Taking the big kids to Holy Jim Falls

My oldest and I have discussed how strange it is to not have the little ones at home (they’re with their father every other weekend) and we’ve come to the conclusion that individually they’re each valuable and irreplaceable but together they’re part of a set that’s priceless. We’re always thrown off our game when they’re gone.

However on the bright side I get to test out hikes I’ve been wanting to go on but avoided because I didn’t trust the “regulars” on the trail or the reviews of the trail itself. That’s what led us to Holy Jim falls.

This is one of the most popular hikes in Orange County (one of the reasons I’ve avoided it. I don’t care to cross paths with a ton of people when trying to get away from people).

First off: getting to this trail is preferable in an SUV or truck BUT can be done with a brave driver in a regular passenger vehicle. The first 2.5 miles is a washboard gravel type “dirt” road, the next mile and a half is an up and down dirt/mud pot hole excursion that has 4 wheelers rejoicing and sedan owners gripping their steering wheels questioning their decision to press forward.
George was not so brave so at the 2.5 mile mark where the vehicle gate stands there’s a small strip where you can park. If you’re of the braver 4WD variety you can continue from here to the actual trail head parking (which you need an adventure pass for. You can obtain these at any Big 5 sporting good store). We put our placard up even though we were outside of the “zone” just in case.

Directions to the trail head (reposted from http://www.alltrails.com): From Interstate 5, get off at El Toro Road. Head north on El Toro to the point where the road forks at Cook’s Corner. Take the right fork (Live Oak Canyon Road) past O’Neill Park. A quarter mile past Trabuco School, you will pass over Trabuco Creek. Turn left onto the dirt road.

We took the 55 N and took the Chapman exit and continued to Santiago Canyon. Take a left on Live Oak and keep on going till that dirt road mentioned above.

Now some people park at this point (the beginning of the dirt road) and this adds a few more miles to your trip.
The sign also says: “private road blah blah blah” ignore it.
I swear this is the path to the Cleveland national forest.

Note: There’s also another little road right before this that leads to a well facility of some sort and then another that leads to a Mexican restaurant. Those are the wrong roads (just FYI)

Now. We hike.

Today was overcast with a threat of rain and Brayden’s friend was positively enthralled with how quiet everything was. I was tickled with how beautiful the canyon is and that the port a potties seem maintained well enough (thank god).

We walk in about 2 miles and then it’s another 2-3 to the falls. From the trail head you pass the 20 some cabins that are either private residences or getaways…I’m actually not sure but I intend to look into it. Some of them are beautiful. Some look downright Deliverance and look terrifying. I think Brayden ran at one point because one creeped him out…

The paths are beautiful. Relatively easy (slight inclines and a few slippery patches that I’m sure have more traction when it hasn’t been drizzling). You cross over the river/creek a half a dozen times and crossing is easy depending on how dry the season is.

There are markers along the way that talk about the history of the holy Jim trail. When you hit the fall you’ll either be enchanted or disappointed depending on how familiar you are with naturally occurring waterfalls. This one is small, measuring only 18 feet and again, depending on the dryness of the season, a trickle or a steady flow.

We’ve been on our share of waterfall hikes and I knew this one would be “small” in comparison. It was beautiful nonetheless. We started back and by the time we reached the car we had clocked about 8 miles and were pleasantly tired.

It was a really pretty hike and I saw some people with small children on the trail but I’m not sure if I would take the little mice. It might be a trail best saved for another outing with the big kids.






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