On Tuesday March 4 my friend Gwen and I wanted to take advantage of the major storms over the weekend and visit a waterfall that we had never seen before. We decided to take the Harding Falls Hike in Orange County. I have been in Harding Canyon several times, and it is one of the most serene and lovely canyons in the Santa Ana Mountains. But I had never reached the waterfall. This day we committed to not stopping until we had achieved our goal.
The initial mile is rather wide and flat, with a lush forest and is quite tranquil and serene. The stream may be intermittent here depending on the time of year, although it flows strongly after rain. After about 1 to 1.5 miles one encounters a wonderful series of crystal pools and the hike becomes different in character, consisting of boulder hopping and light climbing over numerous small waterfalls and boulder piles.
After some bush whacking and increasingly difficult terrain, one eventually encounters Harding Falls. For us this took 3.25 hours of almost constant movement at a good pace, especially considering the difficult terrain. The falls consists of two tiers, the first of which is about 35′, a granite shelf with a small pool. and then the second tier of about 15′. When the water is flowing it’s a rather nice waterfall, and it’s remote location and difficult access make it much more likely that you will have the falls to yourself. In fact on this day, we did not see one other human being anywhere in the canyon for the entire six hours we were there!