Hike Holy Jim Falls Trail
|In This Guide|
|Distance||2.8 miles (4.5 km)|
|Total Climbing||650 feet (198m)|
|Dog Friendly||Off Leash Okay|
|Park||Cleveland National Forest|
The Holy Jim Falls Trail hike is an easy hike to a small waterfall tucked into the heart of the Santa Ana Mountains. The hike follows Holy Jim Creek, which is one of the pristine mountain tributaries of Trabuco Creek, and eventually flows out to the ocean at Dana Point. Today the Holy Jim Falls Trail is family friendly, relatively easy, and well marked hike.
Why is this area called Holy Jim Falls? Well, in the 1870s this area was popular with beekeepers, and there was one called James T. Smith, who evidently was a bit of an unsavory character. He earned the nicknames of “Cussin’ Jim”, “Lying Jim” and “Greasy Jim.” To irritate him, his neighbors started calling him “Salvation Jim” or “Holy Jim.” When government surveyors came through and asked who owned the land, Jim’s clever friends said “Holy Jim,” forever etching this joke into geographical history.
There’s also some sad history at Holy Jim Canyon. It was here on January 5, 1908, that the last confirmed grizzly bear kill in California occurred. The California Grizzly adorns the state flag today, but they are extinct (in CA). It wasn’t always that way. Grizzlies used to roam all of the lower areas of Cleveland National Forest up to the 1860s.The government put a bounty of $10 a head on the grizzly, and by the 1870s, they were mostly gone.
The hike to Holy Jim Falls is a nice, easy hike. If you want to hike to the top of Saddleback Mountain, it’s a serious effort and best left to hikers with experience and fitness. Here’s what’s involved with the hike to Saddleback Mountain. These two hikes share the trail for a while, so you’ll see signs for Saddleback / Santiago peak as well.
Getting to the Holy Jim Falls Trail
Getting to the Holy Jim Falls Trail is half the fun. First off, use this as your Google Maps address: Main Parking for Holy Jim Falls and Trail, Corona, CA, 92883, USA
The last 5 or so miles are on a dirt road that’s best done with a higher-clearance vehicle, but I’ve seen cars do it before. Just take it slow and beware of potholes. I’ve seen really low cars do this, it’s doable.
You need a parking pass for the Cleveland National Forest. I use the affordable National Parks Pass, which gets me in every national park, national monument, and national forest. You can also use an (Southern California only) Adventure Pass, or buy a $5 day permit from the Trabuco General Store.
Gear for the Hike
This is a pretty easy hike that you can do in fitness clothes. Here’s what I recommend:
- Trail runners or sneakers
There can be poison oak along the last section of the hike, so you should either be careful or wear long pants.
If you want hiking gear recommendations, check out my full gear list. I only recommend and review gear that I actually use. No company pays me to push their product. Everything on my gear list is battle tested on the trails, and should work well for you too.
See The Gear I Use
Holy Jim Falls Trail Maps
I highly recommend bringing some form of paper map with you, and then using it in conjunction with a GPS device. You can see the navigation gear that I use here (I’m currently using the Fenix 5x and love it). Just download the GPX file below and load it onto your GPS.
Download the Hike GPX File
View a Printable PDF Hike Map
Holy Jim Falls Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
You can help other hikers. If you do this hike and something has changed, snap a few photos and email me the details. I’ll update the guide so that others can do the hike safely.