About Fuller Mill Creek Falls
Fuller Mill Creek Falls was one of those obscure waterfalls that managed to elude us over the years. It even managed to elude us on our first attempt at visiting the falls back in 2011 though in hindsight, I’m still scratching my head at how we managed to miss it. Further adding to the rather elusive and perhaps forbidden nature of this falls was that Fuller Mill Creek also happened to be a prime habitat for the endangered mountain yellow-legged frog, which caused the forest service to enforce a closure of anywhere within 10ft of the creek from March 1 through October 31. In other words, one could be issued a citation whenever an authority would find anyone violating the closure during the times when the falls would most likely flow. Indeed, I managed to make my quick visit in mid-February when there was still some residual snow near the shadier part of the Fuller Mill Creek Picnic Area. And I suspect that depending on the conditions, early to mid Winter could very well be the only legitimate time to make a visit to this falls or until the frogs would be taken off the endangered species list (which I suspect would not be very likely).
As for visiting the falls, after parking the car at the large pullout before the gate leading to the Fuller Mill Creek Picnic Area (see directions below), I carefully crossed the Highway 243 and promptly went to the east side of the Fuller Mill Creek bridge. Then, I followed a fairly wide dirt path down towards a switchback where I then had to continue scrambling further upstream alongside the creek. At this point, the trail disappeared and it was pretty much a scramble alongside Fuller Mill Creek. The scramble was a bit rough as I had to negotiate fallen logs, wet rocks, and Fuller Mill Creek in full flow, which nearly touched the rocky banks.
This scramble persisted for a good 10-15 minutes before I finally saw the Fuller Mill Creek Falls, which consisted of a short but wide falls fronting a taller more chute-like drop that I suspected was the main drop. The best views I was able to get of the main drop was pretty much from the middle of the Fuller Mill Creek, where a fallen log acted as an informal bridge. I was also able to scramble closer to the main falls on the east side of the creek leading to a ledge pretty much adjacent to the main drop itself. If not for the endangered species closure, I could totally envision this place being more of a spot to cool off as there were wading pools between the two waterfalls.
In hindsight, I suspect that the first time Julie and I did this excursion, the trail-less scramble at the end of the dirt trail’s switchback led us further up the inclines and somewhat away from the creek. Thus, it probably caused us to scramble past the waterfall without noticing. We wound up scrambling to a point where we saw a tiny 5-10ft falls that was unremarkable, and then the scrambling became even rougher as we had suspected something wasn’t quite right. So the key takeaway from that experience was to follow the creek and don’t go too high up. For if you do this, you can’t miss the falls.
From downtown Los Angeles, we’d follow the I-10 Freeway east for about 80 miles (taking roughly 90 minutes) to the exit 100 at 8th Street in Banning. We then headed south on 8th Street to West Lincoln Street and turned left (going east). After about a half-mile, we turned right to go south on San Gorgonio Ave, which eventually kept left at the fork to become the Hwy 243. At a little over 16 miles from the fork, we reached the pullout before the gate for the Fuller Mill Creek Picnic Area. This was where we parked the car. Overall, this drive took us about 2 hours.
For some additional context, Idyllwild was about 7.5 miles (15 minutes drive) southeast of the Fuller Mill Creek Picnic Area. Palm Springs was about 40 miles (roughly an hour drive) east of the Fuller Mill Creek Picnic Area.
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