If you are in the Orange County area and looking for some adventure, a hike, and the rare opportunity of seeing a waterfall (only during a rainy season) in this region, Black Star Canyon should be on your list.
Black Star Canyon is a remote mountain canyon in the Santa Ana / Cleveland National Mountains range, located in Orange County, California. This canyon is best known to historians as an important archaeological site, as numerous artifacts have been found in the canyon that belonged to the ancient Tongva Native Americans.
Black Star Canyon is also famous for its paranormal activities. The story goes that the canyon had witnessed a gruesome and bloody past due to fights between the Native Americans and the Spanish conquistadors and then again with the Mexican Settlers/Ranchers. You will also hear numerous paranormal stories about this place, you could look those up if you would like to know more.
To add to the spookiness, the geographical formation of the canyon also has a part in these stories. The canyon is prone to long silence and then out of nowhere, a gust of wind will flow through the canyons that will for sure give you chills in the spine. I have personally experienced the silence and the wind a few times during my hike there.
You can access the trail via Highway 241 at Santiago Canyon. Turn left onto Silverado Canyon and take another left onto Black Star Canyon Road. Parking is on the road.
Black Star Canyon trail is roughly an 8 mile long round trip. This is a wonderful trail for a regular hike, mountain biking, bird watching, and of course photography. The last couple of miles of this trail gets a bit adventurous, as you will be hiking mostly through the riverbed. You would need to hop across boulders and finally reach the falls at the end of the trail.
The best time to hike is after a rainy season. This helps you see an actual fall at the end of the trail. Sadly, rain is becoming more and rarer in SoCal and so maybe you should just go if you get to right after a rainy spell. Be sure to head out during the day time as the trails are bit remote and it could get pitch dark in the late evening.
The initial part of the trail from the white gate is roughly about 2.5 miles through a fire road until you come across a battered old sign with Black Star Falls cutout. You will turn right at this point to access the river bed for the remainder of the trail.
The riverbed trail starts off parallel to the river and gets more adventurous as you go deeper into the trail for nearly a mile or plus. This is where you will be climbing over boulders. At times you will be climbing over human-sized boulders or walking on slippery or steep river banks along the canyon.
The trail will end at the waterfalls. Be sure to plan your day such that you can return back to the start of the trail while it’s the day time and bright. You do not want to be hopping around slippery boulders when it is pitch dark out there. I will not recommend it. More so, remember there is no cell service in this area.
Word of Caution:
Do not take this trail lightly. While walking and climbing around boulders sound fun, at times these boulders would be as high as you. I have personally hiked this trail a few times and it has pushed me to my limits at times. I am not an avid hiker. While I have enjoyed this hike, I have faced issues from the boulders and the higher elevations of 1031 feet or so. Do keep these points in mind and plan your hike there accordingly.
The only thing we did not get to witness yet in this trail is the water flowing through the falls. Sadly, we missed the opportunity to check out Black Star Canyon after the El Nina storms that we experienced a while back, there hasn’t been much rain in this region for a very long time now. I would definitely set aside some time to go to Black Star Canyon again after the next big storm just to go see this mystery falls in Orange County.
Things to take along
Water and Snacks
Good hiking boots
Camera and a small tripod
Trekking Poles (optional)
Pictorial Highlights from this location…