Bonita Canyon (Lytle Creek Area)

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Bonita Canyon (Lytle Creek Area) Canyoneering Canyoning Caving
 For other features with similar names, see Bonita Canyon (disambiguation)
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Bonita Canyon (Lytle Creek Area) Banner.jpg

Difficulty:3B III (v3a2 III)
Raps:‌4, max ↨160ft
Overall:4.5-6h ⟷1.7mi
Approach: ↑620ft
Descent: ⟷0.3mi ↓574ft
Red Tape:No permit required
Condition Reports:
12 May 2023

"Approach is pretty steep and loose and there is abundant poison oak, mosquitoes and ants where we suited up. Two pretty rappels, straightforward, anch

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Immediately after leaving the parking area at 34°14'12.5"N 117°29'48.5"W, cross the shallow Lytle Creek and walk southwest along the wide and mostly dry riverbed of South Fork Lytle Creek for about 850m / 2800ft to a trail leading into the woods on the south side of the wash (hiker's left). This trail quickly leads to the bottom of the lower Bonita Falls after about 250m / 850ft. (In particular, depending on the flow of the falls, you may be able to easily spot the beginning of the trail by keeping a lookout for the first signs of any flowing water from the south side of the wash, though that stream will likely be very narrow and have a paltry flow.) Just before reaching the base of the falls, turn right (LDC) into an opening in the brush with a rock that says "Hobo", cross the stream, and start on a steep climb to the ridge, about 130m / 425ft. There is no obvious path to follow so look for faint footprints and find your way through the brush to the top. If you stay to the left, you will gain the top of the ridge at a rocky clearing near the neck of a V-shaped valley; a well-worn trail proceeds up the spine of the ridge to your left. If you emerge on the ridge too far to the right, you will have to traverse along a faint brush-ridden trail that dips slightly below the other side of the ridge.

Continue ascending along the ridge on the well-worn trail for another 70m / 230ft until you reach a barren, rocky spot, offering unobstructed views of the V-shaped valley to the west. Continue just a bit further along the ridge to the drop-in location at 34°13'46.3"N 117°30'19.5"W from where you will be able to find a use trail down into the canyon on your left (east). If you pass the drop-in, you will soon find yourself at an obvious dead end.

Once past the V-shaped valley, there'll be a well use trail to the peak—you may have to climb over 2-3 fallen trees.


Following the sound of the water, go down the use trail which involves some downslides on patches of dirt. Cross the creek and follow it to the top of the upper falls. Traverse another 30m / 100ft RDC to reach a tree which will be the anchor point for the first rappel. This is a suitable spot to rest and gear up, and to allow the local ant colony to invade your backpack and clothing.

Rappel 1: 40' The first rappel is anchored high off a tree RDC and is dry, not very steep, and only 12m / 40ft long. While some may be tempted to down climb it, it will be much safer to rappel, as otherwise there will be nothing to break your fall, should you lose your foothold along the way. The rock is also polished and especially slippery for dry granite. Rappel down staying on the staircase slabs RDC to reach a pair of small trees protruding from a ledge with an equalized anchor off both of them.

The transition from the first rappel to the 50m / 160ft second rappel should not pose any problems. A few things, however, are worth noting:

  • The ground around the tree is not flat and level, and may well be wet at times.
  • Anyone going through this transition should utilize their safety tether.
  • The first person reaching the transition spot should be aptly able to rig, possibly build, the second anchor.
  • The last person leaving the transition spot will have to retrieve the rope from the first anchor and rig the rope retrieval mechanism for the second anchor.

Rappel 2: 160' The second rappel from the small trees has only enough space for a couple people to stand comfortably. Two experienced canyoneers who like each other very much may be able to manage sharing that spot. Three's a crowd. People should be tethered to this anchor as it's steep and close to the drop-off. The rappel is a bit overhanging after the first edge, but soon is directly in the main watercourse. Pull from the bottom is no issue. It is advised that you rappel directly into and along the watercourse. This will be a more stable route, as it follows the path of least resistance. It will also help preserve the beautiful flora, consisting of lush and delicate mosses and ferns.

Rappel 3: 60' From a sizeable tree LDC. The webbing may be missing from this tree as it's accessible to some partying beer drinkers (via a handline you may notice LDC after R2).

Rappel 4: 160' Anchored off a tree RDC, the fourth rappel descends the breathtaking Lower Bonita Falls, offering great views and a vertical drop of 50m / 160ft. There may be many people at the bottom so trail the rope, do not toss.

Consider bringing a trash bag to pack out some of the garbage at the bottom.

See also note under red tape.


About 35m / 110ft ahead of the base of the lower falls you will once again find yourself on the same trail used for the approach. From here it takes about 20 minutes to backtrack your steps to the parking area.

Red tape

As the shallow pool at the bottom of the last waterfall cannot be seen from atop, and as that area is easily accessible by foot and is frequented by locals and hikers, neither rope nor rope bag should be thrown down this 160ft drop, and care should be taken not to knock loose any rocks while descending.

A Forest Adventure Pass is required for parking at the trailhead.

Beta sites

Trip reports and media



Information provided by automated processes. KML map by (unknown). Main photo by (unknown). Authors are listed in chronological order.

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