Hiking La Jolla Canyon in Point Mugu State Park after winter rains is like entering a lost world. That usually bone-dry creek bed? It’s a flowing river. Those brown hillsides? They’re alive with green and mottled with flowers. And that precipitous wall at the head of the canyon? It is (ta-da!) a genuine waterfall—two of them, in fact. (Be aware that the state park plans to close this trail soon—mainly to prevent hikers from attempting to go past the waterfall. But for now, it’s open and safe, as long as you don’t attempt to scale the head of the canyon above the waterfall.)
Start your 1.6-mile out-and-back hike at the Ray Miller Trailhead just off PCH and head straight up the La Jolla Canyon Trail where the sign reads “Waterfall 0.8 mi.” Once you cross over the unnamed creek, you’ll keep it on your left all the way up. Look high to your left as you enter the canyon and you’ll see an astounding profusion of bright yellow giant coreopsis flowers. Look right a bit farther up and see another hillside covered with pale orange monkey flowers. You’ll see trailside poppies and mariposa lilies and whatever else is currently emerging from dormancy after so many years of drought. The trail rises gently and stays well above the creek. Where the trail narrows is where you should stop. Photo op. You’ll see two cascades, the first a steep 20-foot tumble off the canyon wall into a cool pool, while the lower fall sheets about 15 feet down into a smaller pool. If you want to get up close, you’ll need to retrace your steps a bit to an informal trail that leads down to the creek. From there you can scramble upstream to the base of the falls. You should definitely not attempt to go around the waterfall. That access was washed out years ago. As you head back to the trailhead, congratulate yourself on having rediscovered a lost world.
To get to the Ray Miller Trailhead, take I-10 to Pacific Coast Hwy. (CA-1) and proceed 34 miles northwest. The entrance road is on your right about a mile after the giant sandy hill. From the north, take Pacific Coast Hwy. (CA-1) south 16 miles from the US-101 interchange in Oxnard. Paid parking ($8 a day) and the trailhead are 0.25 mile up the entrance road. Free parking is available on Pacific Coast Hwy. No dogs.