Holy Jim Hiking Trail

Cleveland National Forest, California 92708

Distance4.6mi
Elevation Gain4,011ft
Trailhead Elevation4,169ft
Top4,174ft
Elevation Min/Max1891/4174ft
Elevation Start/End4169/4169ft

Holy Jim Hiking Trail

Holy Jim Hiking Trail is a hiking and biking trail in Riverside County and Orange County, California. It is within Cleveland National Forest. It is 4.6 miles long and begins at 4,169 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 9.4 miles with a total elevation gain of 4,011 feet. The Bear Spring can be seen along the trail. This trail connects with the following: Holy Jim Hiking Trail, Upper Holy Jim Trail and Holy Jim Canyon Road.

Holy Jim Hiking Trail Professional Reviews and Guides

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"Located in the Santa Ana Mountains within the Cleveland National Forest in southern Orange County. Highlights: Incredible singletrack, over 15 rutted-out, hairpin switchbacks. Hazards: 100-foot cliffs, poison sumac, and poison oak. Forest Adventure Pass required."

Holy Jim Hiking Trail Reviews

4
4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars
icon12 Total
7/6/2018
One of my favorite short hikes to take in Orange County. The bumpy dirt road to the trailhead can be a little tricky, so it is best to take it easy or maybe don't attempt it without a truck or SUV. It is a really great moderate canyon hike with a little waterfall at the end. It is not a grand waterfall by any means, but a nice endpoint to a pleasant, scenic hike.
0
https://cdn-www.trails.com/ui/images/userBlank.png
Comments
3/24/2012
Short hike with great scenery. Shaded so doable all year but the falls may not be flowing much (if at all) in the summer. Easy hike which families can do together with small kids.
0
https://cdn-www.trails.com/ui/images/userBlank.png
Comments
8/30/2009
It was HOT!! 101 degrees at the trailhead and I suspect this is a perfect early morning trail in the spring. I CANNOT stress enough the road is very technical and should only be done in raised vehicles. I was in a Disco Series II and it was fun and challenging. Just when you think it can't possibly be any further along the road. . . it is. We pushed a group in an Audi off some rocks in the middle of the road and an Accord precariously traversed the same rocky area. The falls were slow but expected due to the season. I'll come back in the spring and take it REAL slow with my 3 and 5 year old. Might be slightly more technical for youngsters than let on.
0
https://cdn-www.trails.com/ui/images/userBlank.png
Comments
4/19/2009
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/
0
https://cdn-www.trails.com/ui/images/userBlank.png
Comments
10/25/2008
I do believe that this is my favorite short hike in Orange County. It offers a moderately strenuous trek with surprisingly lush vegetation. The trail guide is pretty much on the mark except I will concur with an earlier reviewing in that I would not recommend taking a sedan or family van on the dirt road leading to the trail head. A higher-centered vehicle would be more appropriate for the oft dusty and rocky access. If you want to add some milage to the hike, park at the edge of the Cleveland National Forest boundary and walk the 1.6 miles to the trailhead, but be cautious of vehicles passing by; they can kick up road dust and locals seem to drive in excess of the posted 15 mph speed limit. But that extra milage will give you nice, shady views of Trabuco Creek. I'd also recommend wearing some insect repellant during the dryer months. The creek stops flowing allowing still water mosquito pools to form. Last note: Don't forget your ADVENTURE PASS if you park near the trail head.
0
https://cdn-www.trails.com/ui/images/userBlank.png
Comments
4/1/2008
This was a first time hike for my kids (ages 7 &11) We did the hike with a group of like 6 or 7 people I believe. It was definitely a workout but everyone had a great time. Bring water and perhaps a snack for when you reach the falls. At that time of year it was quite small but that's typical of southern california. Don't expect a rushing stream of water....Definitely worth the drive and the sweat!!! I'd do it again when the weather cools down a little.
0
https://cdn-www.trails.com/ui/images/userBlank.png
Comments
8/6/2006
Pretty good hike. This is a short but fun hike. It has a few low hanging trees that double as a tunnel, these are pretty cool. There are a few small water crossings that may have more water in them early in the season. This would be a good hike for kids! Long, bumpy road to get there though. Very cool water fall at the turn around point. Adam
0
https://cdn-www.trails.com/ui/images/userBlank.png
Comments
7/30/2006
A very nice hike (according to this site, it is the #27 most popular hike in the country - visit the top 100 page) but as you would expect, a bit crowded on weekends. The pool and waterfall at the end are beautiful but small, and definitely not conducive to large groups. More than 6-8 people will definitely start to feel crowded, and we quickly felt the pressure to move on (within about 20 mins or so) as additional people arrived. Still, it was a very worthwhile hike. If you can do it a week day or other non-peak occasion, so much the better.
0
https://cdn-www.trails.com/ui/images/userBlank.png
Comments
7/16/2006
I have gone 3 times total, twice this summer. This is by far my favorite hike. I don't care about the offroading a few miles to get to the hike start... I like the fact that it's not paved. The trail it's self is shaded for a good portion making it ideal for the summer. There is an occasional breeze, but the views, and atmosphere seems far from California. I'm sure the waterfall won't be going strong much longer- it is refreshing though.
0
https://cdn-www.trails.com/ui/images/userBlank.png
Comments
4/9/2006
There is a 4 mile dirt road leading to the trail head. This road is really bumpy and has several water crossings that you'll need to be careful of--especially if you're driving a low profile car. Holy Jim Falls Trail is really nice and not too difficult, even for the novice. However, there are several water crossings with some hazards. Three people in our group were injured during the hike while crossing the creek at various locations. One head injury, one ankle injury and one shin injury. These could have all been avoided if proper hiking shoes were worn. We all went on this short trail with tennis shoes--not recommended. We also aided another small girl in a different group that had received a laceration to the forehead from a slip. If you remove all of the injuries, the hike was wonderful.
0
https://cdn-www.trails.com/ui/images/userBlank.png
Comments

Holy Jim Hiking Trail Photos

Help others discover amazing sights!

Trail Information

Cleveland National Forest
Nearby City
Cleveland National Forest
Parks
Dog-friendly, Kid-friendly
Accessibility
Waterfalls
Features
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

Activity Feed

Jul 2018