Tag Archives: Tenaja Falls

Tenaja Falls

San Mateo Canyon Wilderness

Cleveland National Forest

Near Murrieta, CA

Activity: Day Hike, Chasing Waterfalls

1.5 miles, 311’ elevation change, rated Easy

Date: 2-2-21

Last 2.5 miles of the drive, known as Cleveland in National Forest Road, is on single lane very windy road with pot holes. When you do meet a truck going the opposite way you have to back down to a spot wide enough, not only is there no shoulders, but there are drop offs. 

As you start out there are trails scampering all about, so it helps to have GPS to stay on track, however I would think all of these little paths are going to the same place, but just in case. Also hiking boots would be a essential footware despite this is an Easy hike as the trail is rocky.

As you make your way towards the falls off in the distance you will spy Tenaja Falls twinkling in the sunshine like a ribbon of light as it tumbles down the rock face. That view from a distance shows a good amount of the falls, but the falls twists such that you can’t see all 150’ of it. Even when you hike up to the top you can only see a section of it. 

I decided to add a little more adventure into my outing, because I really wanted to see ALL of the falls. The only way to do that is by performing some rather daring rock scrambling down the side. This brings this trek to a whole new level and it goes from Easy to Hard. If you really want to see the falls that is the only way, but it is not for the faint of heart.  Some of the rock is so smooth that it is slippery, sometimes you may have to go up to go down, trying a different route. But if you are careful, take your time and search around it can be done and you will see the several different levels of this falls. 

This falls is a seasonal waterfall meaning in the summer or fall it may just be a tiny trickle.  The best time to see it would be in the Spring and even then right after a rainfall.  I have seen pictures of the fall where it looked all but dry, and conversely I have seen it flowing much harder than what I experienced just after some winter rain.  So keep in mind this is not the Pacific Northwest this is the dry desert of Southern California when you view this falls.  

I decided to continue being adventurous and instead of climbing back up the waterfall I started bushwhacking off trail down the creek. While bushwhacking down stream sometimes I was hopping from rock to rock in the brook, other times it was dry creek bed and I was maneuvering my way through the rocks. When I wasn’t in the creek bed I found myself traipsing along a bushy over grown trail of some type. My trip took 2.5 hours including enjoying falls, since I added an extra mile by including the bouldering down the waterfall and bushwhacking down the creek. 

Tenaja Falls twinkling in the sunshine like a ribbon of light as it tumbles down the rock face.

Be sure to checkout the YouTube clip, water always looks better when it moves. Pretty much like Robert Redford as the Sundance Kid when he misses the target just standing there, but when he suggests drawing his trusty six-gun and moving he puts on quite a show.
“Grace be a waterfall in the wild of my mind.” – Morgan Harper Nichols

Chasing Waterfalls is a favorite passion when ‘Pursing Balance Through Adventure’. What better place to relax, reload, renew, or reinvent then sitting quietly, listening to water trickling down a smooth rock face, spellbound by how the sun is gleaming off the tranquil collecting pool. That being said, PBTA is about bold experiences in nature, so that is where the rock scrambling came in to explore the full 150’ of Tenaja Falls which otherwise couldn’t really be fully appreciated. There is more pursuing to be had so be sure to LIKE, COMMENT, FOLLOW and SHARE. Get a PBTA shirt or hat such as those pictured at SHOP APPAREL, which not only looks great and helps get the word out, but helps support this site. Speaking of which, if you look at the menu above there are many sites to explore each location is a separate website and thus needs to be FOLLOWED independently.

Happy Trails,

Roger Jenkins

Pursuing Balance Through Adventure