Holy Jim Canyon Road

Cleveland National Forest, California

Elevation Gain276ft
Trailhead Elevation1,733ft
Elevation Min/Max1733/1900ft
Elevation Start/End1733/1733ft

Holy Jim Canyon Road

Holy Jim Canyon Road is a hiking, biking, and horse trail in Orange County, California. It is within Cleveland National Forest. It is 0.5 miles long and begins at 1,733 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 1.1 miles with a total elevation gain of 276 feet. Near the trailhead there are woods and parking. Along the trail there is a residential. This trail connects with the following: Holy Jim Hiking Trail and Trabuco Creek Road.

Holy Jim Canyon Road Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Afoot & Afield: Orange County (Wilderness Press)
Jerry Schad and David Money Harris
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"Sometimes the intimacy of a tiny, hidden waterfall is more aesthetically rewarding than the thunder of a famous one. Such is the case with Holy Jim Falls. Tucked into a short, steep canyon draining the southeast flank of Santiago Peak, the falls are seemingly remote but relatively easily reached on foot. The last stretch of trail leading to the falls may be a little overgrown with poison oak, so wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt."
Best Hikes Near Los Angeles (Falcon Guides)
Allen Riedel and Monique Riedel
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"Holy Jim Falls graces the lovely little side canyon that bears the same name. Lined with fern and riparian splendor, the hike is a popular one, and the tranquil falls, while not overpowering, are quaint, contemplative, and pretty. In times of high water, the falls are more resplendent, but the creek crossings are also a bit trickier. This is a nice hike for all ages and it is one that won’t disappoint."
Best Dog Hikes Southern California (Falcon Guides)
Linda and David Mullally
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"There are three good reasons why this hike is worth the 4.5-mile jostle on an unpaved road. This is a creekside trail up a picturesque box canyon to a 20-foot waterfall that still had some water after four years of drought. From a historical point of view, you and pooch get to hike the canyon where the last grizzly bear in Southern California was tracked and killed in 1907. On a future note, Holy Jim Falls happens to be in the heart of the proposed Grizzly Bear National Monument."
100 Classic Hikes in Southern California (The Mountaineers Books)
Allen Riedel
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"The trek to Holy Jim Falls serves as a wonderful introduction to one of the nicest spots in the Santa Ana portion of the Cleveland National Forest. There is a spirited creek, an 18-foot cascade, a beautiful riparian canyon, and lovely oak woodlands. The falls may not be the largest, but their beauty is mesmerizing and a true escape from the urban landscape of Orange County."
Best Easy Day Hikes: Orange County (Falcon Guides)
Randy Vogel
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"The hike into Holy Jim Canyon is one of the most scenic and interesting in the Santa Ana Mountains. The hike passes under a multitude of trees and crosses Holy Jim Creek many times before eventually reaching the falls, a 35-foot cascade and popular picnic spot."
Day Hikes Around Orange County (Day Hike Books)
Robert Stone
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"Holy Jim Canyon was named for a foul-mouthed beekeeper and shepherd named “Cussin’ ” Jim Smith who lived in the canyon during the 1890s. The canyon sits on the southeast flank of 5,687-foot Santiago Peak (Old Saddleback), the highest peak in the Santa Ana Mountains and Orange County. The eight-mile Holy Jim Trail climbs the canyon from Trabuco Canyon up to the peak. En route, the trail leads to Holy Jim Falls in a lush, narrow box canyon, then continues up to Bear Spring at the Main Divide Road. The popular trail parallels Holy Jim Creek in the lower portion of the picturesque, tree-filled drainage. The trail crosses the creek numerous times. This hike ends on a short spur by a pool at the base of the 18-foot Holy Jim Falls, which cascades out of a notch in a fern-covered rock wall."
Mountain Bike! Orange County (Menasha Ridge Press)
David Womack
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"Make the long climb up Holy Jim Trail. The trail begins in a stream-fed canyon, then switchbacks up toward Santiago Peak. Before you reach the peak, turn right on Main Divide Road. It’s a long, arduous trek along the divide to the top of Trabuco Trail. You’ll make several more climbs, including a steep, grueling ascent just past the turnoff to Indian Truck Trail. When you reach Trabuco Trail, you’ll be more than ready to head downhill. Luckily, it’s a great trail, one of the best around. Charge down the length of the Trabuco Trail and then follow Trabuco Creek Road back to the trailhead."
"Looking up at Santiago Peak from various points near the trailhead has a way of prompting hikers to examine their plans: Do we really want to climb way up there? Well, yes you do. Admit it, Orange County’s 5,687-foot landmark peak calls to you. Well, I was referring to a kind of spiritual beckoning to the hiker, but now that we’re discussing calling, I should mention that Santiago Peak is topped with transmitting stations and thickets of antennae, so crucial these days to microwave relays and cell phone signals."
Orange County: A Day Hiker's Guide (The Trailmaster)
John McKinney
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"Holy Jim Trail, creek, waterfall and canyon take their names from “Cussin’ ” Jim Smith, an early Santa Ana Mountain settler who, when displeased, unleashed a string of unholy epithets. Early 20th-century mapmakers were unwilling to geographically honor such a blasphemer, so they changed his name to “Holy.” The trail is one of the most popular in the Santa Anas, though many hikers go only as far as the falls. Something of a Santa Ana Mountains sampler, the trail offers the hiker a creek, a lush canyon, a waterfall, a hike into history and, with the optional trek to Santiago Peak, a chance to conquer OC’s highest summit."

Holy Jim Canyon Road Trip Reports

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This easy scenic 2.8 mile historic hike to a waterfall makes Holy Jim Trail one of the most popular hikes in Orange County. Dog-friendly and kid-friendly, best in the spring season. (Date Hiked: March 14, 2009 and April 19, 2009.) Read the full trail write-up at: http://www.greeneadventures.com/2011/02/07/holy-jim-falls-one-of-orange-countys-best-known-hikes/
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Very cool short hike to the falls. I did this hike in the middle of the day and even though it was hot, the trail was shady enough to not get overheated.

I don't know what Chelsea is talking about...there were bugs galore. They seemed to have a facination with trying to attack my eyeballs :-)

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The 2.7 mile hike listed here for hike duration is a little deceiving, due to the fact that getting to the trailhead involves a real bumpy dirt road experience to reach the trailhead, as the previous reviewer identified. You can make it through in dry weather with any car, on the approach route, but be prepared for heavy washboard conditions and large stones.
Once on the trail, the trail out to Holy Jim's Falls, you will cross over the stream several times through little groves of Cottonwoods and Pines. The trail is fairly well kept up, being recently done with some markings and informational signs from a scout troop.
The Falls themselves are relaxing, and the area is abuzz with bird and insect life. The intrepid will be tempted to climb the 30+ft, up the falls to the top. This is not advisable, as the rock face is usually slick from the water and is a fairly intense Class 4 climb.
There are no facilities in the area, so be sure and stock up on water before you come.
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A fun, short hike after a bumpy dirt road excursion. Complete wilderness yet so close to civilization. The trail is easy to stay on and the falls (about 15 feet)are always fun to watch for a little while. I have seen numerous snakes and more than a few bugs so be prepared. A great hike

Trail Information

Cleveland National Forest
Nearby City
Cleveland National Forest
Dog-friendly, Kid-friendly
Cleveland National Forest Trabuco Ranger District, 1147 E. Sixth St., Corona 92879; (951) 736-1811; fs.fed.us/r5/cleveland
Local Contacts
USGS Santiago Peak; Cleveland National Forest
Local Maps

Trail Log