Companion blog: Adventures In Stoving

Monday, October 8, 2012

Big Falls

One of the larger creeks in the San Gorgonio Wilderness in Southern California is intriguingly named Falls Creek.  Now, why is Falls Creek named "Falls" Creek? Well, Big Falls (marked as Levering Falls on some maps) might have something to do with it.

Now, I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but until just recently, I thought this was it when it came to Big Falls:
The upper tier of Big Falls
The mistake is perhaps understandable given that Big Falls isn't much of a hike and the only time I do such a short hike (perhaps 0.25mi/400m) is when I'm with my daughter and my essentially non-hiker wife. We've gone up to where you can see what you see in that photo above, but with my daughter and wife, I'm not going to scramble up the rocks beyond the point to which one can reasonably walk.

Well, this past Saturday, a friend invited me up, and so I went. We scrambled up farther, and, boy, was I ever surprised. Turns out that what you see in the photo above is only the top tier of three major tiers that comprise Big Falls.  Not only that, but the upper tier pictured above can only be seen from a distance when approached via Falls Creek from below.  In other words, the best views are of the other tiers -- tiers that I (insert embarrassed look here) had never seen before.

So, let's have a look, shall we?  Heading up past the "comfortable walking point," the canyon becomes a fairly steep rock scramble.  After a short bit of scrambling, the middle and lower tiers come into view.
The middle and lower tiers of Big Falls.   Note the people standing near the top of the lower tier
Wow!  What a difference!

Now, Niagara Falls it is not, but for dry Southern California, this is a pretty spectacular falls, nestled in a fairly dramatic, cliff-bound canyon.  This (2012) has been a fairly dry year, but those falls are really running well, particularly for October (rainy season in California is January - March).
Big Falls (middle tier and top portion of the lower tier)
One can scramble up to the top of the lower tier fairly easily, and with some difficulty to the base of the middle tier.  But the middle tier blocks all further upward progress in the canyon except perhaps for a technical rock climber.  However, the rock is extremely fractured and loose.  I'm not sure how safe rock climbing would be here.
The middle tier of Big Falls
Despite rather ominous warning signs posted in the area, I decided to scramble to the top of the lower tier.
The lower tier of Big Falls
Arriving on top, I noticed what I couldn't see well from below:  That the lower tier has two branches, split by a large, flat rock formation in the center.
The right branch of the lower tier of Big Falls as seen from above
The left branch of the lower tier of Big Falls
From the top of the lower tier, one can get a good look at the rather impressive middle tier of Big Falls, a tier with classic water fall characteristics (highly vertical, relatively clean drop).

The middle tier of Big Falls as seen from the top of the lower tier.  Note full size tree to the left of the falls.
While it's not much in terms of hiking, Big Falls is none-the-less an attractive destination, one with more than first meets the eye if one is willing to do a bit of scrambling.

I thank you for joining me,



  1. I “hiked” this trail with my daughters when they were very young. We only went up to the look over point at the end of the standard trail. I’m sure these falls really roar during early spring. This is now on my list to check out in spring during peak snow melt.
    I recall that a young man fell to his death here within the last year or so. It must be more treacherous than your photos portray, eh? Is there a lot of loose and slick rock combined with moderate exposure?

    1. Mike,

      There are signs that warn of past injuries. When I went this past weekend, water flow was fairly low, and it felt reasonably safe to me. There were elementary age children who made it to the top of the lower tier. In the spring, you'd have to cross a lot higher water, and I think the potential danger would be much greater. Perhaps your best bet is to head up and assess things on the spot. My route was up the left hand side of the falls as one climbs.


  2. Good to know about the river crossing during high water. Makes sense, Thanks!