hand line to a tree on the other side of the creek. Once you cross the creek, you have to navigate the boulder field. The boulders range in size from a basketball to a VW bus. I recommend staying on the left side of the canyon so you don’t sprain an ankle. There is a faint trail and it’s much easier than hopping on the boulders in the middle of the canyon. After a half mile in the boulder field, you will see a spur trail on the left hand side of the canyon. There are a few spray painted markers on the walls. The trail is partially concealed by shrubs and trees. It would be easy to miss. Take the spur trail up the narrow canyon. By now, you’re starting to get worried because you don’t see any water, but don’t fret, just stay on the trail. After a half mile or so of hiking through the shrubs and trees, you’ll see the creek. The waterfall is just a bit further up the canyon. The last section of the trail gets a little steep. We saw a few inexperienced hikers that almost gave up less than a thousand feet from the waterfall, but we coaxed them up the hill. When they saw the waterfall, they were very grateful that we did. In the spring, Bonita Falls stands alone. It can be absolutely breathtaking. There is enough room at the base to swim, picnic, and soak in the view. There is another hidden tier further up the canyon. It requires some serious rock climbing. I attempted it once, but a loose rock came crashing down and nearly hit me in the face, so I gave it up. There is also small mine on the hillside that you can explore. It only goes back about 30 feet, but it’s worth a look. There are spots for camping near the falls. I wouldn’t recommend camping too near the creek because of the risk of a flash flood. I also recommend hiking during the middle of the week to avoid the crowds.
From Route 15 North in Rancho Cucamonga, take the Sierra Ave exit and head north towards the mountain. Sierra Road immediately turns into Lytle Creek Road. You follow Lytle Creek Road North for 6 miles. There is a dirt parking lot on the left hand side of the road. If you hit the intersection for Middle Fork Road, you went a ¼ mile too far.