Bonita Falls is a majestic 90-foot waterfall located in the Lytle Creek South Fork area, near Bonita Canyon. The hike to the falls is approximately 1.5 miles round trip with 400 feet of elevation gain. Sadly, the canyon walls and rocks at and leading to the falls are marred by graffiti and trash. But don’t let that stop you from experiencing one of Southern California’s tallest waterfalls.
Distance: 1.5 miles
Duration: 2.0 hours
Elevation Gain: 400 feet
From the I-15 in Fontana, exit Sierra Ave and proceed north. Sierra Ave becomes Lytle Creek Rd once you pass Glen Helen Parkway. The trailhead is located five miles north of the I-15 on Lytle Creek Road, about a mile past the Lytle Creek Ranger Station. There are two parking areas on the left. Both require a Forest Service Adventure Pass. The second parking area is preferred because it is located directly in front of Bonita Canyon. The approximate trailhead GPS is 34.236811, -117.496990.
Lytle Creek Ranger Station
On your way to the trailhead, you may want to stop at the Lytle Creek Ranger Station to pick up an Adventure Pass, grab a brochure and speak with a ranger about the hike. There is also a restroom at this location with a flush toilet which obviously beats the trailhead porta-potties by a country mile. Here’s the address:
Lytle Creek Ranger Station (Front Country Ranger District)
1209 Lytle Creek Road
Lytle Creek, CA 92358
The actual Bonita Falls hike is pretty straightforward. You cross Lytle Creek near the trailhead, walk through a boulder field, cross another stream, and then hike up the Bonita Falls Trail on the left. It’s a half mile hike through the boulder field from the trailhead and then another 0.25 miles to the falls.
Based on the short hiking distance and moderate elevation gain, you might think this is an easy hike. But when you factor in the stream crossings, wet slippery rocks and thousands of boulders, Bonita Falls becomes a moderate level, even tricky hike. Depending on the water level, the stream crossings can be challenging and potentially hazardous to cross. Alway maintain a safety awareness and be prepared to turn back if you encounter poor conditions.
Bonita Canyon Trailhead
From the trailhead parking lot, walk down the short trail leading to Lytle Creek, which you will have to cross. Look for any point that looks doable. Kim and I found a nice pile of logs that provided an adequate crossing point. Know that you may slip into the rushing water if you lose your footing on the rocks or logs. Trekking poles are definitely helpful for the stream crossings.
I know two people who suffered moderate to severe injuries at seemingly “easy” stream crossings en route to Fish Canyon Falls and Sturtevant Falls. In both cases, they had slipped off the wet rocks while crossing and fell onto other rocks. Always exercise proper caution when crossing streams.
Lytle Creek stream crossing at Bonita Canyon
After crossing Lytle Creek, start walking through Bonita Canyon aiming toward the left side of the canyon. Bonita Canyon is full of rocks and boulders. Thousands of them as far as the eye can see. It’s kind of cool, but you also have to watch your step to avoid twisting your ankle.
Bonita Canyon boulder field
The key thing to remember after you cross Lytle Creek is to get to the left side of Bonita Canyon as soon as possible. Depending on the weather, you may have to cross another stream. Once there, walk along the left side of the canyon until you see the Bonita Falls spur trail leading up. It’s not marked by any sign but is fairly obvious IF you are in close proximity to the trail. If not, you may miss the trail and end up deep in Bonita Canyon looking aimlessly for the falls. The approximate GPS address for the spur trail is 34.232872, -117.504169.
The Bonita Falls spur trail is not marked by any sign but is fairly obvious IF you are in close proximity to the trail. If not, you may miss the trail and end up deep in Bonita Canyon looking aimlessly for the falls. The approximate GPS address for the spur trail is 34.232872, -117.504169.
Bonita Falls spur trail
Once you’re on the spur trail, just follow it up to the falls. It’s about a quarter mile from Bonita Canyon to the base of Bonita Falls. The trail is mostly shaded and the climb is fairly easy. Regrettably, many of the boulders and trees along the way are covered with graffiti. The trail appears to divide about half way up to the falls. Just stay to the right and follow the trail to the falls.
As you approach the actual waterfall, you will again note a ridiculous amount of graffiti and scattered trash. Try not to let it spoil your hike to this truly beautiful place.
Me and Kim at Bonita Falls
The Forest Service gives a height of 90 feet for the waterfall. But other hiking authorities list the height at 160 feet. Hard to know which figure is correct without taking a tape measure to it, but the 160-foot height seems possible. Especially when you look up to the top of the falls from the bottom. In fact, the waterfall is so high, it’s difficult to get a photo of the entire falls unless you use a vertical format or stand way back.
Here’s another view of Bonita Falls taken from the side. If the rock on the right side of the photo looks kind of funky, it’s because I attempted to scrub out the graffiti using a photo editor. By the way, be sure to bring a good camera for this hike and take lots of photos from various angles. You just might get a great photo
Side view of Bonita Falls
There are plenty of boulders you can sit on for a snack or lunch. Once you’ve gotten your fill, it’s a short hike back the way you came. And if you’re really feeling rambunctious, you might even consider bringing a bag to haul away some of the scattered trash left by those who don’t respect the beauty of our wilderness like we do.
Additional Bonita Falls Hike Reports
For additional information about Bonita Falls, check out these hike reports. You will note that the hike stats vary from one hike report to the next, but the overall theme is consistent.