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black star canyon hike to the falls

Hike Black Star Canyon Falls Trail

In This Guide
  • How to Get to the Black Star Canyon Trail
  • Black Star Canyon Trail Maps
  • Turn by Turn Hike Directions & Video
  • Black Star Canyon’s Haunted History
Total Distance7.1 miles (11.4 km)
Hike Time4-5 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Moderate
Total Ascent (?)820 feet (250m)
Highest Elevation1,692 feet (516m)
Fees & PermitsFree
Dogs AllowedLeashed
Alerts & Closures (?)Black Star Canyon Wilderness Park
Park Phone714-973-6696

Hiking the Black Star Canyon trail is a local favorite for a reason. The trail follows Black Star Creek to Black Star Canyon Falls, and there’s a haunted history to ponder as you hike through this beautiful part of Black Star Canyon Wilderness Park. Hiking on the Black Star Canyon Trail can be a challenge, especially when it’s wet. This guide has everything you need to navigate the hike safely and get to the falls.

Where Is The Black Star Canyon Trail

The trailhead is easy to find and has lots of parking. Here’s the address to use: 13333 Black Star Canyon Rd, Silverado, CA 92676, USA.

Black Star Canyon trailhead
There’s plenty of parking at the Black Star Canyon trailhead. It’s a popular hike though, and I’ve seen the lot full.

Note: There are some road closures, check out this link and call the ranger station to ensure that you’re good.

Gear You Need For Black Star Canyon Falls

black star canyon trail
This is typical of the last section of the hike. You’ll be making your way up boulders through Black Star Creek.

There are really two parts of the trail on the hike up Black Star Canyon. The first half is on dirt roads and is very easy. You could do it in sneakers. The second half follows the Black Star Creek bed and is much slower going. There are sections where you walk through water and mud. Toward the end of the hike, you have to pull yourself up rocks and boulders. It’s doable, but slow going. The second half is definitely not a traditional trail hike, so here’s the gear that I recommend.

If it’s raining out when you do this, expect to go through some water as you hike up along the stream bed. You will get wet. And usually the falls are best when it’s raining or just has rained, so yea, just plan on getting wet.

I usually hike in shorts but it pays to hike in long pants and long-sleeves here; there’s a lot of poison oak along the trail.

Moab 2 Mall

The Best All-Around Hiking Footwear
For most hikers, a hiking shoe is the great choice, and the Moab 2 is a winner. The ventilation is great, they last forever, offer good protection, and have a solid grip. There are sizing options for everyone’s foot in this really comfortable and reliable shoe. This shoe is also a favorite of thru-hikers. The only downside is that they are a little heavy. If you are looking for something more aggressive or lighter, check out the bottom of my gear page.
Latest Price on Women’s ShoeREI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s ShoeREI | Amazon

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

Stay Safe Out of Cell Phone Range
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Garmin InReach Mini (REI | Amazon | My Review) fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing.

Gaiagps

Gaia GPS Mapping App
Smartphones are not backcountry instruments, but almost everyone has one today. And they all have GPS onboard. So I recommend getting a good GPS hiking app like Gaia GPS that supports offline maps. Just make sure to put your phone in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. GaiaGPS not only has smartphone and tablet apps, but also an online planning tool. You can drag the GPX hike tracks from my (or any) guides into the online map and they will sync to your phone. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get up to 40% off here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated April 2021.

My April 2021 Top Gear Picks

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.

I’ve seen plenty of people with dogs on this hike, but they’ll have to get up and down the boulders too. They should be comfortable jumping up and down, or you should be prepared to carry and lift them. Many folks put booties on their dogs for the hike because of sharp rocks.

Why is Black Star Canyon Haunted?

Black Star Canyon Haunted Orbs
Check your hike pictures for any orbs or anomalies. Maybe the orb was a ghost, maybe just weird lighting. Photo from Terra Umbra.

There are a few ingredients to the Black Star Canyon haunting story. Let’s start at the beginning.

This area was the original home of the Tongva peoples, and there are signs of their habitation, such as ‘pothole’ grinding rocks, in the area above the falls. In 1831, William Wolfskill led a group of fur trappers to Black Star Canyon in search of their stolen horses. Finding the horses with the Tongva in Black Star Canyon, the trappers massacred the Tongva in a “rifles versus bow-and-arrow” battle.  The canyon is said to be haunted by those massacred.

William Wolfskill
After massacring the Tongva, William Wolfskill went on to become one of the wealthiest men in America, credited with starting the citrus industry, inventing the Valencia Orange, and producing 50,000 gallons of wine a year.

The canyon is named after the Black Star Coal Mining Company, which opened a mine at the mouth of the canyon in 1877, but shut down in the early 1900s. The lower tunnel in the falls is actually an old mine shaft. One of the apparitions “most sighted” is referred to as “the Miner” and evidently worked the mine.

In 1899 Black Star Canyon was the scene of another murder, this time as a result of friction between Mexican and Anglo-American homesteaders.

So in addition to the murders and massacres, Black Star Canyon is also a traditional spot for teens to come and party over the years. You can imagine combining the stories of past massacres with drugs, alcohol, and darkness, and you have a recipe for a haunted reputation.

