The hike to Bonita Falls follows a short, but technical, route up a wash on the eastern edge of the San Gabriel Mountains. One final climb up a narrow side canyon leads to the 100-foot-tall waterfall that cascades in a narrow band down the side of the mountain and into a shallow pool at its base.
Parking is available along the creekside shoulder of Lytle Creek Road. There are outhouses at the parking area, but no other amenities of any kind along the hike. The hike is in the San Bernardino National Forest and all visitors must display a Forest Adventure Pass on their vehicle when parked. This pass can be purchased for $5 during open hours at the nearby Lytle Creek Ranger Station (1209 Lytle Creek Road), otherwise you can visit fs.usda.gov/detailfull/r5/p…
to find vendors that sell the pass.
Please remember Leave No Trace principles ( lnt.org/why/7-principles/
). Trash and graffiti are unfortunately common along this hike. There are no amenities along the hike and the round stones that make up the path will make the trail a little more technical and slow going.
Bonita Falls is a tall, scenic waterfall in the eastern edge of the San Gabriel Mountains near the Cajon Pass area in California's San Bernardino National Forest. Despite its location along a one-way road near only a couple small towns and campgrounds, Bonita Falls and the Lytle Creek area remain popular, and weekend visitors can expect to see plenty of others out enjoying the creek area and hanging out near the waterfall.
The trail to reach the falls is just about one mile each way (this distance may vary depending on which shoulder parking areas are closed due to unstable land at any time). While there is no marked trail to the falls, its popularity has created a few paths marked by frequent use which will all lead to the area of the waterfall. Hikers will first need to cross Lytle Creek. On warm days, it's common to see families wading in the shallow cool waters of the creek, however there are plenty of makeshift bridges and stream crossings that will allow you to pass without getting wet.
Most of the hike is on round stones on the floor of the wide wash. This will slow your hiking considerably, so plan on taking your time while visiting. There are no trail markings or signs, coming prepared with navigation like the Hiking Project mobile app
will be helpful, though the waterfall is the destination that most people hiking through the wash will be heading to, so you can also look for signs like worn dirt paths that indicate the correct side canyon. There is also a thicket of green trees fed by the underground creek at the base of the small canyon that will show where to turn.
With 350' of total elevation gain over the hike, most of that change will come in the final 0.15 miles where the route leaves the wash and heads up the canyon. Hikers will need to navigate around trees and boulders before the trail ends at the base of the impressive falls.
There are a few side paths that lead up to higher viewpoints of the falls, however these can be steep and slippery, so it may be best to observe the falls from the bottom, or to take off your shoes and stand in the shin-deep pool at the base of Bonita Falls.
From here, retrace your route back to the parking area.