hike holy jim falls trail

Hike Holy Jim Falls Trail

In This Guide
  • Turn by Turn Hike Directions & Video
  • How to Get to Holy Jim Falls Trailhead
  • Holy Jim Falls Trail Maps
Distance2.8 miles (4.5 km)
Hike Time1:30 Hours (Total)
DifficultyEasy
Total Ascent (?)600 feet (183m)
Highest Elevation2,360 feet (719m)
Fees & PermitsParking Fee
Dog FriendlyOff Leash Okay
Park ContactCleveland National Forest
Park Phone951-736-1811

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.

Last Grizzly Holy Jim
Holy Jim Canyon used to be full of grizzly bears. Local hunters, ranchers, and beekeepers actively hunted the grizzly to extinction.

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.

trabuco canyon road
The drive to the trailhead address brings you on Trabuco Canyon Road, which is dirt. This is the start of Trabuco Canyon Road, coming from the paved road. The beginning of Trabuco Canyon is gravel, and it gets more rutted the farther in you go.

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. There can be poison oak along the last section of the hike, so you should either be careful or wear long pants.

Here’s the gear that I personally use, have tested, and recommend for this hike*.

La Sportiva Spire

La Sportiva Spire GTX

Good for light and more hardcore hikes. Feels like a sneaker but protects like a hiking boot.

Women’s Reviews

Men’s Reviews

Rei Flash 22

REI Flash 22 Pack

This is a super-light and comfortable backpack that can hold everything you need on a hike, including a hydration bladder. It also works great as a general backpack or carry-on.

See Colors & Prices

Joby On Triee

Joby Smartphone Tripod

Make your photos stand out by using this lightweight, do-anything tripod. The Joby attaches your smartphone to trees, rocks, whatever you can find on the trail. Folds down compactly too.

See the Joby Options

Don’t waster your money on hiking gear that’s no good, I’ve done that for you already! Full HikingGuy Gear List

* 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 REI link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.

Also → Big Sale at REI On Now:

REI SALE

Holy Jim Falls Trail Maps

Click To View Map

Hike Holy Jim Falls Trail Map Downloads

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Here’s what I use to navigate my hikes. I recommend a combination of paper and electronic options with backups.

Gaiagps

Gaia GPS

Gaia GPS is a planning and navigation tool that you can use on your phone, tablet, and the web. I use it on my phone when I need to interact with the map and know where my position is on it. I use it at home on the computer to plan routes. You can overlay maps such as public lands to find out free places to camp. It’s a powerful tool.

HikingGuy Discount on Gaia GPS

Fenix Nav

Garmin Fenix Watch

This thing does everything: maps, GPX tracks, compass, barometer, altitude, heart rate, blood oxygen, fitness tracking, sleep tracking, and the list goes on. I keep a GPX route on the watch so I can quickly glance down and make sure I’m in the right place.

Fenix Prices & Reviews

My In-Depth Review

Topo Map

Topo Maps & Guide Books

Don’t be caught out if your batteries die. Take a topo map with you on the trail. Some people also print my guides out for use on the hike.

I also highly recommend taking a map and compass navigation course. It’s a few hours, it’s fun, and it could save your life.

Map and Compass Navigation Basics Classes

Don’t just rely on a cell phone, especially if you are hiking in the backcountry.

Hike Holy Jim Falls Trail 3d map
The hike to Holy Jim Falls follows the valley floor, making an easy hike.

Holy Jim Falls Hike Directions

Video Directions

Get notified when new guides come out with the links below.

Subscribe to HikingGuy on YouTube

Get My Quarterly Newsletter

Turn by Turn Directions

holy jim falls trail parking
Park in any of the spots in the lot. The parking area has basic ports-potties.
Holy Jim Trail sign
Read the Holy Jim Trail sign in the parking lot for any notices.
holy jim trail sign
If you’re looking at the sign in the last picture, you go behind it on the dirt road to the left. There are signs to help you get started, including this metal one.
sign for the Holy Jim Trail
The start of the dirt road also has this big sign for the Holy Jim Trail.
holy jim trail
The beginning of the hike goes along a dirt road.
cabins on holy jim trail
After a few minutes on the road, you’ll go through a section of private cabins. Respect the private property and keep going straight on the dirt road.
peacock on holy jim trail
Some of the folks have free-roaming peacocks as pets. Keep your eyes open, they’re a hit with the kids.
holy jim falls trail sign
As you hike through the cabins, the direction to the trail proper is marked by signs.
official Holy Jim Trail trailhead
At about 0.6 miles, you reach the official Holy Jim Trail trailhead. Go straight through.
holy jim trail stream crossing
The trail is well defined and crosses some streams. If it’s been raining heavily, you might have to rock hop across the stream.
holy jim falls trail
The trail climbs gradually, and is well defined. You might see some side trails to the right leading down to the creek. Stay on the main trail.
alders and oak on holy jim trail
The most photogenic spot occurs on this part of the hike. The trail goes through a circle of alders and oak.
view of Saddleback Mountain
Look up to the left as you hike for a glimpse of the peak of Saddleback Mountain.
historical marker on holy jim trail
You might come across some historical markers on the trail too, keep your eyes open.
holy jim trail
Eventually the trail drops down to the creek and then climbs back up.
holy jim falls trail split
Right after that last trail drop, the trail splits. Head right to Holy Jim Falls.
holy jim falls trail
This part of the trail is much less developed, but still well marked.
holy jim trail
There are sections of the trail that are overgrown. Just move the branches and keep going.
holy jim falls trail
Eventually the trail will come out to and follow the rocky stream bed. It’s not well marked here. In general, stay to the left and keep your eyes open for the trail along the rocks.
holy jim falls
You made it! If there hasn’t been a heavy rain, the falls can be on the light side or even dry. If the trail dead ends at a cliff and you don’t see any water, the Holy Jim Creek is dry.
cris hazzard at holy jim falls
Grab your selfies and head back the way you came. Happy hiking!

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.