Located just 15 Miles from Disneyland Resort lies Black Star Canyon, a natural time-capsule hidden within the ancient Santa Ana Mountains. As millions race across busy freeways and gridlock themselves in stalled intersections, only a few short miles away this quiet canyon whispers to those seeking a simpler speed of life and time...at least for a little while. This trip is full of wondrous surprises including a 60' waterfall, but perhaps the most fascinating feature of this canyon is the powerful sense of timelessness one receives upon visiting. History is alive and real nestled between these venerable canyon walls. The echoes of the past manifest themselves in many forms here, including prehistoric fossil walls, a extinct Grizzly Bear refuge, an abandoned Indian village, an 1850-style dynamite mine, an abandoned mountain-crest summer home, a historic ranch, and a Mexican Ranchero battlefield. As the sun glides across this cool mountain sky above you, culminating its journey by falling into the gleaming Pacific, and the canyon's shadows grow ever longer by the hour, you are left with a feel of timelessness across this bygone land.
Elevation Gain: 2,400'
Location: Cleveland National Forrest, Wildlands Conservancy, OC Regional Parks
The Hike: From the free parking lot at the gate on Black Star Canyon Road (800'), enter past the gate and follow the road as it moves into the canyon. Once within the canyon you follow the trail 2.5 miles though Riparian Woodland until the road makes a sharp bend and there is a sign signaling to the waterfall. You should only go to the waterfall if you have experience in rock-bouldering and cross-county navigation. Take this use-path down into a small canyon with a trickling brook until it becomes more of a stream crossing-bushwhack.
Observe the unique variety of geological formations around you; mainly limestone and a variety of other sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rock. Keep following the brooklet about 0.5 miles until you come to a sign pointing the direction of the falls. Proceed in that direction until you come across the first set of some imposing Class 3 boulders. After you scale those carefully there are about five or with more sets of Class 3 Rock Climbing ahead, most of which is slippery limestone; a tumble could result in serious injury. The rock formations just keep getting more interesting as you proceed through this section though, with small limestone caves and rare tufa(which looks a lot like stalagmites). The final rock wall is the hardest to scale, and caution is urged. Upon completing the final boulder pile ascent you will behold the falls (sometimes flowing after heavy rain) before you, and more caves, one of which is a dynamite miner's cave going back 12', around you. Explore the area and gaze up at the harrowing cliffs above (1300'). Any attempt to climb the falls is foolhardy and dangerous: don;t become front page news. Upon ending you visit to the falls retrace you steps carefully down the boulders and back to the
main trail about 0.75 miles one way.
Once back at the main trail, take it up as it winds though thick chaparral quickly begin gaining elevation. In about 2 miles the trail's grade softens and you are welcomed by a sign into the Wildlands Conservancy's Mariposa Reserve (2000'). After this point, you enter the Hidden Valley verdant and pure, back-dropped by Hagnor Peak (3900') topped with communication antennae and covered in clouds. Soon you will see a small oaken grove and a user path descending into the valley. Take this path down to the remnants of a tribal village from a lost era. It is truly a fascinating place. After reliving history there, return again to the main trail and follow it as enters the gentle valley. Believe of not, this calm vale was once the site of many historical events including a battle staged by Mexican Rancheros against the natives, who wanted the prime grazing land for their cattle. In addition to that, this canyon was also one of the last strongholds for the California Grizzly Bear in the state.
After a couple of blissful miles entrenched within that beautiful element of creation, the trail once again begin gaining elevation as it makes it final 800' ascent to Beek's Place, an abandoned summer vacation home covered by pines on the crest of the Santa Ana Mountains. Before the final destination is reached though, the most wonderful aspect of the trip is to be found: a gravelly fossil wall just on the side of the trail, and if you look hard enough, you may find an etched seashell or leaf on the back side of a rock; memoirs of an ancient world.
Continue past the wall, and in about 1.75 miles, you will find you self at Main Divide Road, the Crest of the Santa Ana Mountains (2850') looking into Orange County and the glissining Pacific on one side and the Inland Empire and snow-covered San Bernardino Mountains on the other. Just a few steps away lies Beek's Place, laced with Ponderosa Pine.
When you are ready to leave, strap on you hiking boots and get ready for the possible blister-provoking miles downhill back to the trailhead. The descent though, is still enjoyable and the easier going makes for ample time to converse with your Creator in his created elegance. Savor the trip down as you end your journey thorough time.
Note Bene: As with most low-country hikes, this trek travels through territory that is scorched outside of winter and spring by sometimes triple degree heat. Be wise and leave this hike to a cool day, and if you want to see lots of water in the falls, after a heavy rainstorm.
Hiked: 1-12-2015. Orange and Riverside Counties. Free Parking.
|Newts come out of hibernation when the rains kick up. Watch for them on the trail in the winter. I saw 5!|
|Signage DOWN to the falls.|
|In the canyon on the way to the falls.|
|Right before the bouldering. Who put a bike in the tree?|
|Limestone mini waterfall|
|Typical bouldering section|
|Black Star Falls (mostly dry, even after a moderate storm), and the miner's cave to the left.|
|The dew and frost evaporating on the trail.|
|Site of Indian Village|
|California Sycamore in a meadow.|
|Hagnor Peak and a Doppler Radar|
|Leaf F ossil|
|View from the crest|
|Main Divide Road|
|Remnants of Beek's Place|