Hike the Chiquito Falls Trail
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance||9.6 miles (15.5 km)|
|Hike Time||4-5 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||1,800 feet (549m)|
|Highest Elevation||2,340 feet (713m)|
|Fees & Permits||Parking Pass|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Cleveland National Forest|
Nestled deep in Cleveland National Forest, the Chiquito Trail takes you away from the crowds visiting the popular San Juan Falls to a waterfall hidden in a secluded canyon up in hills, Chiquito Falls. To get there you have to hike up a moderate climb, but as with most climbs, you’re rewarded with great views. The hike to Chiquito Falls is great for the hiker who’s done the popular trails and now wants something a little different without the bigger crowds (like nearby Sitton Peak).
Spoiler alert: “chiquito” means small or tiny in Spanish, so don’t expect a Niagara Falls experience. Regardless, Chiquito Falls is a lovely spot.
How to Get to Chiquito Falls
The hike to Chiquito Falls starts at the big trail parking area off Rt-74 (Ortega Highway), which is also the parking area for Sitton Peak and the San Juan Loop Trail. Use this trailhead address:
34950 Ortega Hwy, Lake Elsinore, CA, 92530
You need to display a National Parks Pass or Adventure Pass to park here. I highly recommend investing in the National Parks Pass, which allows you free entry at all federal lands and attractions, of which this is one.
Gear for the Hike
This is a proper backcountry hike and you should prepare accordingly.
- You’ll need good hiking footwear for the trail, which is rocky in places. When there’s water flowing, you have a couple of small streams to hop across and you might get wet feet.
- In the summer or warmer days this hike can be brutally hot and buggy. Try to do it when it’s cooler out and bring insect repellant just in case.
- Generally 2L of water is good, but if it’s hot, I’d bring more.
- Trekking poles will help on the climb, descent, and potential stream crossings.
The Most Comfortable Hiking Shoe Ever
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak 4.5 (Women: REI | Amazon + Men: REI | Amazon) is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they work great on the trail. It’s a favorite of PCT and AT hikers for a good reason!
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.
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 February 2021.
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.
Chiquito Falls Trail Maps
Overall, for such a remote trail, the Chiquito Trail is maintained and in good shape. The trail is also used by mountain bikers, and probably gets more traffic than you’d imagine.
Download the Hike GPX FileView a Printable PDF Hike Map
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.
Chiquito Falls Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
Chiquito Falls is named after Kenneth Munhall’s horse. Munhall was a ranger here in the early days of the forest, and used to man the fire tower on Santiago Peak in the 1920s. Yup, there used to be a fire tower on Santiago Peak.
Here’s what the falls look like when they’re flowing.
When you’re done at the falls, just go back the way you came. I generally take the right when I get back to the San Juan Loop Trail and hike the other half of the loop back to the start. It’s not as rocky, a little more shady, and something different to see.
This guide last updated on January 29, 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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