In March of 2011 our sense of adventure led us to Modjeska Canyon, Ca for an attempt to reach Harding Canyon Waterfall.
We geared up and headed towards the Santa Ana Mountains to reach the trailhead before sunrise. Parking for Harding Canyon Falls is located at the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary Parking here is free but limited, so arrive early for a spot.
The trail begins to the right of the sanctuary on Harding Truck Trail. After a .25 mile walk at a slight incline you reach a fork in the road. From here go left and you will soon reach the creek bed. Head to your right until you reach the creek. Now here is where the fun part begins.
By no means is this an easy hike so be prepared for a long and wet hike.
Head up creek for 3 1/2 hours… Yes that’s right 3 1/2 hours. On this adventure you will hike along the creek, in the creek and across the creek. Staying dry is not an option. You will see some of the best creek pools around! (Great for the summer months) The trail is very shaded and sprawling with plant life including the infamous Poison Oak, so be aware of your surroundings. Newts lizards frogs and snakes are also common along the trail so keep an eye out.
After several creek crossings the canyon begins to narrow and the boulders begin to appear. Continue on up creek for the waterfall is just around the way. (that’s what I kept telling myself)
After a long, challenging, wet hike you should now be embracing the sight of Harding Canyons hidden beauty. A beautiful 40 ft waterfall with a waist deep pool at its base.
Although very difficult it is still very doable. As always be prepared and use common sense.
Click here for directions
•8 miles r/t
•3 1/2 hrs one way
•free but limited parking
Mountain lions frequent Harding Canyon. The first time I hiked it I saw some paw prints and scat. Both were fairly dried-up, so I wasn’t positive about it being signs of a mountain lion. A year later, I found some really good prints in wet sand. That same day I came across some fresh scat. So fresh that it glistened in the sun from the moisture content. Since I don’t pack heat, I decided to call it a day and head back to the car. I took a picture of the scat so that my wife would believe me.
Alex G said:
This was my first time going to Harding canyon. .. I didn’t really see any tracks on the way in and once we dropped into the creekbed it was almost impossible to see any prints. I do want to go back though, maybe after some heavy rain. The biggest lion tracks I’ve seen have been while hiking in Fremont Canyon.
BIG Jim said:
I would never hike in Harding Canyon alone. Due to that if you get injured in a fall, you will be there fore awhile. Cell phones don’t work in certain areas. Plus I would have a good belt knife and a hiking staff.
Alex G said:
Hiking alone is never recommended for the very reasons you mentioned in your comment. A knife and hiking stick are definitely a must! Thanks for stopping by Jim!
Above the Harding water fall is probably the best part of the canyon, not many people make it up there, Twilight Zone environment. I lived in Modjeska all through the 80’s and 90’s.
I don’t know what waterfall you are talking about but it’s not the big one. Up above that waterfall the canyon is pretty blah and filled with so much brush that you must bushwhack to get up to the Main Divide/4 Corners area. The face of the waterfall is climbable if you have experience doing stuff like that. I have photos of people climbing up it, including myself. I’ve lived here in the canyons since 1977 and I know a lot of secret spots that are quite beautiful.
I went to hike Harding Truck Trail today but the weather was questionable so I went down to the reservoir instead since I’d been meaning to check it out. I hiked into the canyon for about an hour and made it to a spot where the canyon makes a hard left and the boulders started getting in the way. Would have gone farther if the weather had been better. One day I’d love to bushwhack it all the way to the end and climb up to main divide if that’s possible. Is there any easy way up or around the waterfall? Also, after reading the comments here, I realize now it probably was not the best idea to go in there alone. I saw lots of scat on the trail, which after reading the comments here and looking at some pictures, were probably from mountain lions. Almost all of it was fresh too. I started to get the feeling that it wasn’t dog shit after I hadn’t seen any human tracks. I’ll be sure to bring a slower/smaller friend along next time I go in there!
Alex G said:
Dave, It’s a beautiful hike if you continue on after that bend in the creek. Its a slow going hike but definitely full of adventure. I e never gone past the waterfall but someone did mention it was very beautiful up there. The time I went it was flowing good so it was real slippery and there was no obvious way up and around the waterfall. It would be a fun trip to make it up to the road. I might have to try that one day for myself. Oh, and definitely don’t go alone… for obvious safety reasons. Its so remote back there that you’d be on your own for who knows how long. Thanks for stopping by, and don’t forget to bring that slower friend. Lol