Today the local tall-tales about Black Star Canyon have evolved into it being a place for satanic cult meetings, shadows that follow you, KKK meetings, a crazy homeless guy named Black Star Bill, and locals who will shoot at you. After having done this hike numerous times, I can safely say that I’ve encountered none of those phenomena. Just stay on the well-marked trail for the first part of the hike, avoiding the fenced off private property, and you should be fine.

There are guided hikes at Black Star Canyon around Halloween, and it’s also a popular spot for local ghost hunters. If anything, expect loud teens. Don’t be surprised if you get to the falls and encounter kids playing music, smoking cigarettes, and drinking beer. It’s not a dangerous hike in that way, but the crowd can be mixed. Some people love the hike, others hate it.

Black Star Canyon Falls Trail Maps

Click Here To View Map

Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.

Fenix 6 Pro

How are you going to navigate this hike?
To start, you should always have a paper map and compass. And it helps to print this guide out or save it on your phone. I highly recommend a GPS as well. I use the Garmin Fenix 6 Smart GPS watch ( REI | Amazon | My Review) with maps (or the more affordable Garmin Instinct). The GPS smartwatch is nice because it’s rugged, works if your phone dies, and also has a billion other features like sleep tracking, workout recording, etc.

black star canyon hike to the falls 3d map
The trail gradually climbs up along Black Star Canyon. No big climbs on this one, but there are boulders to pull yourself up towards the end.
black star canyon hike to the falls elevation
It’s an uphill hike, but the challenges of the stream bed hike distract you from the uphill effort. The last section to the falls has some areas where you have to haul yourself up the boulders.

Black Star Canyon Falls Hike Directions

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Video Directions

Turn By Turn Hike Directions

Keep you’re eyes and ears open for mountain bikers on the first half of the hike. It’s a popular spot for them. Once you’re on the smaller trail along the stream, you won’t see any bikes.

Black Star Canyon trailhead
At the end of the lot, the road dead ends into a gate. Start hiking past the gate.
Black Star Canyon trailhead
The sign on the gate tells you that you’re in the right place.
black star canyon trail
The beginning of the hike is on a paved road. Keep hiking straight and enjoy the view of rolling valleys.
black star canyon trail
Avoid any side trails and stay on the main road.
black star canyon trail junction
At about 0.6 miles the road comes to a T, make the right.
black star canyon trail sign
Here’s a closeup of the sign at the junction, with an incorrect distance to Black Star Canyon Falls.
black star canyon trail
The trail is a road here, and is rolling and scenic.
black star canyon trail
Parts of the road go from paved to dirt. You’re still in the right place.
black star canyon trail
You’ll leave OC Parks. Don’t get scared, just go straight.
black star canyon trail
Please respect the property off the road. You’ll see a bunch of no-tresspassing signs and electric fences. It’s probably just a function of people wanting to keep hikers and bikers from thrashing their property.
black star canyon trail
The road passes over a creek. If it’s a raging torrent, you might have chances of water at the falls.
black star canyon trail
Again, avoid any fences or side trails. You want to stay on the main, unobstructed road.
black star canyon trail
At about 2.3 miles, you’ll come to another bridge. Make the right after you cross. To the left are some old ruins and an old truck. The trail continues over another bridge after this one and you have some more road section.
black star canyon trail
When the road turns sharply to the left, keep your eye out for the trail, which veers off to the right. There’s a metal sign marking the spot.
black star canyon trail
Here’s a closeup of that intersection. Hike the hard right at the metal post.
black star canyon trail
The trail is a steep downhill to Black Star Creek, where you head to the left and upstream.
black star canyon trail
Gone is the wide dirt road, hello stream bed. Start making your way upstream. In the beginning section, the trail is well defined.
black star canyon trail
The trail goes through the stream at some points.
black star canyon trail
The stream is a lush, evolving landscape, so the trail splits, disappears, and reappears accordingly. This section looks different every time I do it. Again, just follow Black Star Creek upstream and you’re good.
black star canyon trail
At some points the trail veers to one bank or the other, briefly moving away from the stream.
black star canyon trail
After about 3.2 miles, you come to this clearly marked junction. Hike to the left and continue up Black Star Creek.
black star canyon trail
Okay, now the fun part starts. As you make your way up Black Star Creek, there are some sections where you have to scramble up boulders. Many hikers have done it before you, so it’s all doable. If you don’t know how to make it up, you can always wait for some other hikers to pass you and do the climb, observing how they approach it.
black star canyon trail
The rocks can be sharp. Many dogs that I see have booties on them to protect their paws. I wasn’t so lucky on this day.
black star canyon trail
One last steep stretch to the falls.
black star canyon trail
Here it is, Black Star Canyon Falls. On this day it was raining, but the falls weren’t so active. It’s hit or miss, but after a few days of rain your chances are better.
black star canyon trail
The trail dead ends here, and many folks use the clearing as a place for a snack and break. There are some steep side trails that lead above the falls if you want to explore.
black star canyon trail
If you’re comfortable with rock climbing, you can also go into the lower mine shaft. I didn’t, but I’ve seen kids do it.
black star canyon trail
Grab your photos at the falls. Hopefully they’ll be a little more spectacular on the day you go.
black star canyon trail
To get back, simply retrace your steps. Notice the steep drop in this picture, which gives you a better idea of the steepness of the boulder climbs in the last section.

This guide last updated on March 8, 2021. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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