A little love for the Santa Anas. Yes, August is absolutely the worst time for a waterfall hike, but it was the only hike I had prepped for that fit my schedule.
There is free, but limited parking at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary off Modjeska Canyon Road. Start by going uphill past the gate on Harding Truck Trail, then follow the left junction that descends toward Modjeska Reservoir in less than a half mile. At the bottom, turn right to make your way up Harding Canyon. There is a good use trail that heads into the canyon. I was somewhere close to two miles up the canyon before I crossed water for the first time. The middle part of the canyon has some large boulders and several nice sized pools that survived the summer. The vegetation grew thick and the use trail started to fade in and out. I often had to duck into a tangle of trees and plants to locate a path.
Early going in Harding Canyon
Getting a little rougher
First water a couple of miles into the canyon
Finding a way through
There was a large pool about half a mile before Harding Canyon Falls. It is easily bypassed on the right. The canyon steadily gained elevation and started to open up again before reaching the bigger falls. The last half mile took a little more time with more boulder scrambling and navigation problems. When I got to the big falls, I was not surprised to find it only a trickle. It is in two tiers, a 30' first tier and about a 10' second tier. A class 3 climb on the left side is required to gain the first tier. The rock was solid and holds were good. I climbed up to the top of the second tier and found a smooth, shaded area for lunch. It occurred to me that it might be possible to drop into the canyon from Harding Truck Trail farther up and descend all the way down. Who knows what secrets the canyon holds far beyond the falls.
Small falls on the way to Harding Falls
Directly below the water flow/trickle at Harding Falls
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