Black Star Canyon is probably my favorite place to hike in Orange County so far. I have hiked it several times, but only recently I discovered that there is a beautiful hidden waterfall tucked away at the end of a shaded creek bed.
To get to the trailhead, take Santiago Canyon Road to Silverado Canyon Road. Turn left onto Black Star Canyon Road and go about a mile up the road until you reach this gate blocking the road:
Park anywhere, walk past the gate, and follow the road. The first 2 1/2 miles will be along this road, which is paved at the very beginning but then turns into a dirt road that eventually meets up with the creek bed.
After crossing several bridges, you’ll come upon this peculiar ranch-type property on the right:
The turnoff for the waterfall is about 200 yards after this property, and is very easy to miss. When you get to a sharp left u-turn in the road, you will see a trail leading off directly ahead. That is not the waterfall trail. The waterfall trail leads off to the right, and looks like nothing more than a steep downward path to the creek bed. Once you are at the creek bed, turn left and follow the creek bed another mile or so to the waterfall.
This part is tricky because you will be scrambling over rocks the entire next mile to the waterfall. It’s really more of a ‘climb’ than a ‘hike’ at this point. Don’t second-guess yourself about whether you are on the right track; as long as you’re still in or right next to the creek bed you will end up at the waterfall. Don’t try to find or follow a ‘trail’ because there really isn’t one.
After scrambling over rocks that seem to keep getting bigger and bigger, just when you start to wonder if you’ll ever actually get there – you see it: a 50-ft cliff with a cave about 10 ft up on the left (yes, you can climb up into this cave if there is not water flowing out of it). Even if there is no water falling (which has been the case both of the times I’ve been there), it is definitely still breathtaking. Sit down, have a picnic, and enjoy this little-known secret that you would never expect to find in Orange County!
Distance: 7 miles, out-and-back
Total Elevation Gain: < 800 ft
Best Time To Go: Year-round