I’m often asked, “What’s the best place to hike after it rains?” I have a special attraction to waterfalls, and really love the canyons in the mountains, so I’m drawn to waterfalls and streams first after rain. My initial choice is usually a hike including a beautiful mountain stream with a nice waterfall. There’s a freshness in the air, the plant life flourishes, and the canyons are alive. The music of the flowing water and the aroma of natures bounty pervades ones senses. If you want to experience one of these you can consult my list of Southern California Waterfall Hikes, or choose from one of the specific recommendations included below.
If you’re in Orange County and want something easy, check out the Holy Jim Falls Hike or the San Juan Loop Trail Hike. If you’re looking for something more adventurous and try the demanding off-trail adventures of the Harding Falls Hike or the Upper Hot Spring Canyon Falls Hike.
If you’re in Los Angeles County there are even more choices – The San Gabriel Mountains are chock full of spectacular waterfalls. If you’re looking for something relatively easy check out the the Trail Canyon Falls Hike or the Etiwanda Falls Hike.
An intermediate waterfall hike in Los Angeles County is the spectacular Middle Fork Lytle Creek Hike. There are many challenging Adventure Hikes with falls in the larger mountain ranges, so if you want to go off trail perhaps start with the Stoddard Canyon Falls Hike or the Rubio Canyon Falls Hike.
Depending on month and temperature the rain, as we know, is actually snow at higher elevations. So you should know what the snow level is for a certain storm, and plan your hike accordingly, especially making sure to have the appropriate gear. Snow is not usually an issue in Orange county, but occasionally the Santa Ana Mountains get some at higher elevations, although it normally melts quickly. But the other taller ranges like the San Gabriels can maintain snow cover over 6000′ or so for months at times, and sometimes the snow levels can drop as low as 4000′ or so, so make sure to check snow levels for any hike in the winter. Note that the individual hike pages on this site include an elevation profile that you can use interactively with the map to check the minimum and maximum elevations for your hike.
Some prefer to hike to peaks after rain as well because of the potential clarity of the air once a storm system has moved through. This can offer spectacular views but note that after many storm systems clouds linger at the mountains and there may be residual moisture in the air over the ocean as well, so sometimes this approach backfires.
Whatever you decide make sure you stay safe and have fun out there!