Holy Jim Falls
Probably the most well-known waterfall in Orange County, Holy Jim Falls gets its name from an old resident of the canyon known as Cussin' Jim. The name was changed to Holy Jim long ago since it sounded better. This is a beautiful hike through a rainforest like canyon tucked deep in Trabuco Canyon, far enough from civilization to where you feel like you're somewhere else. Its location several miles down a dirt road keeps this area from getting too crowded which adds to the serenity.
This waterfall will typically flow year-round if we have a decent rainy winter but in dry years, it may dry up by early summer. The best time to visit is in spring when the waterfall is flowing at its best and the canyon is blooming with greenery and wildflowers. This time of year is also not too hot yet which makes the hike more enjoyable. On your hike, keep a lookout for pacific newts in and around the creek which you'll be following up the entire hike. If you see them, just enjoy them and let them be.
Getting to the trailhead
From Live Oak Canyon Rd. turn on Trabuco Creek Rd. which will take you 4.6 miles down this dirt road to the trailhead. The road conditions vary depending on weather, the road is maintained sporadically and can be very smooth but after rainstorms, it can be very rough with lots of potholes. The road is drivable for most vehicles without high clearance or 4x4 although it may not be recommended. Once you get past the white forest service gate, the road becomes more narrow and more rough.
After passing the volunteer fire department on the left side followed by a small bridge, you'll find a large parking area on the left. The trailhead begins as a small dirt road used to access some of the cabins. After about 1/5 mile, you'll get to the official start of the trail which is marked by a sign. There is also a bell that is used for emergencies to get noticed by some of the locals in the cabins, this bell is a new feature.
The trail to the waterfall is pretty easy to navigate with just a few creek crossings that can be slightly confusing if you've never hiked this or if brush is thick. Overall, the entire hike follows the creek up the canyon so there is not much risk of getting lost. This trail does have poison oak around it but you typically won't have to walk through it as the trail does seem to be maintained. There is only 1 split in the trail which is marked by a post, that trail takes you up out of the canyon and all the way to Santiago Peak.
This waterfall can sometimes flow year-round if we have a wet winter although later in summer it can be reduced to a trickle. If the creek along the trail is dry then the waterfall is most likely dry too.