Horsethief Canyon Trail: A Family-Friendly Waterfall Hike

Horsethief Canyon Trail is a family-friendly out-and-back waterfall hike located in Cleveland National Forest. It provides a serene nature escape with ample room for exploration and is suitable for hikers of all levels. During certain times of the year when the water is flowing, cascading waterfalls and inviting swimming pools offer visitors a special treat. The trail is easily accessible and is best enjoyed from late fall through spring when the weather is at its coolest.

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Trailhead Information and Facilities

The Horsethief Canyon trail is located just outside Alpine, CA. Parking for the trail is located at the Espinosa Trailhead. Remember to have an Adventure Pass when parking in Cleveland National Forest. No facilities are available at the trailhead, so plan your adventure accordingly.

About Horsethief Canyon Trail

The trail is rated as moderately difficult, starting and ending at an elevation of 2,473 feet and covering approximately 3.5 – 4.2 miles round-trip (with moderate exploration) with an elevation gain/loss of around 850 feet. This family-friendly hike takes about 2 hours to complete and is ideal for hikers of varying fitness levels and ages. Leashed dogs are welcome too.

The trail begins with a descent into the canyon, leading to the picturesque Pine Valley Creek crossing. During wet months, late fall through spring, the creek comes alive with crystal-clear waters from the Laguna Mountains, adding to the trail’s allure.

Hiking Horsethief Canyon Trail

Follow the well-marked path indicated by the trailhead signage to start your adventure. Along the way, you’ll find cool and shady spots near the creek, perfect for a relaxing picnic. For more excitement, cross the creek and continue along the Espinosa Trail.

Adventurous souls can continue to explore any of the many connecting trails in the area. These trails may involve rock scrambling and/or bushwhacking, but additional rewarding waterfalls and swimming holes often await during spring and early summer after winter rains.

What to Expect on Horsethief Canyon Trail

The Horsethief Canyon Trail offers diverse terrain, from a quick canyon descent to a creek crossing and beyond. During peak months with flowing water, you’ll find waterfalls and swimming holes for the whole family to enjoy. Keep an eye out for local wildlife and take in the stunning views of the natural beauty.

Remember to come prepared with appropriate footwear for rock scrambling, plenty of water, sunscreen, and snacks to make the most of your outdoor experience.

Discover the beauty of Horsethief Canyon Trail and experience the wonders of Cleveland National Forest. Enjoy this family-friendly hike, explore the waterfalls, and immerse yourself in nature.

When to Go

  • Fall
  • Spring
  • Winter

What to Bring & Wear

  • Sunscreen & hat
  • Adventure Pass is required in most areas around Cleveland National Forest
  • At least one liter of water