The trail no longer follows as it is outlined below. Read the end of the post for updated information.
Update August 2013: Numerous people have told us the area is currently closed due to high fire danger. We have no ETA of when it will be open again but will update this post if we hear it is re-opened.
Oh the beauty of summer. There are summits to climb, trails to ride and waterfalls to swim in. It is the time of a year where a hike that fords a river is welcomed, and planning hikes that end somewhere with running water is a must. In that spirit, Zac and I set out to hike to Sapphire Falls in the Cucamonga wilderness near the city of Rancho Cucamonga. A hike that is short enough to allow many people to do it, long enough to give you a workout, and with a beautiful waterfall at that end that you can actually climb. Read one for the full review.
Sapphire Falls is the perfect hike for a hot summer day. This was our second time hiking to the falls, and last time we did it was in the early spring so the water was to cold to swim in. We decided to try hiking it again when the weather would be warm and the huge natural pools would have plenty of areas to explore. Also, this hike has a waterfall at the end with a rope that allows you to climb it to reach more of the trail.
The trail starts at a small dirt parking lot a couple miles off the 210 freeway. It is right up against a wash, and you will have to walk through some of the wash in order to get to the trail. The gate above is where the trail starts, immediately heading down into the wash. From there you will cross the stream and meet back up with the actual trail that will take you the falls, it also passes a water runoff right away.
This trail is extremely beautiful as it goes through lush plant life, a good size stream and many boulders. The main downfall to this trail is that due to it ease of access there are lots of people that abuse the trail by painting lots of graffiti as well as leaving lots of trash. It is sad to see such a beautiful trail degrading like this but it is still an amazing hike. Make sure if you are planning to hike this you remember the saying “Leave only footprints, take only pictures” so that we can continue trying to protect this hike from getting worse.
The trail continues for another couple miles, and crosses back and forth over the stream. It is clearly marked and is perfect for summer as you can wade through the water and don’t have to worry about a proper line of rocks for crossing. The end of the trail also has a part with a large amount of bolders in the way, that look like they have fell down since last time we hiked it. They are not hard to scramble over, and once you have you catch a glimpse of the swimming area and entrance to the falls.
As stated earlier you can actually climb the falls in order to continue the trail to another waterfall behind. However, this proved to be difficult for me as there is no footing under the waterfall so you will have to swim over to the rope and them pull yourself up out of the water. Zac was able to do it but I was not. It was also fun to watch others try to make the climb. I would say about 50% of the people that I saw were successful, so make sure you work on your upper arm strength if you are planning to climb it.
Zac continued onto the next waterfall and said it was much like the first. I stayed and swam in the pool and talked with some of the other hikers. There was a good amount of people taking in the falls that day so leave early if you want to fight less of the crowds. After that we made our way back out of the canyon and back to the parking lot.
All in all this is a great hike for the summer time. There is beautiful views at every turn, and it is not to physically challenging of a hike to do. If you are in the area I would suggest you check it out sometime.
Duration: 2 hour and 28 minutes
Length: 4.2 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1300 ft (I think the GPS wasn’t working right, as this is probably less)
Difficulty Level: Easy
Trail map: Click Here
Possible Closure and New Trail Route:
Update (5/29/2012) - We are getting more comments and emails that Sapphire Falls is now closed. We have not had a chance to go out and check but please be advised that others have said there are hefty fines for going into the area now that it is closed. There is a ton of other great hikes in SoCal so don’t chance a fine if this hike is now closed. Check the comments for more updates on this and make sure to leave a comment if you go and find it to be different.
Update (6/18/2012) – John G from the comments said he emailed the city of Rancho Cucamonga mayors office and got this response.
“There is no legal Sapphire Falls hiking trail. Most of the paths into Cucamonga Canyon and the Cucamonga Falls illegally cross private property. Because of tremendous vandalism and other problems, the private property owners have signed No Trespassing orders and asked the City to enforce No Trespassing laws.
There is one legal access up Skyline to Big Tree Road and all the way back to the stream crossing and then down to Cucamonga Falls, and that path/road is still open. Any deviation off that path and across private property is not permitted, however, and anyone caught may be cited.”
Here is an image from the City of Rancho Cucamonga page on the new falls trail. That page has information on other aspects of the trail as well.
So it looks like if you are wanting to go to the falls without getting a ticket you will need to abide by the above directions.