Big Falls and Little Falls Loop
The Little Creek / Big Creek Falls Loop is a 14 mile loop that starts at the Rinconada parking lot near Pozo. It is a very rewarding loop, as you get a chance to see rock formations and a magnificent waterfall of a caliber that can’t be seen this close to San Luis Obispo. With a little more driving, you can get to some of the great waterfalls in the Ventana.
This loop can be hiked or run; it is through the wilderness, so bicycles are not allowed. The most common access point is to start at the Rinconada Parking Lot. This parking lot is dirt, and there is plenty of room for many cars. Rarely do you see more than 2 cars in the lot. The trail from the lot is steep, and there are rustic signs that say “trail” (with an arrow) placed anywhere you might get confused. When you reach the top of the ascent, you have a view of Arroyo Grande and Lake Lopez down below. As you crest the hill, you will keep going straight (towards the ocean) and descend a steep, rocky slope characterized by serpentine rock. It is loose and steep, but you will come to Hi-Mountain road quickly. Turn right, and then in a short distance, you will have Little Falls trail on your left. The best part about the Little Falls trail is that it makes this a loop. Otherwise, the best scenery (in my opinion) is all on the Big Falls trail. If you are short for time, you may want to just go to the Big Falls trail by continuing straight on the Hi-Mountain Trail.
Above, a video of Big Falls in January 2013. The pool here is wonderful, and the flow can be decent. There is a flat area near the pool. As you can see, there is pretty good flow, in spite of the fact that there had not been much rain this year.
It is worth noting that in low water years, you can hopscotch along rocks through 4 of the 5 creek crossings in Lopez Canyon. One of the creek crossings does not have rocks, and in low water is still up to my knees. I usually remove my shoes to walk across – so be prepared to get your feet wet if you’re doing the full loop. After descending Little Falls trail, turn Right, and go along Lopez Canyon road. You will go by houses that are fairly well kept – many of which have decent sized gardens that are doing well. Either side of the road is private property, so don’t stray! Eventually, you will come to a gate, and on the right is the turnoff to ascend Big Falls Trail. This ascent is steep, and punctuated with side trails that will take you to two attractions. The first attraction on side trails is a deep pool. July 5, 2015, I watched some teens jump 40 feet into this pool. It’s a tricky jump, but the water is very deep and clear. From above, you can see the rock formations descending deeply into the clear water. It’s a great spot for a swim in a small, but very deep pool. The next attraction is Big Falls itself. The area beneath the falls is really nice – even with low water. Of course, it is spectacular when the falls are pouring. See video above! After Big Falls, you ascend back to Hi Mountain Road, and then turn left to retrace your steps up the serpentine trail and on towards Rinconada.